No player best represents the flawed personality of an egotistical nut job quite like Kobe Bryant. For all the aesthetically pleasing movements that leave us breathless, there are three post game quotes that have us shaking our collective heads. Everyone believes at some point or another that the world revolves around them—that the obvious explanation for why the sky is gray is their own temporary sadness—but nobody comes close to relentlessly proving it as truth like Kobe. His quotes after this game were typical in that they assaulted common sense, and the astounding usage rate number here shows that.
”The shots he took, I’d give it to him again. I don’t know how many shots he missed near the rim – I mean, point-blank shots.” —Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown
Here are some indisputable numbers that contradict Brown’s public attempt at appeasement: 13 of Kobe’s shots were taken at least 10 feet from the basket, and two went in. Kobe went 1-7 from nine feet and in. He only attempted three shots at the rim and missed them all. Meanwhile Andrew Bynum, aka the Lakers most dominant player, missed just two shots, scored 33 points, and had a lower usage rate than Bryant. Something doesn’t fit with Brown’s assessment.
Kobe Bryant vs. Utah. Lakers lost 103-99. Kobe’s statistics: 37 minutes, 15 points (on 3-20 shooting), 38.2% usage rate, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 7 turnovers.
Who is Andrew Goudelock? Well, to start this answer, he was selected 46th overall in last year’s NBA draft. Today he’s playing out of his natural position for one of the most scrutinized organizations in all of sports, yet he doesn’t seem fazed.
Goudelock thrives in chaos, excelling when nothing around him is going according to plan. When the shot clock is winding down or there’s a sudden turnover and everyone’s out in transition. It’s a wonderful indication of mental toughness, and a sign he’ll be a factor in this league for quite some time. With Kobe Bryant having a rare off night in last night’s victory over the Hawks, Goudelock gave L.A. about one quarter of impact offense. Let’s analyze. Read more…
Facing an 0-3 start that would trigger the four horses of Hell bringing a never ending onslaught to planet Earth, last night Kobe Bryant reached into his bag of tricks and led a tired, dejected Lakers team to their first win of the 2011-12 season. When reached for comment, Bryant simply responded: “I don’t like horses.” Neither does Raja Bell.
I suppose Steve Blake should feel super self-conscious after this move, but we’re well familiar with his defensive failings. On the other hand, Kobe’s the all-world defender. Thus, nothing stings like the embarrassment of a *former* teammate.
But who cares about all that right now. Speaking as a basketball fan, how cool is this? Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler as a starting five? Who’s better? In a Western Conference that’s up for grabs, why can’t the Clippers get to the finals? Apart from a backup front line highlighted with Brian Cook (ugh) and rookie second round draft choice Trey Thompkins, the team has no significant weakness—and they might be able to take care of that problem later this year by dangling Mo Williams and his expiring contract as trade bait.
So,why can’t they beat the Heat? Say what you want about David Stern and the veto (Rockets and Lakers fans aside), but this deal makes the league SO much more intriguing. Thank goodness for it.
It’s superstar swap time! Here, a hypothetical straight up player for player deal is offered involving two of the league’s best and brightest. Both viewpoints are then processed, and the fake trade’s winner is decided by way of which fan base would ultimately be happier. In this fictional situation, the players are only swapped for a single season of action, with everything else—rosters, coaches, owners—staying exactly the same.
Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade
2010-11 relevant stats:
Bryant – 82 starts, 10.3 WS, 23.9 PER, 54.8 TS%, 32.3 3P%, 82.8 FT%, 7.1 FTA, 5.1 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 25.3 PPG.
Wade – 76 starts, 12.8 WS, 25.6 PER, 58.1 TS%, 30.6 3P%, 75.8 FT%, 8.6 FTA, 6.4 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 25.5 PPG.
They’re the two best shooting guards in today’s NBA, and when judged by history’s hindsight, could end their careers as two of the five best shooting guards who ever lived. Both players are the closest in style, attitude, athleticism, desire, leadership, and skill that we’ve had since Michael Jordan’s second retirement, and it’s very difficult to find anyone in the league who you’d rather have take the last shot with your house’s mortgage on the line. (Helpful Disclaimer: Gambling the height of your life’s financial achievement on the shot of a basketball is not smart business).
As the years go by, Kobe Bryant—he of the five rings, tireless work ethic, and science fiction related Germanic knee surgery—will be comparatively discussed with Wade as those talk about Larry and Magic. Not with the same rivalry driven narrative, but the same reverence. Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant can’t be guarded one on one, they don’t tire, and when discussing complete basketball specimens—mind included—they’re both at the top of what they do.
Because this season’s rosters are so confusing, we’ll roll with what we have right now, on paper. Neither team has any of their unsigned free agents, but we will add those who have been reported to sign for the 2011-12 season (Kapono in L.A.; Battier in Miami). So, who comes out on top in a swap for two of professional basketball’s current Mount Rushmore figures.
Los Angeles’ Viewpoint:
In terms of his ability as a go-to scorer, emotional leader, and dependent ship steerer, the Lakers receive the one player in the league it’d make sense for them to replace Kobe Bryant with. Strictly looking at it from a basketball perspective, there’d be no drop off offensively and a slight upgrade in defensive play, as Wade has surpassed Kobe as the league’s best perimeter two guard stopper, especially as an absolute freak on help. Pairing him with Pau and Bynum would create no ego related problem, and, still relishing in his prime, Wade would likely have no problem giving up personal touches for the good of the team. Already used to playing alongside a dead person at point guard, he’d also be able to bring the ball up the court and initiate offensive sets quickly. With no Kobe, the Lakers would be fine here.
This is what everybody wants to see, right? Kobe with LeBron? Despite Wade overtaking Kobe in the eyes of many as an overall better player, the sheer mysticism of placing a media fueled rivalry, and two of the game’s biggest names, together on the same team would either make everyone involved’s head explode, or put the team in direct cruise control on their way to a championship. Implosion or explosion. In this situation, I think each player fits into their role a bit easier. LeBron is officially stamped as the game’s greatest playmaker, averaging 15-20 points, 10+ rebounds, 10+ assists a game, existing as the single greatest secondary scoring option in the history of the world. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant continues on his usual path of finisher, relieving James of any pressures that come with attacking late in the game. Those who know basketball don’t question LeBron for sidestepping Bryant as the final shot taker and Kobe gladly puts everything on his shoulders. This clear separation of roles, and declaration of team parameters, makes Miami an even likelier championship winning candidate. Also, Bryant doesn’t care if everybody hates him, which could work wonders in motivating the dry-heaving, bubble wrapped Chris Bosh.
L.A. might get better, they might not. With the loss of their very own Moses, Lakers fans cry either way. Down in Miami, nobody realizes anything has happened until the All-Star break, when Wade is playing for the West. A few people double check to make sure Miami hasn’t magically transported to southern California.
Winner? Whoever wins the championship.
If your enjoyment of basketball as a game runs deep into the whys and hows which explain the tendencies of every player, then you probably love advanced statistics. They exist to explain what’s unexplainable (at first) to the naked eye. They’re both fun to pour over when you’re bored and crucial instruments in deciding the limits of million dollar contract extensions.
The statistic being put under the microscope right now is one rarely—if ever—mentioned on television broadcasts or highlight reels. It’s awkward from the tongue and slightly confusing as to what it specifically constitutes, being that it’s so based on the subjective, but “percent of field goals assisted” (%ast) is underrated in its importance. Read more…
In the grand scheme of what’s altruistically important in life, I believe it’s fair to suggest all teachers, doctors, surgeons, and members of the armed forces should be given financial compensation of equal or greater value to that of which is awarded professional athletes. Their actual impact on human life is indisputably greater, more important, and further reaching. Of course, they don’t (and never will) because the businesses they’re in don’t create the billions upon billions of dollars in gross revenue that the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL produce on an annual basis. They also have an uncountable number of members in their labor force, making each worker’s slice of pie much smaller than that of the athlete. Call it sad. Call it unfair. Call it horribly disproportionate. Call it the real world. Read more…
Recommended Reading is a daily (occasional) rundown of truly superb NBA related literature, pictures, and videos. Some is brand new, others are timeless. Enjoy!
Yahoo: Caron Butler is smart. Choosing between Dallas and Miami in free agency next year? What a lucky guy.
News OK: A very interesting piece by The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry on James Harden, and how he has more to lose than the average NBA player.
NBC ProBasketball Talk: The Boston Celtics bringing on Josh Howard would be…what? Helpful? Crucial? Desperate? Pathetic?
HoopsWorld: Kobe Bryant talks about his love and admiration for Carmelo Anthony.
Sports Illustrated: A little throwback joint. Tony Kornheiser’s revealing 1983 masterpiece on Rick Barry.
Grantland: Rudy Gay talks with Jonathan Abrams about his shoulder injury and being an athletic Almighty, among other things.
Rising: James Harden
It’s so easy to look down on a top three overall draft pick when his numbers don’t immediately make television screens spontaneously combust—to jump on his back before maturation is allowed time to settle in, and stamp “BUST” on his forehead. (All the more easy when a player taken with the subsequent pick goes onto have a historically brilliant rookie year.) People don’t have patience. James Harden, armed with bristling beard action and a buttery jump shot, is all about patience. His game, built on all-around methodical consistency—like Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy—depends on it.
When it comes to long term convenience, he’s 22-years-old and firmly entrenched in one of the brightest situations the league has to offer; an argument can be made that he’s the second most untradeable player in the Thunder organization, behind Kevin Durant. He’s already proven he can take over entire quarters at a time in playoff games, and make plays off the dribble that don’t only benefit himself. Hate to light a horse on fire while it’s writhing on the ground, but Harden’s a better decision maker/incredibly less selfish than Russell Westbrook, and it isn’t crazy to say his future may be an even more rewarding one alongside Durant.
Coming off the bench in all but five games last season, Harden was a respectable role player who’d flash brilliance every now and then, but he wasn’t blowing the hinges off anybody’s doors. His style lacked glamour, existing more as sophisticated style hidden beneath a high IQ basketball player who’s just about ready to tornado the league. A few days ago I wrote that there will never be another Scottie Pippen. I stand by that statement, but right now James Harden is the closest thing the league has.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Thornton, Eric Gordon, Arron Afflalo
After being traded from New Orleans for Carl Landry, in one of the more honorable trades you’ll ever see, Marcus Thornton’s minutes more than doubled. Subsequently, so did his shots, points, steals, assists, and free-throw attempts per game. He went from a decent second round draft pick to one of the game’s most dynamic scorers, post all-star break—and that isn’t an exaggeration (21.3 points with an 18.2 PER).
What keeps the Marcus Thornton fire from burning strong is a big bucket of water named Jimmer Fredette. The situation in Sacramento should be exciting, but there’s only one basketball to play with, and Jimmer should see that ball quite often. With his confidence sitting on a cloud, Thornton will look to shoot more than he should, unless, of course, the free agent signs somewhere else after the lockout. Putting a proven, reliable, unafraid shooting guard like Thornton on a team that could use reliability from the shooting guard position, like, say, Chicago, could cause more than a few ripples. It makes too much sense.
For Eric Gordon, please see here.
An argument could be made that after the Carmelo trade, Arron Afflalo was the guy George Karl looked to with the game on the line, and his penchant to play hard on both ends should keep him on the floor (especially with no Wilson Chandler/Carmelo/JR Smith three-headed monster to deal with).
Since his first playoff series in 2008, Afflalo has seen his minutes grow from 7.0 to 16.5 to 20.0 to last year’s 28.3. He’s a player who’s constantly improving on skills he struggled with early on in his career (a 20% three-point shooter his rookie year, Afflalo finished tied for sixth league-wide from deep last season), with brimming desire and fearlessness gleaming from his eyes whenever advantageous moments present themselves. He was drafted at the end of the first round in 2007, then flipped two years later for a second round pick, placing one of those handy, metaphorical chips on his shoulder that should only grow as his career continues to mature.
Falling: Dorell Wright
Last year Dorell Wright had one of the quietest breakout seasons in recent memory. In his seventh year—the first outside Miami, also known as self-discipline dementia—Wright became a full-time starter for the first time. Naturally, he posted career high averages across the board and led the entire league in both three-point attempts and three-pointers made (!!!). Unfortunately for Wright (and the Warriors organization), he shot a harsh 37%, hardly qualifying as a feared deep threat. By comparison, teammates Steph Curry and Reggie Williams finished with the third and sixth most accurate three-point shooting percentage in the league, relegating Wright to at least the third best deep ball option on his own team (which is, like, sooo not !!! worthy). It was also worse than Keith Bogans. So, yea, there’s that.
When we look closer, maybe Wright didn’t have a breakout season after all. I mean, how many breakout seasons are followed by your team taking a player known for shooting threes and thriving in the same position, two months later in the draft? Many thought the Klay Thompson pick spelled a plane ticket for Monta Ellis, but if Golden State’s management were smart (they are) they’d take Wright, a player who can’t possibly have any better of a year than we just saw, and move him while he’s at the height of his value.
Honorable mention: Kobe Bryant