Wednesday will feature the Lakers mano y' mano with the Spurs, a showdown these squads have grown extraordinarily familiar with over the last 10-plus years. As Kobe Bryant noted, "We could run their plays and they could could run ours." These battles have largely ended in the Larry O'Brien swapped back and forth between Kobe and Tim Duncan. The two haven't just collected rings during the 2000's, they've arguably been the two best players of the recent decade. I know I'd tab them as such.
Still, The Big Fundamental, as his nickname implies, has never been the flashiest or most demonstrative of players, generally content to go about his business and film the occasional Adidas commercial. Even as a 12-time All-Star, Duncan's low key persona has sometimes meant flying under the radar compared against other superstars. But Kobe's not losing too much sleep a lunch pail persona has resulted in Timmy being somehow under-appreciated:
"They already call him the greatest power forward of all time," smiled Bryant. "How much more do you want?
For that matter, Kobe's playing no sad violins over the Spurs' downward slide in the standings this season, despite having gone unhappily through a similar situation in 2006 and 2007. Asked what he felt for the Spurs' plight, Kobe's answer was fairly succinct:
Clearly in "Alfred E. Neuman" mode, Kobe also ain't sweating Ron Artest still figuring his way through the Lakers' system. To some degree, he chalks up some uncertainties as the method of Phil Jackson's madness. PJ has always been a proponent of players truly learning a role, as opposed to be told what it is, which can understandably throw players for a loop:
"He's probably used to being in situations where he knows exactly what the coach wants to do, exactly what he's looking for. But here it gets to be a little confusing because Phil just wants him to play and take what the defense gives him. But I think he's done a great job."
Forget knowing every intricacy of his team's system. Artest wasn't even aware the Lakers are riding a six-game winning streak. For that matter, no clue Tony Parker is currently injured for the Spurs. How that's possible, I have no idea. Maybe his cable plan doesn't include include ESPN, much less the NBA package. Either that or Ron Ron's all about American Movie Classics.
I wouldn't blame him, by the way. Breaking Bad is as good as anything on TV and Mad Men is all the rage.
My media brethren and I weren't the only folks amused by Artest's spaciness. Kobe didn't seem surprised to learn Ron was oblivious to either fact. Again, no sleep lost for the Mamba:
"No, that's Ron. I know he knows who he's guarding. I know that player's going to have a miserable night. Everything else, I don't care about."
Derek Fisher discussed the importance of maintaining a rational perspective on the season as a whole. With so much time spent examining what the Lakers haven't done well (and some criticisms are legit), time should properly be taken to acknowledge the other side of that coin. After all, the purple and gold are indeed leading the west.
More from Fisher, this time on the team's winning streak and execution, the latter he admits can waver.
Lamar Odom talked about the goal of playing at a high level.
More from Odom, this time on the Spurs, Artest and playing through injuries.