Friday, May 26, 2006

While we wait for new posts, here is what was on the front page of bottomlineguys.com most recently.....


KOBE-YASHI!

posted 11:45 am on 5/2/05 by Chris Kenna

First off, let me start by giving Kobe some of the credit he deserves for finally deciding to attempt to play team basketball. Alongside Lamar Odom (who has the ability and skill set to be a very good "second-fiddle" type of player), if Kobe can learn to play this style of basketball year-round (and maybe even get better at it) and work his role players into the system a little better, I think we are looking at a legitimate championship contender in the next 2-3 years, especially in a Western Conference where the balance of power seems it is starting to shift away from San Antonio.

That being said, while I agree that if Kobe and Shaq had stayed together, they would probably be contending for championships every year, I don't think simply replacing Dwyane Wade with Kobe Bryant would do much of anything for Shaq and this Miami Heat team as assembled. Sure, Kobe (the flawless 44% shooter that he is) is a better outside shooter than Dwyane and one could argue he is a slightly more experienced defender, but, if anything, it would be a relatively minor upgrade in the grand scheme of things. Shaq would still be showing the noticeable decline in dominance we have seen throughout the first four games of this series, and you would still have Antoine Walker and Jason Williams playing little to no D, while hoisting up trey's with little to no conscience or accuracy to speak of. I know Dwyane hasn't played up to his potential thus far in this series, but let's also not forget that last year around this time, he was a bruised rib away from carrying a less-talented (but better balanced) Miami Heat team on his back into the NBA Finals. He typically scores with remarkable efficiency, has an uncanny ability to get teammates involved (he is already a better passer and playmaker than Kobe), and has been the only one on this Heat team really playing any semblance of defense over the past 2 games. This Bulls team runs a lot of complicated sets and has been doing their best to get out on the floor and force guys like Antoine, J-Will and Shaq to try to keep up with them and play team defense; something which, to this point, they have proven incapable of. To put any of the blame on Dwyane for the Heat's porous defense in this series would be misguided. I can almost assure you Kobe's impact on the defensive end would be no greater, and I guarantee you that Shaq isn't losing sleep at night wishing that Dwyane would turn into Kobe. Although he might be losing sleep wishing that Antoine Walker would turn into anyone else...

Now, as a Lakers fan, I could certainly see your disappointment in the breakup of what could have and, for all intents and purposes, should have been a dynasty, but as an NBA fan, I think the Kobe-Shaq split was in the best interest of the league. That Lakers saga, as I can imagine many outsiders felt about the Bulls dynasty by 1998, was getting to be a tired story by the end of the 2004 Finals. They hadn't won a championship in 2 years, and were just thoroughly dominated by a rising Detroit team. Shaq was getting tired of Kobe's antics, and Kobe was tired of deferring to Shaq. Let's face it, the NBA from the time of Jordan's retirement to the time Lebron was drafted was probably one of the most boring periods in league history. The Lakers of Shaq and Kobe were really all we had, and that was starting to get old. Now there was a young influx of talent coming into the league, and you just got the feeling that the NBA needed a fresh start. So Shaq was shipped to Miami to work with another young star, Kobe finally got his chance to prove himself on his own, and the league finally seems to be on the verge of being able to fully transition from the end of the Jordan era into what appears to be a very bright future.

One thing's for sure. I know his Laker teammates are just dying waiting and wondering when Kobe will bust this old move out for its playoff debut...

NON-KOBE PLAYOFF AND DRAFT THOUGHTS

- Would anyone else love to see a matchup between this Pistons team and one of the Bad Boys championship teams. I'd put my money on the Bad Boys. I'd especially love to see Rodman going up against Rasheed.

- How could you not love this Chicago Bulls team? Oh yeah, maybe if you have to play against them. But seriously, this team is like a younger, more athletic version of the Pistons.

- Tell me the Phoenix Suns don't miss Amare. Tell me that Steve Nash is still the MVP. That team is nothing without Amare.

- Lebron James is a ridiculous athlete. He has more talent than any player in the NBA. He is one of those rare players who is not the "next" anything, but will make people remember his name on its own merits. It's clear he's still got a lot to learn about the game though...but don't worry, he's only 21.

- Gilbert Arenas, insane. Gilbert Arenas, probably one of my favorite NBA players/personalities of all-time.

- What is up with all the flagrant fouls in the playoffs thus far? The worst, by far, had to be Reggie Evans grabbing Chris Kaman's balls while going after a rebound. I mean, come on, that might be worse than the Ron Artest brawl. I'm calling for a full-season suspension for Reggie Evans.

- Joakim Noah just made the worst decision of his life. It wouldn't shock me if he wasn't a lottery pick next year.

- All this talk of Rudy Gay being a bust is just silly. He is the one player people will definitely remember from the 2006 NBA Draft.

Batman Is Missing Robin

posted 3:18 pm on 5/1/06 by Jeff Tinker

When the trade was made, I thought there was no chance that Shaq would ever miss Kobe. After all, Shaq was Batman, Superman, and the Incredible Hulk all rolled into one. Kobe was great, but he wasn't Superman. He always appeared to be the ultimate sidekick for the world's most awesome athletic force, but he wasn't the main attraction. In Kobe's first season as the Lakers first option, my beliefs were confirmed. Shaq helped the Miami Heat reach the Eastern Conference Finals, while Kobe could not even get the Lakers to the playoffs. Shaq had moved on and would not have to look back. Or so I thought.

Shaquille O'Neal has played in 175 NBA playoff games, and I have watched most of them. Yesterday was the first time I have ever looked at Shaq and thought, "Wow. He needs some help." Unfortunately for Shaq, the kind of help he needs right now will not come from Dwyane Wade, or any of the other members of his current team. At this point in his career, the kind of help he needs can only be given by one man. Ironically, it is the very man he has worked so hard to distance himself from in the past two years. Yesterday, for the first time since the dynamic duo separated, Shaq must have been thinking: "Boy, I sure miss Kobe."

It is ironic that on the same day that Shaq's old side kick made a game-winning shot to help Shaq's old team take a commanding 3-1 series lead, Shaq's new partner missed twice from point blank range in a crucial situation, and allowed his team to fall into a 2-2 tie. Dwyane Wade is terrific. Please don't get me wrong. Wade can really play. But Wade is nowhere near the player that Kobe Bryant is. Both players can attack the rim, but Wade does not play with the same defensive intensity as Kobe, and Wade's jump shot does not have near the accuracy of Bryant's. If the Heat could replace Wade with Bryant, there is no way that Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich would have the same freedom to drive to the rim. And Shaq always had a lot more room to operate on offense when Kobe and his flawless jump shot were there to stretch the defense for him.

Everyone in Los Angeles will say that egos ended things for Shaq and Kobe. It is terribly interesting to me that everyone thought their egos would be a huge problem as Shaq hit the declining years of his career. If they were still together, I have a feeling that Shaq would not have as much of a problem letting Kobe take more shots. Shaq's injuries have begun to pile up and the wear and tear of carrying 340 pounds through 14 NBA seasons is catching up with him. Obviously, Shaq can still be very effective. But right now, he needs Kobe. And you know what? Kobe needs Shaq too.

During their time in Los Angeles, Kobe and Shaq just barely scratched the surface of how good they could have been. The league's premier shooting guard (and one of its youngest!) dominating alongside the league's premier inside presence, and they only had 5 seasons under the watchful eye of Phil Jackson. They should have had 5 more. Since then, Kobe has matured by leaps and bounds. At age 26, he is far more mature than he was at age 24. He is beginning to understand the concept of team basketball, and at a time when he has become one of the game's best passers (That's right! I said it! He is one of the game's best passers! Just look at how adept he is at setting up Luke Walton and Kwame Brown.) he no longer has Shaq to receive the ball. I probably sound like a broken record by now , but I will say it again . Isn't it ironic?

Who knows what will happen as the 2006 NBA playoffs progress? The Lakers will likely defeat the Phoenix Suns, and they will move through the playoffs, as Kobe slices and dices either the Clippers or Nuggets in the second round. And then, the Lakers will meet the Spurs in the Conference Finals. Kobe will be missing Shaq badly during that series. The Lakers are better than advertised, but they cannot beat a team like San Antonio. In a similar way, Miami will progress through the playoffs until their shortcomings lead to their downfall as well. They may be defeated by the Bulls, or they may survive until Detroit systematically dismantles them. All the while, Miami will suffer from a lack of perimeter defense and perimeter shooting. And on the other side of the country, Kobe will watch his current big men be dismantled by Tim Duncan and wonder why his team lacks the inside scoring that is needed to advance to the NBA's biggest stage.

Neither man would ever admit it. But they must ask themselves once in awhile. Why did they ruin such a great thing? Everytime Shaq watches Wade miss a 20-foot jumper or get beaten off the dribble, he must secretly realize that Kobe would not have made the same mistake. And everytime Kobe watches Kwame Brown fail to finish a shot around the basket, he must wonder how many seconds it would have taken for the basket to stop shaking if Shaq was the one that he was feeding in the low post.

I am not sure if they realize it now, but someday they will. Shaq and Kobe ruined a great thing. San Antonio and Detroit are two great basketball teams. But with another year of maturity, a more youthful cast of sidekicks, and the Zen Master's hand to guide them, Shaq and Kobe would have returned to NBA glory.

Two men who could not wait to get rid of one another, now need each other more than they ever did before. It's pretty ironic. And as a fan, I think it's pretty sad too.

Foolproof MVP Vote

posted 1:35 pm on 4/28/06 by Dan Clarin

Caught in the midst of one of the more upsetting sports issues in 2005, Mr. Kenna and myself decided to show just how not valuable Steve Nash was when compared to several other great players. In order to do this, we placed every player in the NBA into a hypothetical draft pool and picked 30 new teams consisting of 5 starters and a bench player. Needless to say, Steve Nash wasn't the first pick. I think he may have even slid into the second round due to our anger at the time. With the 2006 regular season now over, we decided to hold our draft once again. Surprisingly, Steve Nash wasn't the first pick this time either. Click on the link to see the 2nd installment of what could become a great American tradition. I drafted as if these teams would remain intact for one or two years, so you can use that assumption when viewing.

2nd Annual NBA Redraft

(Note: Shaq slid further than he should have. Jeff, we apologize. However, he is getting older.)

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