4.25.2007

One Thing at a Time



Anyone who watched last night's debacle knows that this Lakers team, as presently constituted, is never going to do anything more than barely make the playoffs and then lose in the first round. Kobe has his own limitations as a player (which, somewhat surprisingly given his obvious intelligence, are mental and not related to talent or skill), but the real problem is the personnel. Though he may not admit it, Kobe must take the blame for that, as well. Two years ago, Chucky Atkins infamously told a reporter that "Kobe is the GM," a proposition that was roundly denied at the time, but was acknowledged by those in the know to be largely true. Shortly thereafter, Atkins was traded to the Wizards. Hmmmm.....

Speaking of the Wizards, the question is whether Kobe, like his idol Michael Jordan, is a bad evaluator of talent (interesting that they both ended up with Kwame Brown) or whether there is something else going on. I will argue the latter.

Kobe's early awkward years in the NBA have now become firmly part of his legend. It's hard to remember now that when he was drafted, there was only one straight-from-high school player in the league. Kobe ended up on a Lakers squad that had a young backcourt in Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones, but even they were a good six years older than him. He arrived in LA already a loner, having grown up first as an African-American in Italy and then as a basketball prodigy in suburban Philly. It's no wonder that Kobe didn't hang out much with his teammates. Who among them could have understood him, and how could he have understood them?



Kobe doesn't know the same struggle most NBA players know, which isn't to say he hasn't struggled, but the struggles of growing up a stranger in a strange land with a professional ballplayer for a father aren't typical for most people in the League or anywhere else, for that matter. Yet, they do seem strangely common among Kobe's teammates. Ronny Turiaf, Sasha Vujacic, and Vladimir Radmanovic are all foreigners, and Brian Cook and Luke Walton have fathers who played in the NBA. Additionally, Kobe seems most comfortable around teammates who share his middle class background and nerdy interests, guys he can watch 300 and discuss Harry Potter with.

The problem, of course, is that it's unlikely that a team made up of players that Kobe feels comfortable around can ever seriously contend for a championship. I mean, how many NBA champions have been comprised of mostly middle class kids, foreigners, and sons of former professional basketball players? Actually.......wait a minute, is there any way Kobe can get traded to the Spurs?

51 Comments:

At 4/25/2007 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

foreigners eh...

Toronto Raptors are looking for a starting swingman

 
At 4/25/2007 4:28 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Good point about the team fitting the personality that Kobe might fit in best with. But can't he find some talented foreigners?

And I can't see Kobe the intellect ever having a conversation with Lamar Odom. Maybe it's just me, but Odom has to be the dumbest guy in the league, right? I always pictured Odom as a MasterBlaster like entity, with Phil Jackson attempting to be the man behind the controls....

 
At 4/25/2007 5:01 PM, Anonymous Brickowski said...

uh, I've always thought Odom was one of the most intelligent and thoughtful guys in the league. Really good DIME article on him a few months ago, and this Page 2 article covers some of the same territory:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=alipour/061102

 
At 4/25/2007 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

disagree with the part about Kobe only co existing with foreigners. I think Kobe would get along great with a good supporting cast. And he has a pretty good supporting cast. Odom isn't the player the lakers hoped he would be and Bynum is still a few years away from being a force on the defensive end. The Lakers won't be good as long as they're depending on Odom to be anything more than a good player who can pull a great game out followed by 2 - 3 mediocre games. If the lakers get one of the PFs their looking at and let Odom move back to the 3 then they're gonna be a threat to go deep in the west.

 
At 4/25/2007 5:28 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Just makes you think about when the Lakers wouldn't trade Shaq to Dallas for anything less than Nowitzki + Kool Aid.

 
At 4/25/2007 5:29 PM, Anonymous aug said...

When has odom been anything but an underachiever? When did all this talk about him being the next scottie pippen begin? I remember him being talked about as a poor man's magic johnson when he was drafted but he's always been lazy. It's getting worse as this year he has fallen in love with the 3 point shot even though he's horrible at them. Odom used to be a 3 and more of a slasher, but like a lot of guys in his situation with his build and skills, he got lazy and now only stays in the post or chucking up 3s ala antoine walker/tim thomas/future rudy gay.

 
At 4/25/2007 5:49 PM, Blogger Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

Good stuff BR. The rhetorical questions Who among them could have understood him, and how could he have understood them? don't have an absolute answer, since people don't need to come from similar backgrounds to get along or understand each other.

But the more I thought about Bryant specifically, the truth is apparent: No one has any idea what it's like to be him, and what it must be like to carry to the burden of encyclopedic knowledge of the game and an SWF-esque desire to become the person he idolizes.

Also, somehow I'd never put it together that there are three Lakers with NBA fathers. Soon perhaps an entire team of Kemp Jrs could be fielded.

wv: tpmemeg - Kirilenko pulls a sleepover prank on Memo.

 
At 4/25/2007 5:57 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

@Brickowski: Well, that was a moving article. My perception of Odom as "dumb" (and I admit now that it is probably wrong or terrible outdated) dates back to when he was in high school in South Jamaica. He couldn't pass any tests, had to transfer to several schools because of his academic problems (Now when have you heard of a star athlete having academic problems? Clearly there is something else going on there, and I don't know what), and developed a general reputation as, surprise, an underachiever.

I also thought (again, perhaps incorrectly) that he ended up at URI because of "suspicious" ACT scores, and blown off Finals.

I guess those things don't really make him dumb, though. They just make him lazy and underachieving, which kinda isn't shocking....

 
At 4/25/2007 6:14 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I think it's a little unfair to blame Kobe for the state of the Lakers roster. True, he did obviously have some part (maybe the whole part) in the Shaq trade, but I would doubt he took it so far as to approve who Shaq would be traded for. From what I recall hearing, teams just weren't offering nearly as much as you would have thought for Shaq, no doubt due to his enormous pricetag, looming free agency, and notorious laziness. In any event, the Mavs were offering a re-signed Nash, so clearly something better was available (although Cuban let Nash walk for nothing so you can see how much value he placed on Nash at the time).

Ever since the Lakers acquired Kobe there have been a long run of bad trades or almost-made trades that fell through. Two years ago it was being reported that Boozer to LA was a done deal, just as Bibby and JKidd were this year, only to have those deals fall apart. Much earlier there was a deal in place to trade Nick Van Exel for Jason Kidd, and Del Harris, the then-Laker coach, nixed that deal, most likely so he wasn't seen as trading away a player he didn't get along with. Van Exel was eventually traded for Tyronne Lue.

There have been bad draft choices as well. Years ago Laker fans were clamoring for the team to draft Tayshaun Prince only to see them instead take Kareem Rush; then a few years later Laker fans wanted Barbosa only to see the team take Brian Cook.

There have been a lot of cases of mis-management by the Lakers, both on The Logo's watch and on Mitch Kupchak's, but I think it's wrong to blame Kobe for most of that. Kobe himself has said a lot lately that he really wants to win now, and I'm sure if Kobe has his way there will be some big trades this summer (whether they'll be good ones or not remains to be seen, but I expect some kind of major shakeup in Lakerland).

The comment about Kobe's limitations as a player being mental though was right on point; although the optimist in me wants to think that if the personnel issues were cleared up then maybe his mind would follow. For the sake of the NBA I hope so, because there's clearly no other player who is so intriguing and who commands as much attention as The Mamba.

 
At 4/25/2007 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when is Kobe some intellectual? He may have nerd social tendencies, but that doesn't make him smart.
Classic Kobe quote after getting served by Arenas:
"But him individually, it's funny, he doesn't really seem to have that much of a conscience. I really don't think he does. Some of the shots that he took tonight, you miss those, they're just terrible shots, awful shots. You make them and they're unbelievable shots."

Words of a true intellectual.

P.S.
I guess compared to the rest of the NBA Kobe could be considered smart, but from now on he should be referred to as "NBA smart," to make the distinction.

 
At 4/25/2007 6:47 PM, Blogger T. said...

Maybe it's just me, but Odom has to be the dumbest guy in the league, right?

Let's just say Stromile Swift doesn't live up to his last name.

sloyxb = Jerry Sloan's Gaming League

 
At 4/25/2007 8:11 PM, Anonymous M-GONE said...

with kobe there's no "making the extra pass" offense. NONE. Thats why the lakers wont amount to anything. one might argue that he has no one to make the extra pass to. I disagree. This is NBA.
Make the extra pass let someone else get hot then the opponents defense will be in considerably more trouble. This whole let me shoot 25-30 times a game is ridiculous.

BTW Even though Houston won both games T-Mac better start passing more and spreading the ball around. so many unneccesary clangers when he could have passed out. If T-mac passes more, or at least doesnt take rushed shots for no reason Houston will stand a better chance if they do indeed make the next round.

 
At 4/25/2007 8:20 PM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

anon 6:41 i think everyone is mostly referring to kobe being a calculating and intense thinker more than they are saying he is full of knowledge

 
At 4/25/2007 8:30 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

Didn't I get called a dickhead after saying this exact same shit a month or so ago? But all of you had a hard on for those 50 point games. Then the Suns hand them the beating of a lifetime and everyone comes around. Jalen Rose and Marcus Banks got PT.

But what is great, is that next year when Kobe scores 50, everyone is gonna say the same thing again. "He may be better than Jordan." He aint even better than Nash. Just stop it. You're insulting the game and all the truly great players by comparing Kobe to them.

 
At 4/25/2007 8:53 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

M-GONE - Make the extra pass let someone else get hot then the opponents defense will be in considerably more trouble. This whole let me shoot 25-30 times a game is ridiculous.

The problem with Kobe's current teammates is that the rest of them are all only "extra pass" guys. If Kobe passes it to them, they don't want to shoot, so they pass it to someone else, and sooner or later it comes back to Kobe with 5 seconds left on the clock. Show me one person on the Lakers outside of Kobe who's got anything resembling a scorer's mentality. it would be great to see Kobe paired with someone like Bibby nowadays, because a scorer who got open looks due to all the defensive attention Kobe draws would truly thrive in LA.

Iverson fan, I don't know if you actually got called a "dickhead" but any negativity thrown your way seemed to be typically as a result of criticizing Kobe for the same thing that Iverson's made a career out of; and when you call yourself "Iverson fan", you know, it smacks of hypocrisy. For the record though, when you and I were duking it out over that stuff during the 50 point games, I did tell you even back then that I thought Kobe's decision making abilities were poor & inconsistent, and that's why I'd never say he's better than Jordan.

But back to Kobe's teammates, does anyone else think that Smush Parker's 4 minutes last night may be the last 4 of his NBA career? I'm quite sure they're the last 4 of his tenure with the Lakers.

 
At 4/25/2007 8:55 PM, Anonymous Sourounis said...

@ Iverson fan

Seriously; get a life.

 
At 4/25/2007 8:57 PM, Blogger T. said...

iverson fan - Really? You wrote a month or so ago that Kobe's problem is that he's middle class and grew up in Italy?

The second point really doesn't follow the first either.

Just stop it. You're insulting the game and all the truly great players by comparing Kobe to them.

Really? It's an insult to the game to think that Kobe might be an all-time great? 3 championships, a couple of scoring titles, every year an all-star and all-NBA performer and it's an insult?

There's dislike of a player . . . and then there's irrationality.

 
At 4/25/2007 8:59 PM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

didnt they win like 70 percent of those games where he scored 50 though? hatred of kobe clouds peoples judgement of him as a player, but even if i did hate him, i dont see how i could ever convince myself that the lakers are at all decent personel-wise aside from kobe.

 
At 4/25/2007 9:01 PM, Anonymous ronald james davis said...

smush parker started like 65 games for the lakers this year, and he may not be in the nba next year.

 
At 4/25/2007 10:32 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

It's also worth noting that while people complain about how Kobe doesn't pass, no one ever points out that Lamar Odom's assists totals have dropped since he joined the Lakers, despite being the "point" in the triangle offense, and having Kobe to pass to. Anyone with a minimal understanding of baskeball has to recognize that Kobe's teammates, beyond The Eternal Underachiever, are straight up cubic zirconia. Don't try and tell me they are diamonds, I ain't buying it....

Any discussion of Kobe is limited until the day that, like Iverson right now in Denver, he is finally teamed up with a decent player or two...

 
At 4/25/2007 11:00 PM, Blogger Pacifist Viking said...

"There's dislike of a player . . . and then there's irrationality."

The problem comes when people try to rationalize dislike of a player. This is sports--it's OK to love players, it's OK to hate players. But when people try to explain/justify/rationalize that hatred, you usually hear flimsy arguments. It's fine to just say "I don't like Kobe Bryant and I hope he fails" without making arguments for why he's not great (when he clearly is). Some of the FreeDarko anti-Wade posts smack of the same problem--trying overly hard to justify disliking him rather than just accepting the dislike. My least favorite athlete of all-time is Brett Favre and I recognize this is entirely because I am a Viking fan. I don't need to justify it--I'm floating along fine with a rational acceptance of irrationality.

It's halftime of Mavs/Warriors--these teams love to run and get the ball stolen on fast breaks and run the other way. At least that's what it looks like on the fuzzy TNT I get.

 
At 4/25/2007 11:08 PM, Anonymous cw said...

stopmikelupica: Odom and Walton are "decent" players. Iverson went to the finals with decent players.

I think the thing that bugged me about the string of 50 point games was that they came after those suspensions. They were a reaction to the suspensions. That is typical Kobe. He cares more about image and fame than the actual games in front of him. Becasue, while the Lakers might have won most of those 50 point games, I don't think that those games were good for the team in the long run. You are on this team and supposedly you have a game plan that includes teamball, but then your star gets insulted and decides to take 40 shots a night (where was Phil during this? He just says OK, whatever...?). That has to be discouraging.

No team ever wins a championship (or a playoff series) without everyone contributing at their best. To get pissy and take 40 shots a night at the expense of the rest of the team does not show an understanding of how basketball teams work.

 
At 4/26/2007 12:42 AM, Anonymous fix_the_knicks said...

Kobe is what happens when players put their own narrative arc ahead of winning. His problem is that he's smart enough to see things in those terms, but not smart enough to realize that consciously trying to direct your own legend ultimately guarantees that it all ends tragically.

Did anyone see how Dallas' arena was half-empty with three minutes left? How many playoff games do these guys have tickets to? I hope Dallas never wins anything. Mark Cuban should buy the Cubs.

Finally, Reggie Miller is an idiot. He thinks of one thing to say every fifteen minutes, and then just repeats it until the next commercial break. Where's that clown who was talking trash about Hubie?

 
At 4/26/2007 1:09 AM, Blogger Dallas said...

C WEBB weed owner watch is on and popping...
http://www.unkut.com/weed/2007/04/nba-playoffs-2007-a-warrior-weed-owners-last-stand/

 
At 4/26/2007 2:06 AM, Anonymous tom said...

cw: PJax gave him the green light, you'd know that if you followed the lakers. But to the point of the 50s being a reaction to the suspension, so fucking what? Competitors find ways to juice themselves up, the best do it every game. If that bothers you, then dont watch sports.

 
At 4/26/2007 2:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no other player in the league could get hated on like this for scoring 50 points and having his team win. If you want to say he's hyper competitve and tough to play with that's probably true. How many great players were there that weren't demanding?? When Kobe had an excellent teamate and weak supporting cast he won championships. After the first Laker championship the team got considerably less stacked until they had to pull the hail mary of signing Mail Man and GP... If anyone wants to look at how Kobe would play if he had a decent supporting cast look at when he actually had a supporting cast. And the funny thing is he had a boatload of haters then too.

 
At 4/26/2007 2:40 AM, Blogger Nate said...

You guys managed to find a photo of Uncle Wes (aka Worldwide Wes) hanging with his boys Rip Hamilton and AI. Check Uncle Wes standing right next to Rip Hamilton.

In regards to Kobe and the Lakers: The team is talent difficient, but managed to overacheive earlier in the season because of Phil Jackson's genius. But then injuries and inconsistent point guard play caught up with them. Look at that team. Other than Kobe and Aaron Mckie (who's washed up and doesn't play) what player on that team is really a battle tested veteran? The answer: No one. Successful playoff teams need battle tested veterans that aren't afraid to pull up and nail an open jumper (which the current set of Laker role players seem unable to do). Phil Jackson teams have always had experienced role players that were commited to playing defense and had the ability to hit open jumpers. Kobe passed to open three point shooters (trying to get others involved) 5 or so times in the first half of game two and they didn't convert on any of them. And don't give me the Kobe Bryant doesn't want to pass and Kobe doesn't know how to make his teammates better crap. Because I seem to remember several times during the Laker championship run where he would drive and Kick to open shooters late in the games. It's just that he knew if he set up Fisher, Horry, Shaw, or Fox at the end of the game for an open jumper that those guys were going to come through. The same can't be said for one single player on this entire team. I don't know what the Lakers are going to do. But seriously, if they could just surround the guy with tough minded role players that could shoot and defend (almost like the 2001 Sixers) the Lakers would instantly become one of the better teams in the league. Dude is so good that he is going to draw two to three guys almost every time down the floor. Now imagine if he had players that could hit wide open jump shots.

I sat next to Salim Stoudamire at a Laker game this year (he was in town for a clipper game the next night). Dude couldn't believe how many open jump shots Smush and others were getting and missing. He was envious of those open shots. Tons of players shoot better than the Lakers role players despite playing on teams where no one commands a double team. Kobe opens up the game to the point where if you are capable of hitting a shot, you're going to do well, yet the Lakers players are not capable of doing it. Ask Kapono, what playing with a talent that draws double and triple teams can do for a player with shooting talent.

And Iverson Fan: I think Iverson is one of the best players I've ever seen play. So I can understand why you're a fan. But why hate on Kobe? You can like both, man. In my opinion it's almost impossible to like Iverson and then not like Kobe (and vice versa). But I'm sure you have your reasons.

 
At 4/26/2007 3:06 AM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

yams, I wasnt referring to you. You were one of the only sane ones when it came to discussing Kobe. I don't think I need to restate the differences between Iverson and Kobe again.

And yeah, I think it is insulting to compare Kobe to guys like MJ, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Duncan, Hakeem, Nash, Russell. Those guys played the game the right way. Mentally, they understood how to help their team win.

As far as Kobe winning when he had a decent supporting cast, he had the most dominant player of this era on his team. He was the compliment. He was the Pippen. He was what Odom should be.

If you want to call Kobe the greatest complimentary player of all time, then I can see where you are coming from. But as for being the best leader of a team, he's not even close yet. And like the blog says, it is his own doing. He has the talent of MJ and the mentality of Wilt. I don't hate him, I feel sorry for him.

But I came up with my thesis when yams and I were discussing Kobe. The fact that he was on a team with Shaq and got three championships so early stunded his growth as a basketball player.

"Without struggle there is no progress."

Too bad he started struggling when he was already well past his mid twenties. What could have been. Or maybe not.

 
At 4/26/2007 5:06 AM, Blogger T. said...

like MJ, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Duncan, Hakeem, Nash, Russell. Those guys played the game the right way. Mentally, they understood how to help their team win.

Aside from the fact that you've tried to use "play the right way" as a defense - every one of those players was criticized for not being able to lead their team to wins at some point in their careers . . . using the same exact language that people use to talk about Kobe's game. (okay, not Russell).

Magic was a cancer, and got a coach fired. Bird was a malcontent who ripped teammaates. Jordan was a scorer who couldn't win (I used this one a lot from 1984 through 1991). Duncan was staid and didn't raise him game. Nash was a slightly above average point guard for a good portion of his career. Hakeem fought with teammates and was more concerned about his own stats instead of winning.

Regardless of if these criticisms are or are not accurate - they were certainly leveled at those players you hold up as iconic NBA ideals. That's with the benefit of looking back at them through their careers.

I don't think you have anything against Kobe that you couldn't plug in Michael Jordan circa 1990 and not get the same. exact. head. nodding.

How old was Jordan in 1990? 27

How old is Kobe now? 28

Huh. Imagine that.

WV: pblldv = Pitbull Bullard DeVoe - unlikely supergroup following Bell Biv Devoe.

 
At 4/26/2007 6:09 AM, Anonymous db said...

T. is for Truth.

 
At 4/26/2007 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think jordan was getting run off the court in the first round at 28... or 27. But i feel where you're coming from. The biggest knock on Kobe has always been that he's not Jordan. Thats messed up.

 
At 4/26/2007 9:04 AM, Blogger Martin said...

well the reason why the biggest knock against Kobe is that he is not Jordan is probably because most people- even his haters see that he as all the tools to be MJ, he just needs to figure out the mental part. Talent/Skillwise he is already a more complete offensive player than MJ and on the defensive end he is comparable to slightly less able.

 
At 4/26/2007 10:26 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Nate, you hit on my plan for what I think could improve the Lakers. Yeah, a Garnett or a Jermaine O'Neal would make the Lakers a viable 60 win team next season, but they can still get to the second round and beyond just by adding a few three point shooters who can stretch the court and keep the double teams honest.

Kapano is the perfect mid-level exemption signing for the Lakers. Add a healthy V-Rad, and maybe one other three point shooter, preferably a point guard who can pass a little, too - and you have a team that can make it to the second round.

Here's the question T (I second that it must stand for "truth") asked the other day about the Rockets rephrased for the Kobe-bashers: If Kobe gets his 30-35 points a game, where are the other 60 points needed to win suppose to come from?

 
At 4/26/2007 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off T articulated most of what I was thinking and probably more lucidly than I would have. T is indeed for truth, good look.

Martin: I understand this falls under the general Mental category but I would narrow the main difference between KB and Jordan down to the insatiable hunger/killer instinct that MJ was (in)famous for. Kobe certainly has an ability to take over games and reach seemingly impossible levels of individual performance for stretches or games but he seems to lack that incredible force of will that Jordan used to to just impose himself on opponents. MJ didn't care if anyone liked him (as long his slick, gleaming adverts facade was kept intact) and was absolutely brutal in pursuit of his goals on the court for better (most of the time) or for worse. Jordan certainly was very skilled and had outstanding physical gifts but his excellence was also in large part evisceral and instinctual. Kobe shows flashes of that but his performance is much more technical in nature and if you are referring to him as a more technically proficient offensive player than MJ or in fact nearly everyone in NBA history beyond Kareem (and maybe Wilt? I don't know) I'd agree, but he doesn't and probably never will come close to matching the intensity and seemingly inhuman, certainly unhealthy competitive drive that set MJ apart on the court and sometimes wreaked havoc on other parts of his life.

All in all if one's main criticsm of a player is that he's not quite as good as MJ (who if a dubious GOAT is still easily the best 2/wing ever) then dude is doing pretty freaking well.

 
At 4/26/2007 2:54 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

cw said - stopmikelupica: Odom and Walton are "decent" players. Iverson went to the finals with decent players.

I think the thing that bugged me about the string of 50 point games was that they came after those suspensions. They were a reaction to the suspensions. That is typical Kobe. He cares more about image and fame than the actual games in front of him.


Pretty much everything else that I would have said has already been said here, but I just wanted to respond to this one comment. First, Iverson went to the Finals that year with the 6th Man of the Year (McKie) and the multiple time Defensive Player of the Year (Mutombo, who won the award that year). Outside of Odom and Kobe, there's no other player on the Lakers who would ever win 6th Man of the Year if they came off the bench for either the Lakers or any other team in the league, and there's nobody on the Lakers outside of Kobe who has ever or will ever get any consideration for any All Defense Team.

As to the 50 point games this year being a response to the suspensions, while Kobe did say that motivated him a bit, it should be noted that the four consecutive games of 50 or more (all 4 wins) started the very next game after the Lakers had lost their 7th straight game (a record in Phil Jackson's coaching career). The Lakers would have lost an 8th straight game at home to Portland if Kobe hadn't caught fire and gone for 65 in that game, as it went to overtime. To say the suspensions and Kobe's image were the only motivating factors for that run, and that Kobe didn't care about the games themselves or the team is flat wrong. The Lakers absolutely needed that scoring from him, as all four of those games were very close games.

Pacifist Viking is right, when you try to justify your hatred of a player you usually do hear flimsy arguments.

 
At 4/26/2007 3:55 PM, Blogger Martin said...

People are judged by their success and success is judged by equaling or surpassing a hurdle. Unfortunately for Kobe his hurdle is MJ like status. Whether this hurdle was set by Kobe himself or by the media and fans all the same it is the hurdle that Kobe must leap.

Without matching or surpassing those expectations (i.e. win multiple championships as the undisputed team MVP)- in the eyes of many Kobe will never be successful. Funny enough- Iverson an equally polarizing figure is never derided for having never achieved his potential.

 
At 4/26/2007 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin -

You're right on. And the media does this ALL THE TIME. They love to set everyone's expectations and build hype. And then when it goes unfulfilled, they blame the same teams/players for something they invented themselves.

Example: Does Kobe proclaim to the media that he is better than Jordan? ... or even that he is as good?

No, he says "thanks, that's flattering for being mentioned in the same sentence".


I almost think that Kobe is disliked for not giving people what they want. The fact that he is not equaling Jordan's success really irks people. Fans think he is boasting of something he is not.

They say, with great power comes great responsibility. How much can one guy be responsible for? Apparently he needs to start making shots for everyone else, AND be a better player than Jordan on offense and defense.

 
At 4/26/2007 7:21 PM, Anonymous cw said...

"The Lakers would have lost an 8th straight game at home to Portland if Kobe hadn't caught fire and gone for 65 in that game, as it went to overtime."

And if they had lost that eighth strait game... then what? Then they wouldn't have kicked ass in the playoffs? Turning around that winning streak turned the team around, right?

I don't think that team is ever getting out of the first round, but I think Kobe's stretche of 50s made the team worse. Made it wosrse because 1. nobody likes to paly on a team were one guy shoots takes all the shots, and 2. if you have a guy that can win a few games by taking all the shots, you get into the mentality that, OK, Kobe will save us, all I need to do is wait for the show to begin. And 3. if you decide you need one guy to take all the shots to win, then you make the other teams defensive strategy that much easier. You only have to guard one guy.

And you say that Phil gave Kobe the green light and again I ask, what's wrong with him? Has he given up? I think he has to have given up in someway to give Kobe the greenlight like that, becasue he has to know that there is no way that you can win like that over time.

I also want to say that I think Kobe is a very talented basketball player and that I only really argue the idea that he is some kind of basketball genius. If he was a basketball genius he would show some kind of basketball genius and his current situation would be different (it would take a genius to improve his situation, but he could still be palying with shaq). From what I can see, he has kind of floundered, taking 40 shots one game, 3 shots the next. He's had three years now since Shaqs departure, which is something Kobe wanted as much as anyone, and he has yet, in my opinion, to show any particular genius. Though maybe BS is talking about genius in a narrower sense. Maybe a genius at scoring or something.

 
At 4/26/2007 8:50 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

cw, you should really read your own argument back to yourself to see how ridiculous it sounds. You're saying that the Lakers would have been better served if in the middle of a 7 game losing streak (due largely to injuries) that everyone would have been better off if Kobe hadn't stepped up and scored all those points to get them four straight wins. You claim this because the rest of the Lakers wouldn't feel like they had a guy like Kobe they could turn to to do that, and now that they know he can do that they've become even more passive? Simultaneously this lets other teams know that Kobe's the only real threat that they need to guard. Then you say that because the Lakers aren't going to win in the first round, they would have been better off just going in the tank with Kobe patently refusing to be a scorer just to illustrate to his teammates and to management that something's gotta change.

Seriously, what kind of nonsense is this? You don't think that every Laker player and every Laker opponent knows what Kobe is capable of? And you really fault Kobe and Phil for wanting to do whatever they could to try to win? At the time the Lakers had injured players who looked like they might be getting healthy for the playoffs (this was before Camby stepped on Kwame's ankle). If Kwame hadn't re-injured that ankle and could have been there to give the Lakers an interior presence in this series like he did last year, maybe it wouldn't be so one-sided. After all, the Lakers did lead for most of Game 1.

In any event, you're saying the Lakers should have tanked. This is the type of thing that players like Vince Carter have done in the past, and look at where he's gotten to. This is not what people who want to be champions do. Look at Jordan's second season in the league, when he was out almost the whole year with a busted foot, when the Bulls management wanted him to sit out the season so they'd get a better draft pick. Jordan defied them and eventually returned to lead the Bulls barely into the playoffs against the Celtics (who eventually won it that year). The Bulls got swept in that first round, but what people remember most is the 63 points Jordan put up in Game 2 of that series. That was Jordan's mentality, and look what happened to him.

I would never fault a player for just wanting to win and not being satisfied with intentionally tanking games. I say it's a very dangerous mentality for a professional athlete to ever adopt the mindset that it's OK to lose, not if he wants to be a champion. If you think that's what Kobe needs to be doing, then you and I just will have to agree to disagree.

 
At 4/26/2007 9:06 PM, Blogger T. said...

I don't think that team is ever getting out of the first round, but I think Kobe's stretche of 50s made the team worse. Made it wosrse because 1. nobody likes to paly on a team were one guy shoots takes all the shots, and 2. if you have a guy that can win a few games by taking all the shots, you get into the mentality that, OK, Kobe will save us, all I need to do is wait for the show to begin. And 3. if you decide you need one guy to take all the shots to win, then you make the other teams defensive strategy that much easier. You only have to guard one guy.

Just so you know, I made this same exact argument.

Of course it was 1988, and I was talking about Micheal Jeffery Jordan.

History has proven me right. Right? Right?

I knew that guy would never get anywhere.

(I'm not saying Kobe is Jordan, I'm just saying the arguments as to why he isn't among the game's greatest players sound REMARKABLY similar to what I was saying in at the lunch table at Ramona Junior High School in the winter of 1988.)

 
At 4/26/2007 10:53 PM, Anonymous cw said...

OK fellas, lets see here.

Yams. I'm not saying they should tank, I'm saying Kobe is not the basketball genius that Shoals keeps saying he is, or he would find a way to make this team better than they currently are. Those 50 point games obviously didn't do anything.

T. That was a good argument back in 1988. Phil jackson came in (or was just in) and made it to MJ, and MJ listened and the rest is history.

I'll repeat. Kobe is a real good basketball player, I just don't see any evidence of genius. Genius is the ability to do something no one thought of before, to extricate yourself from an impossible situation through a hertofor unseen trap door. I haven't seen that from Kobe. A regular player couldn't strike much of a spark from the Lakers, but--theoretically--a genius should be able to at least lead them to losing with dignity. Instead, they seem like a team whose confidence has been shattered. Not a characteristic Phill Jackson team. That's all I'm saying.

 
At 4/27/2007 1:46 AM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Here's guessing cw doesn't post in this thread anymore.

Care to revise your statements now that Kobe got 45 in a Laker win over the Suns? Or do you still think it would have been better for the Lakers if Kobe hadn't scored all those points and the Lakers had gone down 0-3? Maybe if the Lakers didn't have Kobe on the team their confidence would have been shattered and they would have folded after they fell behind by 17 tonight, but that's not what happened. Even a hater like you has to admit that was a pretty impressive performance out there by Kobe tonight. You might even call it "Jordanesque".

You gotta understand something: a player like Kobe isn't interested in "losing with dignity" - he's interested in winning.

 
At 4/27/2007 8:34 AM, Blogger Rich said...

Wild Yams: You're saying that, given the choice between:

a). Score lots, win,
b). Don't score lots, lose.

...Kobe was right to select option A.

I think cw's argument is that Kobe should in fact have gone for:

c). Don't score lots, win.

I, like you, remain unconvinced that this was actually an option.

 
At 4/27/2007 11:36 AM, Anonymous trouc said...

Yams & Rich :

I can't exactly speak for cw here, but I think the point is that Kobe should be developing the team with his play, helping the Lakers win down the road, rather than (possibly) stunting their growth by going nuts right now. Odom's comments about the lack of team unity (even though he didn't mention Kobe), the obvious lack of confidence out on the court for the whole team, these aren't just random events. The Lakers are pretty clearly a long term project, and if Kobe ruins the team dynamic by demanding to win right now when it's not gonna happen, I guess I just don't see the benefit.

 
At 4/27/2007 1:45 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Ok, here's the problem with Kobe looking at the Lakers as a long term project: his window for success is closing. Does it really behoove Kobe to sit by patiently as his late 20's slip away just so guys like Sasha and Smush can figure things out in the coming years? I think Kobe's gonna opt out and bolt the team in a couple years if the Lakers don't put some much better players around him.

That said, early in the year Kobe was willing to take on this role of deferring and you could see he clearly felt that everyone contributing was the road to success for this team. But with all the injuries they had this year and with the chemistry being completely disrupted as a result, eventually it came to a point where if Kobe didn't step up and go nuts at the end of the season like he did, then the Lakers would have missed the playoffs.

While some of you might argue that this short-term sacrifice of the team's success might be good in the long run for Kobe's teammates, the reality is that if the Lakers didn't make the playoffs, then the Laker management would have blown up the team over the summer (this will probably still happen) and it would be a whole new group of players in there next year.

You guys need to realize that the only Laker starters who didn't miss huge amounts of games this year were Kobe and Smush, and that all the bench players (who aren't that good to begin with) were asked to play tons of minutes and by the end of the season were really worn down. At that point the only real option for the Lakers to salvage the season at all was to ask Kobe to shoulder the whole load and hope that the team could squeak by until Odom, Walton and Kwame could get somewhat healthy in time for the playoffs. What choice did Phil or Kobe really have?

 
At 4/27/2007 2:24 PM, Anonymous tom said...

re Kobe's scoring binge ruining team dynamic:

How is Gil or T-Mac chucking 20 a game any different? Honest question, both have better options than Kobe, which should make them more inclined to pass. Wiz are chuckers by trade but the Rockets play a half court set. Yet, when these dudes pull up from 5 feet behind the arc, the team flow isn't fucked with. Is it a structural thing like the triangle? Or is there something inherent about Kobe that his teammates have a problem vibing with?

 
At 4/27/2007 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 highlights:

2- the sequence of getting his shot blocked, coming back down taking it right to Bell and Amare for the And 1 and the TNT closeup of Kobe letting everyone know how he feels about them

1- down 11-0 and in danger of getting run out of the building, Kobe comes back and keeps his team in the game- and we're left with Doug Collins waxing poetic about courage as we go to the timeout

If he hits a 1-2 of those early 4th qtr shots and/or Luke hits one of those wide open 3s- that performance would have gone from historic to legendary

 
At 4/27/2007 3:59 PM, Anonymous iverson fan said...

I take it all back. Kobe is da GOAT. Afterall he did wih a playoff game at home. Wow. Seems like he is finally starting to get it, right? Too bad his teammates are not that great or just imagine what he could do. Can we just leave it at that.

When he quits on his team in a couple of games I'll just go back to my old argument like everyone else does.

The Suns playing terrible are equal to the Lakers playing their best.

 
At 4/27/2007 5:08 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Even you, iverson fan, has to admit that was a pretty good game from Kobe last night. If Kobe was going to quit on the Lakers, wouldn't last night have been the opportune time? They were down by 17 early, after all. Or what about when he sprained his ankle in the 4th quarter of Game 2? He stayed in and played then. The assertion that he quits on his team is nonsense. 45 points, 6 boards and 6 assists (a team high) was a great performance last night, probably the best of anyone in the playoffs so far. But go ahead and keep hating. I'm impressed by your unflinching ability to only see the negative when it comes to Kobe, facts be damned.

Something to mull over: after the Suns scored 11 points in the first two minutes of last night's game the Lakers held them to 78 points over the final 46 minutes of the game. That's from a Laker team that stinks defensively and who is badly outgunned talent-wise and who is injured. Does anyone really think Phoenix is gonna be in the Finals this year? Last night's game isn't so much about what Kobe and the Lakers are gonna do in this series (since they're most likely gonna lose), but more about how Phoenix's stubborn refusal to learn that post play and defense is really what wins in the playoffs. Since every other team in the West is nowhere near as big a mess as the Lakers are, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Phoenix isn't even gonna make the WCF this year. After all, the main thing they had in their favor was the easiest 1st round matchup of anybody in the West, and they look like they might screw that up too.

 
At 4/27/2007 6:36 PM, Anonymous cw said...

I agree with what Truc said. He said it better than I did. Sure Kobe scored 45 and they won last night. But who thinks the lakers are going to win the series? You can win some games with 45 points from one guy, but not a series against a good team. You have to have everyone contributing. When one guy scores half your points then not everyone is going to be ready, willing, or able to contribute when things are difficult. Odom and Walton are good players. Farmar and cook can shoot threes. They are not a great team but I think--and it's definitely arguable--that they would be a better team if Kobe could figure out how to play nice with others. When to pass when to shoot, when to lay back, when to take over. Wade know this, Nash knows this, the greats know this. Kobe? His record from the past to the present strongly suggests that he doesn't know this. All along teammates have said that they don't like palyin with him, and I think this is the reason why.

So now Kobe's going to score 50 every game and the Lakers are going to win the finals and I'll be proven totally wrong. But that will be ok, becasue it's just an opinion, know what I mean? It's worth what it's worth.

 
At 4/27/2007 8:04 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I think this is only a valid complaint though when a guy has great teammates around him. Nash and Wade have great teammates who can score and take care of business. Kobe does not. Farmar is a rookie who has started exactly 5 NBA games, and Brian Cook... are you kidding me? Cook had a career year last year scoring less than 8 points a game. Cook only really saw playing time this year due to all the injuries. He can hit wide-open threes sometimes, but he can't really do anything else offensively and he's a miserable defender. Odom and Walton are both still recovering from injuries, but neither one has ever been a scorer (this being the first year Walton's scored more than 5 points a game and Odom having never averaged more than 17.2 ppg in any year he's been in the league). Sure, Odom and Walton are good players, but mainly because of the rebounds and assists and versatility they bring, but they're not scorers. Kobe's the only scorer the Lakers have. Period.

I really don't understand the vilification of Kobe simply because he has such marginal/poor teammates. By saying does anyone think "the lakers are going to win the series?" is that somehow an indication that Kobe is overrated? Since you're having other people do your talking for me, I'll let David Friedman's entry today on his 20 Second Timeout blog sum up what you're missing:

Whether or not fans, writers or others want to acknowledge it, what Kobe Bryant did in this game was remarkable. He carried a team that just two days ago seemed to be broken mentally and physically to a win against a team that has the two-time reigning MVP, two other All-Stars and this year's Sixth Man Award winner. The Lakers got nothing from the point guard position offensively but Jordan Farmar, Shammond Williams and even Smush Parker played good defense. Kwame Brown provided a presence in the paint, as did Lamar Odom. Really, that is all Bryant needs: decent offensive games from two other guys and a solid defensive effort from the team overall. He is more than capable of providing the balance of the points, while also doing his share of the defensive and rebounding work. ( http://tinyurl.com/2tafwk )

Finally, I love that people always seem to want to compare Kobe to Nash as proof somehow that Nash knows how to make his teammates better, and Nash knows how to win while Kobe is apparently greedy and clueless. Nash happens to have much better teammates to begin with, and Nash has never won anything anyway. For all Nash's individual accomplishments, the guy has never even been to the Finals (despite being on one loaded team after another), and judging by Games 1 & 3 of this series the Suns aren't gonna get there this year either. The Suns will most likely get by the Lakers, but when Phoenix gets eliminated in the second round, one might be able to argue that the Lakers will have ultimately had a less disappointing year than Phoenix did, considering where the expectations are for Phoenix vs. LA.

 

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