Monday, June 8, 2009

Kobe Bryant

From ESPN's Bill Simmons, or what I call, "Why Kobe Will Never, Ever Be Like Mike":

Important note: Kobe's reputation as a "killer" at the end of games remains overblown. The site just posted a study of game-winning shots from the last five-plus seasons (regular seasons and playoffs since the 2003-04 season) that revealed Kobe was shooting 14-for-56 (25 percent) with one assist and five turnovers, and made 12 of 15 free throws. So let's say that was 70 possessions total, including Sunday night. ... He only had one assist in nearly six years??? That's why Orlando quadruple-teamed him in that spot. Kobe is a phenomenal streak shooter, and he has a real talent for catching fire with a lead and closing games out ... but you can stop him in one-shot situations simply because he's his own worst enemy. He wants to be a hero, he's shooting it, and that's that.

0:00.6: Funniest moment of the game: Kobe storms back to the bench, whacks the chair in disgust and sits down as Phil Jackson (already sitting) looks at him with a bemused, "Should I point out to him that MJ absolutely would have passed there?" smile on his face. Classic.

Mr. Simmons is absolutely right. Is it just me who thinks Kobe's newfound super-intensity is contrived? He mailed it in against Houston in the last series, and in Game 2, he didn't do much until the second half. Then, he gets the benefit of a Jack Nicholson tantrum, which causes the referees to call multiple touch/non-existent fouls against Orlando thereafter. (A significant development when the game later goes into OT.)

Kobe's decision to go four-on-one while Odom was wide open and practically begging for the ball establishes that Kobe is not a clutch player. I'm sorry, but even Mike passed to Steve Kerr (1997 NBA Finals) and enabled John Paxson to take the last shot (1993 NBA Finals).

Even though the following interview took place in 2004, Ray Allen's comments about Kobe are still spot-on:

He's going to be very selfish...I think the point production is not going to be so much what people are going to look at because (Tracy) McGrady did it in Orlando, Allen (Iverson) did it in Philly. Can you win a championship? I think that's the question. Carrying guys on your back and making everybody better." ... But is his attitude going to allow him to take a back seat and let Lamar Odom shine and let Caron Butler have his nights and bring those big guys along with him?"

Some final comments: Kobe now has Pau Gasol, who's an All-Star center--a white version of Shaq, if you will. Gasol was an All-Star and FIBA champ before he played with Kobe. Kobe couldn't win with just Bynum. He couldn't win with Kwame Brown. He couldn't win with Radmanovic. He couldn't win with Divac. Bottom line, if Kobe wins the championship, good for him--but don't sully Jordan's reputation and your own basketball IQ by ever comparing Jordan--who won championships with non-All-Stars Luc Longley and Bill Wennington--with Kobe.

Notes for Stan Van Gundy: play Howard and Battie/Gortat together as much as you can. Put Pietrus on Kobe till Pietrus fouls out. Play Alston and tell him before the game that he's the starting PG. Let Alston control his own minutes and sub Nelson at Alston's own reasonable discretion.

Update on June 9, 2009: Tonight was Game 3 of the Orlando-L.A. NBA Finals. From this day forward, whenever anyone compares Kobe to Jordan, all you need to end the discussion are the following five words: "Game 3, 2009 NBA Finals." Kobe not only missed a crucial free throw in the final two minutes, but he turned the ball over and misfired on a three-pointer. Kobe's last play of the game? He fouled an Orlando player with 0.2 seconds left on the clock with Orlando up by 2 points. (The player made both free throws.)

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