Sunday, February 3, 2008

In Defense Of The 48 Shot Shooter

David Friedman from 20 Second Timeout chimed in with this defense of Kobe and clarification of his thoughts on the Shaq trade from a few years ago. As David knows about a bajillion more than I do about basketball, and his arguments are salient, I thought I'd share.

Just for the record, I said that trading Shaq was the "right move" several years ago. It's not even so much that it was the "right move"--it was the only move if you understand all the circumstances involved. Jerry Buss is not willing to go into luxury tax territory, so he was unwilling to pay Shaq max dollars for max years. That is why Shaq demanded a trade and the Lakers complied. The Lakers' only other choice would have been to let Kobe leave and give Shaq the money that they gave to Kobe, which would have enabled the Lakers to become the current Miami Heat--only without the solace of winning a title in '06.

Miami's owners are willing to pay the luxury tax, so they spent a lot of money for a short term gain and figured that they'd deal with the consequences later. They got one title--and "later" arrived perhaps a bit sooner than expected. The Lakers decided to rebuild around Kobe. They only missed the playoffs the year that Kobe and Odom missed a ton of games due to injuries and now with the development of Bynum and the acquisition of Gasol the Lakers have a chance to be contenders again. When you look at this from the perspective of the two team, both L.A. and Miami made the "right" moves.

You assert that because Kobe needs help from Bynum and Gasol to possibly win a title that this proves that he does not make other players better. Would you care to cite one example of a great player leading a team to a championship without receiving a lot of help from either (A) another great player and/or (B) a collection of above average players who know their roles? Since 1980, titles have been won by Hall of Fame duos or trios such as Bird-McHale-Parish, Kareem-Magic-Worthy, Erving-Moses, Isiah-Dumars, MJ-Pip (top 50 players who will surely be inducted in the Hall), Olajuwon-Drexler, Shaq-Kobe (also HoF locks), Duncan-Robinson (ditto), etc. The Piston won one title by putting together multiple All-Stars and playing great defense. In other words, no star wins a title by himself. If Kobe could do that then he would be hands down the greatest player ever because no one else has ever done it. Kobe was the leading playmaker on the Lakers' championship teams, is one of the top rebounding guards and annually makes the All-Defensive team (selected by coaches), so the idea that all that he does is score is demonstrably false.
For what it's worth, Kobe is currently 1st in average rebounds per game for small guards, and 8th for guard-forward combos. So he's got that going for him.

It's funny, because I'm aware of Kobe's defense, I've lauded it before. I just never seem to give him credit for it.

So yeah, he's good, real good.

I still think he's more of a problem than he's worth and that he won't be able to win a championship with this core of players. Of course, then Kupchak will go out and trade for a panzer tank and MechaGodzilla. So there's that. But my assertion that he's a pure scorer is flawed in the best sense and outright wrong in the most accurate sense. So there you go.

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