Writers' Roundtable (cont.)
Thomsen: You could argue that they had the most explosive punch. But they wasted too much time arguing and wanting to punch each other. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won five championships together -- two more than Shaq and Kobe -- and they got along despite their personality differences. Those 1980s Lakers team dominated the golden era of basketball, and while James Worthy and others provided a lot of help, I still give Magic and Kareem the advantage.
Burns: We'll go along with Shaq on this one. He and Kobe probably were the best Lakers 1-2 punch -- at least in the strictest sense.
Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain won the 1972 title together, but Gail Goodrich was also on that club. Goodrich, in fact, led that team in scoring. Magic and Kareem won five championships together, but they got a lot of help from James Worthy, Byron Scott and Kurt Rambis on those Showtime teams.
Shaq and Kobe pretty much were the show during their Lakers' three-peat. They led those teams in scoring all three times by large margins. When NBA fans think about those teams 20 years from now, they will think of Shaq and Kobe. I don't think those other Lakers clubs will be remembered as two-man teams.
McCallum: As usual, the Big Overstater was a bit prone to, well, overstatement. I do rank Shaq-Kobe ahead of Baylor and West since the latter combo did not produce a championship in their 10 full seasons together, an injury having cut short Baylor's season in 1972, the year that L.A. won a record 33 games in a row and finally beat back the Celtics to win a championship. But the best West Coast combo, clearly, consisted of Magic and Kareem. Magic extended Kareem's career several years with his exuberant leadership, and Abdul-Jabbar's reliable inside scoring padded Magic's assist total from the outset of his career.
Mannix: That's a stretch, even though Shaq and Kobe absolutely belong in the realm of Lakers immortals. The Kareem-Magic one-two punch was better, having dominated an era that was far deeper than the one O'Neal and Bryant tore through.
What's more, Shaq knows that's true. He has already admitted that most of what he says is for effect, with the intent of being marketable. He knows what he says will stir the pot and brighten the fading spotlight that surrounds him. It's what he's good at. And he has done it again.
Aschburner: At one point in O'Neal's interview, he qualifies that one-two punch boast by specifying "best Laker guard-center punch.'' Later he drops in a label of "most exciting, most controversial and the best.'' So to me, that makes him a) wrong, b) wrong and c) two-thirds right.
Let me explain: The best one-two punch in Lakers history was West and Baylor. Those two Hall of Famers, in their prime, were the most formidable pair of wing or perimeter scorers in NBA history. They had three seasons in which their combined scoring average topped the best ever produced by O'Neal and Bryant (57.5 in 2002-03). West and Baylor combined for 69.1 points in 1961-62, 61.1 points the following season and 58.1 points in 1964-65.
The best guard-center punch, meanwhile, was Magic and Kareem, on the basis of five championships to three for Bryant-O'Neal. They didn't score like the more recent tandem but they stayed great for a decade, not half of one. (I'll note here, too, that in 1969-70, West and Wilt Chamberlain combined for 58.5 points -- with Baylor chipping in 24.0.)
Most exciting? I'll give Shaq that. The combination of his thunder and Bryant's lightning was stupendous. Most controversial? No other pair is even close. But best? Not quite.
4. The Clippers are 1-9 after Monday's loss to the Spurs. Are they this bad?
Thomsen: The issue for the Clippers always was going to be fitting the parts together -- big men Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby (who has been hurt), coach Mike Dunleavy and point guard Baron Davis (who has been hurt). They have too much talent to play this poorly all season. But is this roster ever going to exceed the sum of its parts? I doubt it.
Burns: No. The Clippers have talent. They've just been caught up in the perfect storm of a lot of new faces, injuries and strong egos. The problem now is that the bad start is ruining morale and causing dissension. Davis has clashed with Dunleavy, and some of the other vets seem to be going their own ways. L.A. still has time to turn it around and maybe get back in the race for the No. 8 spot, but it won't happen if Baron and his mates don't buy into Dunleavy's system.
McCallum: Put it this way: Regarding my answer to the East-vs.-West question, the Clips are under the category of Would Love To Play Them Every Night Even If We're Forced To Wear Heavy Raincoats And Those Old-Fashioned Galoshes Your Mother Made You Put On Even When There Was Only A Light Drizzle.
Oh, we're supposed to elaborate? The Clippers have Ricky Davis, who seemingly brings 10 losses to a team the minute he signs a contract. They have Baron Davis, who is struggling to blend his freelancing style with Dunleavy's frequent play-calling. They have two centers (Kaman and Camby) who are still trying to figure out a way to play together. They are giving up 102 points a game and getting beat by an average of 12.8 points.
The bottom line is that while second-year forward Al Thornton and rookie guard Eric Gordon are decent building blocks, the Clippers need a massive overhaul. And it could start with Baron, who may start to pack it in if the losses continue to pile up.
Aschburner: They aren't win-one-out-of-every-10 bad, because that would be historic, challenging the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' 9-73 mark. But they are bad, with signs that things won't be getting all that much better. Gordon has started way slower than I expected; he's averaging just 12.0 minutes and has made only 11-of-32 shots. Ricky Davis, meanwhile, is playing almost twice as much as Gordon -- while making only 11 of his 35 two-point shots -- and we've all seen how teams do when Davis is a key contributor. Going forward, it might be too much to expect Camby (34 now and brittle even in his 20s), Kaman and Baron Davis to all avoid lengthy injury layoffs.
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