Posted: Tuesday January 2, 2007 6:13PM; Updated: Tuesday January 2, 2007 8:03PM
Which job would you rather have?
SI.com's Jack McCallum decides which last-place team he'd prefer to coach.
Tony Barone Sr.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
OK, it's the new year. It's all about fresh starts, new beginnings, hope, optimism, all that kind of stuff. So you have your choice of taking over the coaching duties for either the worst team in the Western Conference or the worst team in the East.
One good thing: You'll hear outstanding music whatever you choose since great songs have been written both in the cities and about the cities. So would you rather be Walking in Memphis (Marc Cohn) or Sailing to Philadelphia (Mark Knopfler)?
In Memphis, you'd get to coach one of the real underrated offensive players in the league in swingman Mike Miller; one of the real quiet comers in forward Hakim Warrick; and one of the real solid pros in forward-center Pau Gasol. You'd get to straighten out rookie Rudy Gay's shot selection and find out once and for all if your power forward is Stromile Swift or Stromile Stiff.
Plus, the barbeque at downtown Rendezvous is great.
In Philly, meanwhile, you'd have to figure out what to do with limping veteran Chris Webber, why shot-blocking center Samuel Dalembert looks like Bill Russell on some nights and Nipsey Russell on others, and whether Andre Iguodala is truly ready to take over a team, now that the real A.I., Allen Iverson, has been traded.
Plus, you'll get your ass booed here and there.
But I'd still choose to take the 76ERS over the Grizzlies. Memphis had it going for a couple of years, but now the ownership situation and fan support are dicey. In Philly, the Iverson trade provided what any franchise so desperately needs -- hope for the future in terms of draft picks and enough money to sign a good free agent.
There is history and tradition in Philly. The city aches for a winner and, if you can give it one, it will build a statue of you. (Note: The art museum is taken.) And take it from somone who knows Philly: You don't have to get your cheesesteak with cheese whiz.
Alan of Los Angeles: "I would take Kobe, because a player's attitude can be coached, but a player's talent cannot."
Max of Amsterdam: "The thing that would give Wade the edge would be an unexplainable factor: My perception is that Kobe's got too much negative energy surrounding him -- call it bad karma or whatever you want -- which has a bad influence on people around him, and that doesn't really work when you're playing a team sport!"
Richard Ingles of New Orleans: "I'm going with Wade. Yes, Kobe is more talented and fundamentally adept, but Wade has something that the aloof Kobe might never have: universal respect as a player and person. Fans and other players might respect the way Kobe plays the game, but they stop at respecting the way he conducts himself off the court or even in the locker room. From what little we fans can see, Wade is more humble and selfless both on the court and off, and that's the kind of guy I prefer to have on my team."
Jon of Orlando: "Wade would be a nine out of 10 on offense to Kobe's 10. The big difference is not offense, it is defense. Kobe can shut any player and still give 40 on offense. If Wade played Kobe's kind of defense, he might contribute 22."
Joe Alvarez of Bronx, N.Y.: "Jack, you are a highly regarded basketball reporter, but if you watched D-Wade perform on Christmas Day, you you witnessed the difference between Wade and not only Kobe, but the rest of the top players in the NBA. Wade is the best all-around player in the world. As Mark Jackson mentioned on the telecast, behind Steve Nash, Wade is the best decision maker in the league with the ball in his hands, and he is not a point guard."
Blake Crone of Victoria, BC: "I still wonder why there is even a debate on this subject. Kobe is better in all facets of the game, except he doesn't get as many calls as Wade. Kobe is the best player in the game hands down, but in my humble opinion, Flash is right behind him. When Wade can develop a better outside touch and defending skills, this will be a closer call, but right now it is not even close."
Deriek Cruz of Tacoma, Wash.: "Kobe. I don't even like the guy, but he is the closest to Jordan that we've seen. There is no one I'd rather have take the last shot than Kobe."
Tyler of Raleigh, N.C.: "Wade in a heartbeat. I've never seen Kobe do anything like what D-Wade did against the Mavs in the Finals. Wade will become the best player in the league in the next two years, and he's a much better teammate than Kobe."
Magesh Thulasi of Atlanta: "Wade, of course. Kobe is selfish and he has not proved yet that he can carry his team. Wade showed that he has the goods to win it all on the biggest stage. On the other hand, we all saw what Kobe did in Game 7 against Phoenix last season. He has great talent, but basketball is not about one person, it is about making everyone better on your team."
Eli of Israel: "If basketball were played one on one, then Kobe is the definite choice. If I am trying to put together a winning team, I'll take Wade."
Rdog of Chicago:" "Wade is a better team player than Kobe and won't lose intentionally just to prove a point. Kobe is definitely a better player than Wade, but basketball is a team sport. Give me a guy who would rather win and do the small things than a guy who can score 81 then play at half speed in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of a playoff series."
Daniel Tatum of Los Angeles:"Kobe is clearly the better player. Kobe did play a secondary role in the three-peat, to some degree. If you remember correctly, Kobe was the closer. The first three quarters, the offense was run through Shaq. In crunch/free throw time, the offense was worked through Kobe. Shaq doesn't win without Kobe in those three years just as much as Kobe doesn't win without Shaq."
Matthew Haag of Ft. Hood, Texas: Both are in very similar circumstances. Lamar Odom is out (outside of Kobe, that's really the only other talent on the team this year) and Shaq is out in Miami. Yet Kobe has his team near the top of the West while last I looked the Heat were floundering in the East. That's the difference maker to me. Kobe has the ability all the time to inspire a team to play better. Wade can inspire great play but I don't think he can do it all season long. It will still be a few years before I take Wade over Bryant."
Ted Dahlman of Tulsa, Okla.: "I'd take Wade if I'm building a franchise from the ground up, but in any other situation I'd take Kobe for the reasons you mentioned."
Joshua Alayon of Sacramento, Calif.: "Bryant, the most feared player at crunch time. Wade is fun to watch with his unselfishness in a team game. But Kobe's unspoken arrogance gets into other players' mind. And let me remind everyone that basketball is a mind game."
DB of New York: "No question this is the hardest choice to make of any two player comparisons in the league. If I were forced to make a choice for the next three years, it would be Kobe. For the long haul, it would be Wade for two reasons: age and health. Kobe has now had two knee surgeries and the unexpected drawback of success so young (i.e. playing deep into June) without being restricted by the limited schedule of college has aged him prematurely and his body is showing signs of wear. To quote Indiana Jones in response to someone telling him he's not the same man he was 10 years ago, "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
Jerry of Syracuse, N.Y.:"Wade leads by example, putting the team first and asserting himself when needed. Kobe asserts himself always regardless of the impact on the team. Applause to him for working to try to be a better teammate, but don't the great ones possess that automatically?"
Luis of Denver:"Kobe, hands down. More talent, better defender and is now starting to make his teammates better, and his Lakers are a better team in a much better conference."
P. Duckett of Dallas:"Watching one game you probably would say Wade, because he can be so dominant going to the basket. Overall, when you take in account everything on a day-to-day basis, it's Kobe."
David Shelby of Austin, Texas:"Wade, and it's easy. He took the same team that Kobe had a year later (primary players were Lamar Odom and Coran Butler) to the second round of the playoffs and made a charge to get to the Eastern Conference playoffs. A year later, after the Shaq trade, Kobe's Lakers weren't even in the playoffs."