Saturday, December 25, 2004

By Zach

So, just got finished watching the big game between the Miami Shaqs and the Los Angeles are a few of my thoughts.

When he's hot Kobe Bryant is one of the most amazing basketball players I've ever seen. When he's not, I want to break my television set. The man has no conception of how to frame his game in the context of the rest of his team. Most of the game, he was content to try and force his way between two defenders, then throw up a shot
A turnover waiting to happen
(sometimes with his back to the basket) with the hope of being fouled. Alternately, he would launch a step-back jumper over a defender. When that shot it going, as it was in the first half, he (and the Lakers) are nearly impossible to stop. When it's not, the Lakers lose (like they did today). My biggest complaint about Kobe is that you know in his head he's thinking "I scored 42's not my fault we lost." Well, when you shoot 12-30 from the field, and turn the ball over 9 times, it's clear you're trying to do too much. And that's always been his biggest problem...unlike Jordan, who knew how to trust his teammates with the ball in the clutch (Paxson, Kerr), Kobe only knows how to get his own shot off...which he did at the end of OT, a bad three which glanced off the rim.

Lamar Odom should file a lawsuit against Kobe and Rudy Tomjanovich. Seriously. The guy can flat out play, and he never gets the ball. He's the guy who carried the Lakers down the stretch, and especially in OT, when he was matched up with Udonis Haslem. Random note: am I the only person who remembers Haslem as a short, fat center for the perennially underachieving Florida Gators? Seriously, when did he lose 100 pounds? Anyhow, back to Lamar: The guy is 6'10", can shoot, put the ball on the floor, and finish, and yet it doesn't look like the Lakers have more than 2 plays for him. The guy needs the ball more.

The rest of the Lakers are terrible. We didn't get to see the supsended Caron Butler, but the rest of the team beyond Bryant and Odom stinks. Chucky Atkins played the game of his life and still hurt the team with a dumb offensive foul at the end, Jumaine Jones is a waste of biomass, and Chris Mihm, bless his heart, plays hard but is undersized and was pushed around by Shaq. The bench features a 6'10" jump shooter (Brian Cook), a 6'9" center who is about 5 years removed from productivity (Brian Grant), the son of a terrible announcer, and some guy named Tierre Brown who never made an NBA roster before. Hmm, I wonder why?

The Heat aren't that good either. Except Dwyane Wade. He's really, really good. My favorite things about him are that he's always willing to pass up a three-pointer for a two, and a jumper for a layup, and that he finishes with his left hand. Too many players in the NBA can't make a left-handed layup, let alone the nice lefty banker Wade made in OT.
The new Dynamic Duo?
He, like Bryant, didn't shoot too well from the floor (10-26), but at least he had the excuse of a bad knee. Plus, his team won. And he only committed 4 turnovers. And had 10 assists.

So Dwyane is a good player. So is Shaq, but you can tell the years of being overweight in LA have really hurt his game. He no longer has the explosion he used to have. There was one play in the fourth quarter where he spun around Mihm and was right at the the old days, it would have been a rim-rattling slam. Instead, it was a little fingerroll. Yes, it still was worth 2 points, but the fact is that he no longer has the same athletic ability he once had. He's still quick (and big) enough to make his spin move, but he doesn't run the court well, struggles to challenge shots, and can't defend the pick-and-roll to save his life (something a number of teams have exploited over the years).

The Heat do have a few nice role players. He's vastly overpaid, but Eddie Jones can still play good perimeter defense, and knock down the occasional jumper. Damon Jones appears capable of handling the ball and knocking down the three, though I wonder how long that will last. Haslem is a nice hustle player alongside Shaq. The bench is a bit thin, with garbage like Michael Doleac, Keyon Dooling, Christian Laettner, Rasual Butler, and Shandon Anderson playing today. Ugh.

Still, it's clear that the Heat got the better end of the Shaq deal, at least so far. They've won 11 games in a row, while the Lakers will have to struggle to make the playoffs in the improved West. And unless Kobe learns to play with Odom, it could be a while before the Lakers are any more than that.

Other notes: I hate Hubie Brown. Somehow, I'd forgotten this when he was coaching the Grizzlies. The man is a terrible color guy. He's really a whore for Kobe, never once criticizing him for his insane plays.
Come on ref, I could see that foul from the ABC broadcast booth. Or my former spot on the Memphis bench, before I randomly quit in the middle of the season.
If Kobe charges into the lane, elevates, is trapped, and throws a shot over his head, Hubie sez "How could the ref not call that foul?". If Kobe throws a lazy bounce pass to Chris Mihm that gets intercepted, Hubie sez "Mihm has to come get that ball from Bryant." If Kobe gets trapped and throws the ball out of bounds, five feet from his nearest teammate, Hubie sez "Kobe's teammates need to help him out there." And if Kobe breaks up one of the best teams in the league because of some pathetic insecurity and need to prove he can win on his own, Hubie sez "The Lakers, and Kobe, have tremendous upside potential." I say "Kobe Bryant is a phenomenal athlete who doesn't understand how to play team basketball, he alienates his teammates, and he rapes women in his hotel room...and he also loves to eat babies."


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