Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ten Players Who Have The Most To Gain In The NBA Playoffs

Slowly over the years there has been a devaluation of regular season accomplishments. 20 years ago it would have been unimaginable for a player to sit out the final game of the regular season with a shot of being the NBA scoring champ. Yet, that is exactly what Kevin Durant did, and that is life in the NBA in 2013. The regular season just doesn't matter anymore, it is only what you accomplish in the playoffs that matter. Prime example is LeBron James, for years what he accomplished in the regular season was awe inspiring. Yet, it was his failures in the playoffs that defined him, until he hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy last year. With that in mind, who are the players that have the most to gain in the playoffs this year?

10. Stephen Curry
The NBA's new reigning single season three point champ with 272 in a single season. Has made the jump this season from sharp shooter to borderline superstar. One of this seasons most exciting moments was his 54 point outburst in Madison Square Garden. When the rim must have looked like an ocean to him on this night because he simply couldn't miss. As prefaced above the regular season accomplishments are nice and all, but superstar status is earned April thru June. This is Curry's first foray into the playoffs so he doesn't have to even a win the series to see this postseason as an accomplishment. Still, he certainly has to shine like Derrick Rose did against the Celtics in that tantalizing opening series a few years ago that cemented his superstar status.

9. Marc Gasol
Over that last few season the lesser known of the Gasol brothers has established himself as a defensive force in this league, on of the best big man passers in the league, and the second best center in the entire league. Yet, he is arguably in terms of talent the league's most overlooked player by the common NBA fan. He has yet to make a single All Star team while lesser players have been invited to the festivities in February. In a tumultuous Western Conference as anyone can remember. The Grizzles are only the second team in the history of the NBA to win 56 games in a season and not have home court advantage in the opening round. If Gasol can lead the league's best defense to the Western Conference Finals or even push the Thunder to a lengthy series in the second round, amenity for him will be a thing of the past.

8. James Harden
Harden's plight is very similar to that of Curry's this postseason. He turned in a spectacular regular season to knock on the door of NBA super stardom, the playoffs though is where that status is earned. In his first season as a starter he finished fifth in the league in scoring with 25.9 PPG. He has shown that he is a franchise cornerstone that Houston can build its future on. Now no one is expecting him to lead the Rockets in an upset of his deeper and more talented former team the Thunder in the opening round. Still, a few performances like his 46 point revenge effort like his against the Thunder in the regular season will be enough to elevate Harden to superstar status and into the argument as to who is the NBA's best shooting guard.


7. Kevin Durant
Durant turned in one of the great efficiency seasons ever with his 28.1 PPG across .510 FG%, .416 3P% and .905 FT%. He joined the allured .50/.40/.90 that had only ever been accomplished previously by five players: Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki. Durant is universally considered the NBA's second best player to LeBron James, but the only reason he doesn't rank higher on this list is because there isn't a scenario where I believe that Durant could be detrimental to his status. The only thing Durant can achieve is winning the title and making an argument out of who is the league's best player with LeBron. Yet, if he doesn't achieve that this season no one will criticize of think less of Durant, we will just say his time will come.

6. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is regarded as the league's best point guard. Last year was the first time he made it out of the first round of the playoffs with the Clippers' game seven win over the Memphis Grizzles. Yet, in the second round they were abruptly swept by the San Antonio Spurs. If Paul wants be considered a top five player in this league and be remembered as one of the great point guards in NBA history he will need to accomplish more. For the first time in their history the Clippers have established themselves as the Los Angeles' best team by sweeping the Lakers, and winning the most games in franchise history. Still real success is determined in the playoffs. Paul is surrounded by the most talent he has ever had and arguably the league's deepest bench the Clippers should make an extended run in these playoffs. At the bear minimum they can't be swept by the Thunder in the second round, they to need to push them to at least six or seven games to not view this season as a failure. Honestly though to see this season as a success the Clippers need to make the Western Conference Finals if not the NBA finals. Those possibilities rest on the shoulders of Chris Paul.

5. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is a physical specimen, a ferocious defender, the league's most underrated dunker, and talented offensive player. Still, he receives as much national ridicule as any player in the entire league. Reason for the ridicule stems from his tumultuous relationship with media members and his on court "temper tantrums". He also shoots more shots than his teammate Kevin Durant arguably the league's best scorer. There are also people who think with Harden's departure this season the Thunder will miss him in fourth quarters this postseason. Due to the fact all the distribution responsibilities will now fall on Westbrook. He needs to help lead the Thunder to their second consecutive Western Conference title or the critics will only multiply and become more outspoken. If the Thunder come up anything short of a Finals appearance the blame will rest with Westbrook not Durant.

4. Tim Duncan
Duncan has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone.  He is as accomplished as any player in NBA history with four Larry O'Brien Trophy's to his credit. Yet if he can win his fifth this season spanning 14 years he could not only make an argument out of being one of the five best players of all time. Also, the Spurs could make a serious case for being the league's greatest dynasty. No team has ever had a span of 14 years in between championships with the same coach and star player. Yet, that is a possibility for Duncan and Popovich this postseason. Duncan has had a Renaissance this season turning back the clock posting numbers per 36 minutes just as good as his lone MVP season.

3. Dwight Howard
With his championship win last season LeBron rescinded his title as the league's most widely ridiculed player. With his dramatic exit from Orlando, ego centric comments to begin his Lakers' career and difficulties adjusting to playing with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard has taken over the thrown of NBA ridicule. Now with Kobe's achilles injury Dwight has the opportunity to prove that he can be championship cornerstone. He has the opportunity to silence all his critics with an extended playoff run and remind everyone why after the 2009 season he was considered the league's future with LeBron. Howard can only do that if he dominates these playoffs. With the injuries and the season the Lakers had he doesn't nor expected to get past the Spurs in the first round but he absolutely has to dominate and be the defensive force that won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards. Yet, if can lead the Lakers to an upset of the Spurs and even a Western Conference Finals appearance he can silence his critics maybe forever.

2. LeBron James
LeBron was able to silence his critics last season with his first championship. This season's Heat also look even better than last shown in their 27 game win streak. He also turned in one of the great statistical regular seasons in NBA history in both efficiency and all around stat stuffing.  Still, LeBron wants to go down as one of the best players of all time and that is only accomplished with multiple and consecutive championships. Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russell have set this precedent and it is up to LeBron to live up to it starting this postseason. And if the Heat come up short of a championship then all his critics will come out of the woodwork. LeBron can only do what is expected, a championship, or this season will be seen as a failure. PS. LeBron please do the dunk contest next year. 

1. Carmelo Anthony
No player in this postseason has more to prove than Carmelo Anthony. He wants to be seen on the same level as LeBron. He has only ever been out of the first round of the playoffs once in his career. The downtrodden Eastern Conference sets up for the Knicks to make the conference finals. If they don't Melo's critics will only grow louder. He did something over the Knicks' 14 game win streak I never expected from him, he dominated in an area other than just scoring. Melo started to use his tremendous size for his position and started to attack the glass on both ends with a veracity I had never seen from him before. He still plays lackadaisical defense and doesn't create quite enough for teammates for my liking. Yet the playoffs set up well for the Knicks with only the Celtics and probably Pacers keeping from the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Knicks don't make it the critics such as myself will only get louder and if they lose to the Celtics in the first round Carmelo better find a isolated dark place to hide from the avalanche of criticism that will come his way this off-season.

First Round Perdictions

Heat win in four games
Knicks win in six games
Pacers win in five games
Nets win in seven games

Thunder win in five games
Spurs win in six games
Nuggets win in seven games
Clippers win in seven games

Monday, April 15, 2013

The National League Needs The Designated Hitter

The most absurd rule in all of professional sports is found in our nation's "pastime". Just like all professional sports baseball is split into two separate conferences or in baseball's case leagues. Yet, baseball is the only professional sports where the two factions operate under two sets of rules, one rule really. 

The designated hitter was introduced to the American League in 1973. In the 40 years since the National League has stuck their collective heads in the sand, and stayed with having pitchers pick up a bat and largely be an embarrassment to the art of hitting. Baseball "purists" argue that this is the way baseball has been played for 130 years and should continued to be played. Yet, I never hear these same voices campaigning to remove the DH rule from the American League. 

The varied use of the DH rule would be like if the NBA's Western Conference used the 23.75 foot three point line, but the Eastern Conference used the collegiate distance 19.75 feet. It would be like if the AFC playing by the new age pass interference rules and the NFC using the more physical play allowing rules from a decade ago. It would be like if the PGA allowed half its players to use drivers and restrict the other half just to driving irons.

For any sports league to operate under two different rules is just asinine.

NL team's pitchers average around .145 from the plate during any given season. Who honestly wants to see that. I watch the MLB to watch PROFESSIONAL baseball. So why not have PROFESSIONAL hitters. Would There is no need to watch proverbial fishes out of water. Who really wants to watch a collective of .145 AVG, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 6 Runs and 11 Total Bases for an entire season. Would you rather not watch .275 AVG, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 82 Runs, and 300 Total Bases. The answer seems pretty simple to me.

Professional sports above all else is entertainment and I am in no way entertained by watching pitchers attempt to hit the ball. I would rather be able to watch 15 more professional hitters in the ilk of David Ortiz, Victor Martinez, Lance Berkman and etc. One of the most exciting plays in all of sports is the long ball. So why wouldn't you want to have 15 more hitters who's talent is exactly that. Why wouldn't you want 15 more hitters who's OBP% is above .350. More men on base = more runs = more fun.

Major League Baseball needs to realize things change. Stop operating under the notion that this is they things have been thus the way things will always be.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

2013 NBA Awards

Executive of the Year: Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
When it comes to executives this year, Daryl Morey is another stratosphere. He won the award before the first game of the season when he traded for James Harden. Because as all NBA intellectuals know, anytime you can trade for a superstar that is only 23 years old, you do it. So Daryl Morey could of spent the rest of the year drinking Mai Tais on a white sand beach somewhere and still won this award. But for good measure he pulled of another coup when he acquired last year's fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson from the Kings for spare parts. Because as all NBA intellectuals know, anytime you can acquire a top five talent for a role player such as Patrick Peterson and bench players, you do it. This one is for you Daryl Morey.

Coach of the Year: George Karl, Denver Nuggets
Any given year this award could go to Gregg Popovich and be a completely logical pick. Also, Erik Spolestra is also a very deserving canidate. Yet, the Heat are who we thought they were, the league's best team with the league's best player. But, this is the year George Karl finally wins his first Coach of the Year award. The Nuggets have the league's best home record and are poised to finish third in the Western Conference standings. Coming into the season most pundits had them pegged for the sixth or seventh spot out west. Some of those same pundits had the Nuggets as a potential Western Conference champs until Danillo Gallinari knee injury this week. George Karl has overachieved with the talent of his team more so than any other coach in the NBA and that is why he is my Coach of the Year.

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has had this award wrapped up since the new year. Anthony Davis the only rival for the award has been sensational the last few months but just dug himself to deep a hole with his early season injury. Damian Lillard has started every game for the Blazers this season, leading all rookies with 18.9 PPG and 6.5 APG. He has logged an astounding for a rookie 38.5 MPG this season. The big loser in this award is Nets GM Billy Knight who traded their first round pick to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace and only top three protected the pick because, "we felt the player that we may draft beyond the protection would be somebody that would probably take a couple years (to develop)." And this man has had multiple NBA GM jobs, WHAT? Send a thank you to Billy King Blazers fans, although I highly doubt you will receive a "your welcome" from Billy.

Most Improved Player: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
At the All Star break this was an actual competition between Paul George and Jrue Holiday. Yet, the disappearance of Jrue in the second half coupled with the fact that George has continued to grow and prosper in his role as the Pacers best player. He has posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He also shined bright in his first All Star game with 17 points. George absolutely hounds opposing guards and forwards on the defensive end. He is third in the entire league in defensive rating this season with a 95.2. Paul George has shown this season that he will be on All Star teams for years to come.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
This was the toughest decision for me out of all the individual awards. The three finalists for me was Jack, JR Smith and Jordan Crawford. Crawford started out the season scorching hot as did the Clippers, but over the last few months has cooled down considerably. JR Smith's performances are as volatile as any player in the league. Jarrett Jack has been the most consistent of the three players. He has been a steady orchestrator of the offense all season for the Warriors. When he is on the court he allows Steph Curry to slide over to his more natural position of off guard. He has one of the most memorable moments of this season for me was Jarrett Jack's 30 points and 10 assists in the hideous shirt jerseys, in an overtime win over the Spurs. A win that ended a 16 game losing streak to the Spurs.

Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
This award came down to three people for me. Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah. Ibaka is most natural shot blocker of the three. Hibbert anchors the league's best defense. Yet, Joakim Noah is the best all around defender of three. He covers pick and rolls the best of the three. He is by far away the best rebounder of three. Those were the tie breakers for me. Noah is the fourth leading rebounder in the entire league. Sixth in the league in blocks. He also averaged 1.2 SPG this season which is extremely impressive for a big man. Noah has done all this while being the Bulls team leader this season with Derrick Rose's absence.

Most Valuable Player: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
By any statistic or advanced metric LeBron James has been this season's best player. But as I outlined last month Kobe Bryant has been this year's most "valuable" player. He has been more valuable to Lakers organization than any player has been to his organization this season. Now I know I get blasted for this point of view but this is not an award for the league's best player but the most valuable. I know I am grasping at straws with this argument because Kobe's ankle injury took a lot of wind out of the sails of my argument. But I am going down with the ship, Kobe Bryant 2013 NBA MVP. See you on the ocean floor.

All NBA Team
G: Chris Paul
G: Kobe Bryant
F: LeBron James
F: Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

Chris Paul was the All Star game MVP and led the Clippers to their first 50 win season in franchise history. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant were all locks for the All NBA team. Durant led the league in scoring, Kobe was the league's most "valuable" player and LeBron is the best player on the planet. The only question of the team was Dwight Howard, but despite all his drama he led the league in rebounds by a full rebound. In terms of NBA centers Howard this season was the one eyed man in the land of the blind.

All NBA Defensive Team
G: Tony Allen
G: Avery Bradley
F: LeBron James
F: Serge Ibaka
C: Joakim Noah

Tony Allen led the entire league in defensive rating and is still the league's best perimeter defender. Avery Bradley is coming for Allen's thrown, he hounds any player for three quarters of the court. He forces every offense to set up later and further from the basket than they want to. LeBron is a physical god and is the only player in the entire league that can cover all five positions on the court. Ibaka is the league's best shot blocker averaging 3.0 BPG. Noah has been the league's best all around defender this year in terms of rebounding, blocks and steals.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Is Jerry Jones Doing With The Dallas Cowboys?

Pride comes before the fall.

Jerry Jones has clearly never heard this saying. Because every decision he makes goes hand in hand with his pride.

Jerry Jones at the NFL scouting combine said, "I would grant you the decisions that have been made over the years have not produced a Super Bowl, two Super Bowls or three Super Bowls that I would like to have been a part of. And the only thing I am going to do there is keep trying and then make sure I get the credit when we do get that one."

He even showed his uncertainty and insecurity directly after when he followed that statement up with this question, "Y'all are going to give it to me, aren't you?"
A billionaire who owns one of the most recognizable franchises in all of sports admits that winning is not enough. He needs the majority of the societal credit for a championship win. WHAT? The craziest thing is that he isn't even sure he will get the credit. But still runs a billion dollar organization like a one man puppet show.

How does a man who has accomplished so much in the business world, work on a rational such as this?

Last week Jerry Jones gave Tony Romo the leader of his mediocre team 112 million dollars. The money isn't the most egregious thing it's the evaluation of his quarterback's talents. At the NFL scouting combine, Jerry said the Cowboys could get by with less effective lineman because of Romo's ability to move around.

Again, WHAT? Just cause you have a mobile quarterback doesn't mean you should willing accept a sub par offensive line. The mid 90's Cowboys O-Line was one of the best of all time, they are just as much responsible if not more for the championships as Troy Aikman. The 49ers this past season had the league's best O-Line and a quarterback in Colin Kaepernick in another universe in terms of mobility compared to Romo. And where did they end up? That's right the Super Bowl.

Jerry Jones focuses more on the flashy and attention grabbing moves. He forgets that a house is built from the foundation up. He wants to jump to picking out his entertainment room, jacuzzi and king sized bed. Forgetting that a house with no foundation will do nothing but crumble.

Jimmy Johnson was the main architect of the 90's Super Bowl champion Cowboys not Jerry Jones. Jimmy Johnson took the team's flashiest player Hershel Walker and traded him for five veteran players and eight draft choices. Then used that draft haul to build the foundation of the dynasty Cowboys.

Since firing Jimmy Johnson and taking over personnel decisions the team has done nothing but flounder. The team has won only one playoff game since 1996. The team has a record of 128-128 in the 16 seasons since then. Jerry Jones gave the head coaching job to "his groomed" coach Jason Garrett in 2010, and in that time the team has a record of 20-26.

The Cowboys under Jerry Jones GM rule are the definition of mediocrity. Despite results, Jerry Jones insists on doing this his way. He maintains on being the general manager and the only decision maker when it comes to personnel decisions.

When in the history of sports has a mediocre team been run exactly the same way for nearly two decades and then all of the sudden turned into a champion?

Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Using Einstein's definition Jerry Jones needs to be locked away in the loony bin and the key thrown away.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Did The Oklahoma City Thunder Make The Right Choice, With Russell Westbrook over James Harden?

Analysts most often bring up Serge Ibaka and more importantly his contract, as the reason the Thunder had to move James Harden. Ibaka though plays an entirely different position than Harden. Every championship level team needs a rim protector as the last line of defense such as Ibaka. The person the Thunder really chose over Harden was Russell Westbrook.

So did the Thunder make the right choice?

When ever committing yourself to a franchise cornerstone, you always want a player who can stay on the court. Westbrook has never missed a game in his entire five year career. Harden missed six games due to a hamstring injury during his rookie season, but hasn't missed a game since. They are virtual twins in this category. Both appear to be carved from granite.
Edge: Push


The only player in the league that can rival Westbrook's athleticism is LeBron James. Harden can't hold a candle to Westbrook. Lets enjoy some Westbrook dunks

Edge: Big for Westbrook

According to  they are equal on the defensive glass with Harden averaging 4.0 RPG to Westbrook's 3.8 RPG. Also nearly identical in SPG with Harden averaging 1.9 SPG to Westbrook's 1.8 SPG. Blocks gives no separation either with .04 to 0.3 respectively for Harden and Westbrook. Westbrook edges Harden in Defensive rating which is an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions with 104 to Harden's 107. The only large discrepancy is in Defensive win shares which is an estimate of wins contributed to the player due to his defense. Westbrook has contributed 3.2 wins this year to Harden's 2.3, nearly a full win more.
Edge: Westbrook

Harden has a sizable advantage in PPG with 26.3 to Westbrook's 23.4. Westbrook though has the better APG with 7.5 to Harden's 5.9, but that difference could be contributed solely to the presence of the leagues best scorer in Kevin Durant. Harden is the best at getting to the free throw line in the entire league with a league high 10.2 FTA per game. Westbrook ranks sixth in the league at 7.0 FTA. Yet, would have to increase his attempts by 45.7% to equal Harden, that's quite a bit. Harden shoots .449 FG% over 17.0 FGA to Westbrook's .437 FG% over 18.9 FGA. From the three point line the disparity is larger as Harden shoots .374 to Westbrook's .323, also Harden shoots 6.0 threes per game to Westbrook's 3.7. Harden makes more threes and takes more threes. The advanced metrics don't help Westbrook's case either. Harden's true shooting percentage (TS%) which takes into account 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws. Harden's TS% is .611 to Westbrook's .531. Their effective field goal percentage (eFG%) which takes into account that 3-point shots are worth one point than 2-point shots, also favors Harden .515% to Westbrooks .469%. All these stats are shown in the offensive win shares as Harden has 9.3 to Westbrook's 6.5. Harden beats Westbrook in nearly every category even though Westbrook's usage rate of  32.4% is higher than Harden's 28.7%.
Edge: Big for Harden

Westbrook wins in athleticism and defense. Harden in offense and a push in durability. The thing that separates these two most to me, and why the Thunder should have kept Harden over Westbrook is mentality. Westbrook's mid game temper tantrums and spats with media members have shown he is volatile and immature. Harden never spoke out about his sixth man role with the Thunder and seamlessly became the Rockets leader despite arriving just before the start of the season. Harden is the type of man that lets his actions speak for him. He is the type of guy everyone wants in their locker room. If I was Sam Presti I would have had kept Harden and shopped Westbrook. The crazy thing also is the Thunder definitely could have gotten more in return for Westbrook as well. Daryl Morey is happy and that is an understatement, Harden is in Houston. Westbrook is phenomenal talent but Harden is better suited for winning championships.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Don't Leave Me Pop

Yesterday, the Spurs won 50 games in a season for the 14th season in a row, extending their own NBA record.

This stat reminded me once again why I love the Spurs and Gregg Popovich.

Because more so than Duncan, Parker or Gionbili the Spurs are Greg Popovich.

No coach in the NBA maximizes the the talents of each individual on his team better than Gregg Popovich. It is the one quality that separates him from all other coaches currently in the NBA. Regardless of who comes and goes through San Antonio, they always play better here than they do any where else. Players such as Bruce Bowen, Malik Rose, Speedy Claxton, Rasho Nesterovic, Nazr Mohammed, Fabricio Oberto, George Mason, George Hill, Chris Quinn and etc. Then you have current examples on the roster in Matt Bonner and Danny Green.
Popovich simply understands the psychology of players better than any other coach in the league. He understands not only how to get the most out of players individually, but also how to get 13 grown men to come together around the common cause of winning. He just simply knows how to uses the pieces of his team to create the picture perfect puzzle.

When Tony Parker went down a few weeks ago with an ankle injury that was reported to keep him out a month. I thought this is where the Spurs fall off and become average. The team's best player and on floor orchestrator, would be a loss that Pop's system couldn't handle. They simply slid Corey Joseph into the starting lineup and increased the workloads of Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal. The Spurs have played as if missing Parker is just like missing any other player, not like missing an MVP candidate (which he has been this season).

And on Monday the Spurs had arguably their biggest win of the season, a 105-93 defeat of last year's Western Conference champs, the Oklahoma City Thunder. With main contributors being Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.

The Popovich system at its quintessential best.

No Tony Parker and going against one of the two best teams in the league, no problem. Just another night for Greg Popovich.

Earlier this season the Spurs were fined 250,000 dollars for sending Parker, Duncan, Ginobili, and Green home prior to game in Miami. Result? They only lost to the defending champs 105-100. When all the players commit to play as one they can compete with anybody.

One of the most egregious things I hear about the NBA is that the Spurs are boring to watch. These people are not true fans of basketball or the NBA. They are simply "fans" who digest their basketball in highlights on SportsCenter.

How can you think Popovich is boring when you look at this?

No team is more fluid and beautiful to watch than the Spurs. Their floor spacing and ball movement is second to none. They give nightly effort on the defensive end, which 2/3 of league's teams can't claim.

When other coaches fall asleep and dream of what their team could play like, they are greeted by dreams of the Spurs.

Then I get sad to think we don't have too many more years left enjoying the mastery of Gregg Popovich. Will he retire with Duncan or hang on a little longer with Parker? He is already 64 years old, how many more years can he submit to the grind of travel in the NBA?

With Phil Jackson already gone, I look around the the NBA and wonder who will carry the torch after Popovich is gone? Who is the next true great leader of men? Scott Brooks? Mark Jackson? Eric Spolestra? Tom Thibodeau? I just don't see Jackson, Riley or Pop in any of those coaches. I could be wrong and hope I'm wrong. Cause the NBA needs people like Popovich.

Don't leave me Pop, I'm not ready.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kobe Bryant 2013 MVP

"An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure, and time."

A line from one of my favorite movies of all time Shawshank Redemption, embodies my feelings towards Kobe Bryant.

For as long as I have been watching basketball, Kobe Bryant has been the player I have despised the most.

It was part in fact that he played for the evil empire Lakers. I've hated the Lakers the way I've always despised the Yankees and Cowboys. The rebel in me loathed the anointed "America's teams".

It was part in fact he was considered as the "Next Jordan". And being a child of the 90's Jordan is something of a basketball messiah in my eyes. Beyond comparison.

The reasons for my dislike of the man had nothing to do with his play, but what he represented.

Then somewhere during the progression of this season my hatred turned into admiration for one Kobe Bean Bryant.

What Kobe has done this season has been astonishing and jaw dropping.

He has been an amoeba for the Lakers this season, changing from scorer to facilitator to scorer to facilitator. Being whatever the Lakers needed him to be at that particular time.

He has had to deal with three different head coaches. And Mike D'Antoni's stubbornness to implement a system mid season that didn't fit the talents of "his" team.

Injuries and extended absences to All Stars Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

The drama and inconsistent play of the team's fourth All Star and prized off-season acquisition Dwight Howard.

A team so progressed in age on the perimeter, it has had to lean on the 34 year old Bryant to cover opposing point guards.

All of this helped contribute to the Lakers being eight games under .500 on January 23rd. A hole that no team in NBA history has climbed out of that late in the season to make the playoffs.

Then on top of all of this the organization lost it's patriarch Dr. Jerry Buss in February.

Yet, here we are on March 11th and the Lakers are playing the best basketball outside of Miami. Not only are they going to make the playoffs, but just might claw their way to the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Sure, Dwight's re-commitment to defense and rebounding deserve a ton of credit.

But, Kobe has lead the Lakers not only on the court but more importantly off of it. He has used his vast knowledge of the psychology of a team, learned from the greatest of all time Phil Jackson. To steer the Lakers in the correct direction.

Kobe's will and determination has pulled the Lakers away from the discussion of one of team sports greatest failures.

Kobe's will and dedication has bled through to the rest of the Lakers, especially Howard.

Howard comments to the LA Times earlier this week showed Kobe's effect, "We talked and [Bryant] told me what he did when he had problems, and I see it for myself now." "He was always saying, 'I get into the gym and shoot 5,000 shots.' To see it shows me how dedicated he is." "You see it and it just kind of gives you more inspiration."

Just a few weeks ago headed into All Star weekend most people had wrote of the Lakers playoff chances. Now not only will they make it, but will make noise when the get there.

This is all thanks to Kobe Bryant and that is why I believe he is the 2013 MVP.

Sure, LeBron James is putting together a statistical season that few have ever accomplished. But, he hasn't been as valuable to the Heat this season as Kobe has been to the Lakers.

LeBron has benefited from the relax of pressure from last season's championship. As well as continuity of the Heat's roster, the only change the addition of Ray Allen the leagues best shooter and one of the league's best gentlemen. All of this helped LeBron prosper this season.

The mine field Kobe has guided the Lakers through this year is one of those things that can't be defined by statistics. Kobe's leadership and tenacity in the darkest of hours can't be defined by the player efficiency rating.

LeBron has the best statistics in the league, but that doesn't automatically mean he is the league's most valuable player.

LeBron plays on the best team, but doesn't mean he is more valuable than Kobe.

LeBron is the league's best player, just not the most valuable in 2013.

I used to hate you Kobe Bryant, but now I can't do anything other than admire you.

I guess all it took was pressure and time.