Observation Deck (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday March 20, 2007 12:48PM; Updated: Wednesday March 21, 2007 12:52AM
Why some continue to use the term "ball hog" when the line "a player who allows his team its only outside chance at a win" will suffice, I'll never understand. It makes little sense to me when the "hog" in question is Kobe Bryant, who ran circles inside that triangle offense last week to the tune of a combined 115 points against the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves. That part about the offense is important, because ardent Lakers observers (or someone who watched at least a quarter or two of the games in question) can point out that Kobe's ability to put up big numbers hardly reminds of Allen Iverson or Dwyane Wade, who often do their damage in isolation sets.
How exactly is Kobe going to make world-beaters out of Smush Parker, an injured Lamar Odom (now shooting just 30.7 percent from behind the three-point arc, down from 37 percent last season), a recovering Luke Walton and the stone hands of Kwame Brown? The best Bryant can hope for, in his role as facilitator, is to find the open men with a sound pass and hope for the best. This works in Phoenix, where Shawn Marion is finishing on the break, Amaré Stoudemire is converting in the lane and Raja Bell is spotting up from behind the arc. In comparison, Kobe's supporting cast has a fightin' chance, but little else.
And what gets lost in times of great storm and stress (like, for instance, Los Angeles' recent seven-game losing streak) is that the Lakers weren't all that great to begin with, and rode a comfortable home-heavy schedule to that 26-13 start. Things were bound to balance out after a while. The Lakers are 35-32 through Monday, and that sounds about right. Especially when you consider that roster, those injuries, the heaps of non-defenders (with Parker, Vladimir Radmanovic and Brian Cook playing big minutes) and GM Mitch Kupchak's continued insistence on placing triple post-adverse players (Kwame, Kwame, and Kwame) right at the apex of that triangle.
Any conspiracy theory you want to draw up regarding Kobe Bean, I'll buy. Muse aloud about his uniform number change, his self-awareness in relation to the game's all-time greats, his role in contributing to/breaking up the last Lakers dynasty -- it's all gossamer worth listening to. I mean that. But these days, there truly is less than meets the eye. He's a brilliant player on a so-so team and needs to score quite a bit for his team to have a chance to win. He didn't have to do as much early in the season, with Walton and Odom healthy and the games seemingly always taking place inside the Staples Center. But times have changed, and Kobe's newfound aggressive touch is one thing you won't find Phil Jackson complaining about.
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