TrueHoop: Kobe Bryant
May, 29, 2013
By Steven Martinez, ESPN Stats & Information
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant gets most of the attention, but Tim Duncan's career stacks up well with the Laker legend.Of the players in the post-Jordan era of the NBA, it’s a fair argument that Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant are two of the most accomplished individuals. While LeBron James will no doubt be a part of this discussion once his career is near its end, he has not yet built up a statistical resume quite as hefty as Duncan or Bryant.
Duncan (16 seasons) and Bryant (17) have about the same NBA service time, especially when you consider that Kobe was not much of an impact rookie in 1996-97 (7.6 PPG, 6 starts) while Duncan was the 1997-98 NBA Rookie of the Year, starting all 82 games and averaging 21.1 PPG and 11.9 RPG (keep in mind there were no 20-10 players in the entire NBA this season).
Bryant is without question the more prolific scorer, averaging five more points for his career than Duncan. However, Duncan won two regular season MVPs (2001-02, 02-03), while Bryant has just one (2007-08). They were in direct competition for Duncan’s MVP awards also, as Bryant finished fifth and third respectively in the MVP voting for Duncan’s two MVP seasons.
While Duncan has a better percentage from the field for his career, Bryant has bested him by one in All-Star Games, All Defensive 1st team selections, and All-NBA 1st teams. In fact, Bryant tied Karl Malone for most 1st team All-NBA selections this season when he picked up his 11th such honor.
Team success has been plentiful for both players, as both have made the playoffs 16 times. Duncan has never missed the playoffs in his entire career. Bryant, on the other hand, missed the playoffs in the 2004-05 season, ending the season under .500 at 34-48. Since Duncan joined the Spurs in 1997-98, they have never had a winning percentage lower than .610.
Additionally, Duncan’s teams have won at least 50 games in every season of his career except the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season (50 regular season games total), which was the season he won his first NBA title and NBA Finals MVP.
As far as playoff success goes, Bryant has won one more title than Duncan. However, Duncan is currently undefeated in the NBA Finals (4-0) and has one more Finals MVP trophy to his credit.
Advanced Metrics in Historical Context
Advanced metrics also slightly favor Duncan. Duncan has 184.2 career win shares (an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes to his team based on his offense and defense), over 10 more win shares than Bryant does for his career. The Spurs stalwart ranks ninth in win shares all time whereas Bryant is ranked 17th.
Defensive win shares show that Duncan really changes the game on that side of the ball. Duncan’s defensive win shares are 93.5 for his career, fifth-best all time behind Russell, Kareem, Olajuwon and Wilt.
Bryant’s 49.5 defensive win shares rank 46th all time for the sake of context. Again, Bryant is a far superior offensive talent, posting 30 more offensive win shares than Duncan for his career, but in terms of all-time ranks, Bryant is ninth and Duncan is 28th, a much closer disparity than on the defensive end.
April, 29, 2013
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant and Pau Gasol wonder what could have been as time runs out on the Lakers' season.
Let us count the ways, with significant help from the Elias Sports Bureau.
• The San Antonio Spurs outscored the Lakers by 18.8 points per game in their four-game sweep. Elias tells us that is tied for the fourth-largest points per game differential in a best-of-seven series in NBA history and the worst by the Lakers in franchise history.
The biggest in any series was 25.3 points in a four-game sweep by the Orlando Magic over the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 Eastern Conference semis.
• The Lakers have now lost six straight playoff games dating back to last season. That matches the longest playoff losing streak in franchise history. They previously lost six in a row from 1973 to 1974 and 1991 to 1992.
• Dating back to his stints with the Suns and Knicks, Mike D’Antoni is 1-14 in his last 15 playoff games as head coach. Elias says the only other coach in league history to lose 14 of 15 in the postseason is current NBA broadcaster Mike Fratello. His worst span was losing 16 of 17 from 1995 to 2006 while with the Cavaliers and Grizzlies.
• The Lakers lost the final two games of their series against the Spurs by 31 and 21 points, respectively. In doing so, they became just the second team in NBA history to lose consecutive home playoff games by at least 20 points, joining the Miami Heat who did so against the Hornets in the 2001 first round.
• Since the playoffs expanded to eight teams per conference in 1983-84, the Lakers are now 0-5 in playoff series as the 7 or 8 seed. It should come as little surprise that they struggled against the 2-seed Spurs as the Lakers went 4-14 during the regular season against the top five seeds in the Western Conference including a 1-2 mark against San Antonio.
• The Lakers’ stars struggled with injuries for much of the season and it all came to a head on April 12 when Kobe Bryant was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. When they did have Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard in the lineup together, they went 8-14 in 22 games.
• Additionally, the Lakers’ expected starting five of Nash, Bryant, Gasol, Howard and Metta World Peace played only 189 minutes and 11 seconds together - just 4.8 percent of the team's total minutes played during the regular season.
April, 15, 2013
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesDwight Howard supports something along the lines of a "15 seconds or more" offense.
Any offense dominated by Kobe Bryant becomes a blank slate when he’s not present. A few very general principles might remain, but the Los Angeles Lakers’ half-court offense was essentially starting from scratch. Over the weekend, Dwight Howard prescribed a slower, more inside-oriented offense as the best bet to mitigate Bryant's absence. Did the Lakers accept Howard's proposal? A few quick notes from the Lakers' 91-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night at Staples Center:
- What kinds of shots does an offense look for and how does it try to find them? The answers to those questions provide a general sketch of a team's core identity. The Lakers on Sunday night were a team looking to work the ball into their big men on the block, and achieving that in fairly conventional ways. Early on, the vast majority of possessions were simple posts up with an entry pass from the wing in a mostly static half court. The Lakers posted up 32 times, the Spurs eight. When the Lakers wanted buckets to ice the game late, they punched the ball into Howard on the left block one-on-one against Tim Duncan. Howard generated 15 true shot attempts out of post-up sets, scored 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field and 8-for-17 from the free throw line.
- The starting unit produced fairly efficient offense during its stint to open the game. It wasn't gangbusters and the ball got sticky, but the Lakers found a number of looks at close range and their presence on the floor without dynamic wing scorers had the Spurs leaning low all night. Pau Gasol couldn't find the net, but he still demanded attention down low from the defense, and leveraged that attention to find shooters (for instance, a big 3-pointer by Steve Blake to give the Lakers a two-point lead with less than five minutes to go in the first half).
- With Bryant out, Blake stepped in as the Lakers' primary perimeter creator, and it's no surprise he saw a huge uptick in usage. Blake finished with 23 points, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. A lot of the Lakers' stuff originated with Howard and Gasol at the elbows to serve as traffic cones for Blake. The basic strategy for Blake was to penetrate into the teeth of the defense and hope something materializes -- either a close-range and/or makable shot, or a passing lane to an open shooter or rolling big man. His eight 3-point attempts materialized in a hodgepodge of ways: off a high angle pick-and-roll from Gasol, flaring to the wing for a catch in rhythm and a couple of the pull-up variety.
- The Lakers tried to create shot attempts early (e.g. Dwight Howard rim runs off Spurs misses) but they could never quite establish a pace. You have to think that’s something Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will drill home prior to Wednesday night’s game. If the Lakers are going to look for shots on the box, then they should do it quickly. One of D’Antoni’s most steadfast beliefs is that the offense has the advantage for the first few seconds of a possession, but after the defense gets set -- especially one as well-tuned as the Spurs' -- it has the edge. When the clock ticked down and the Lakers needed to create something out of thin air, they went into Howard and Gasol at the end of the possessions. Where an offense goes when it's desperate tells us a lot about where an offense believes it's strongest.
- The Lakers' half-court offense started to decongest a little when they started running some corner sets on one side of the floor, while Howard set up on the opposite block. Once the Lakers swung the ball to the second side and the entry pass to Howard was made, he was in much better position to attack the rim. We can forget that Howard is an absolutely unguardable beast when he catches in close proximity to the basket. The Spurs doubled Howard on a couple of occasions in the first quarter -- defensive reads in at least one case -- but by the third quarter, the Spurs threw hard double teams at Howard on the catch as a matter of policy.
- It's not an enormous problem, but Metta World Peace has some sort of issue with delivering entry passes. Funny thing is, he doesn't make a lot of poor passes. Yet if there's any sort of front on the post player, World Peace gets anxious. He'll bail out and put the ball on the floor. Twice in the first quarter, World Peace looked off post players -- Gasol and Howard once each. The two possessions yield was a couple of free throw attempts.
- With Gasol and Howard on the floor together, the Lakers were outscored 50-47. When the two big men share the floor without both Bryant and Steve Nash, the Lakers are a minus-8 for the season in a smallish sample size of 83 minutes.
April, 13, 2013
Bruce Bennett/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant captivates, inspires and repels as few athletes can. His absence will be a bummer.
The generation's true enduring polarizer among hard-core NBA fans has been Kobe Bryant. However broad his appeal has been globally (if you want an illustration of this, visit China, where the five most popular NBA players are Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, Kobe and Yao), Bryant's persona among NBA fans in North America has always been wildly disparate. The legion of Kobe defenders is as rabid an individual fan base as there is in professional sports over the long term. Tim Tebow has held the No. 1 spot on the charts, but that's calmed.
The factions in the fan universe that love and loathe Kobe have been waging an endless war, one that has navigated his clash with Shaquille O'Neal, an event that first prompted many fans to choose a side. The Colorado rape case made him a crossover public figure, and now people who had seen few, if any, of his on-court exploits could offer commentary on Bryant, the human being. The mysterious Game 7 performance against Phoenix in the 2006 postseason, in which Bryant refused to shoot the ball down the stretch, added to the intrigue. Many regarded his behavior as repugnant, a confirmation that Bryant, despite his unyielding commitment to his craft and his catalog of wonders, was fundamentally selfish, a solipsist with little self-awareness in a team game, a guy out for himself.
There was the "ship his ass out" Bynum business, trading barbs in the media with marginal former teammates and other fodder for those with no love for Bryant. The past few years, analytics have gained traction in popular NBA debates. Empirical-minded critics produced hard evidence that Kobe's reputation as a clutch assassin was overblown. In this same recent period, Bryant fashioned a blunt candor, expressing on a regular -- even daily -- basis the kind of sentiments usually conveyed by older, crankier folks. The message has been clear: I really don't have much more to prove in this game, so why harness myself with a filter? What possible harm can the truth exact?
So for every count-the-rings loyalist, there are those who can't stand what they see as narcissism and a self-regard so shameless that it practically invites an emotional investment in the guy's failure. Not every Kobe skeptic's feelings are that strong, but it's safe to say there are a ton of people sitting in front of their screens and monitors, hoping the guy goes 0-for-5 down the stretch of a tight game.
When Bryant fell to the Staples Center floor Friday night in the fourth quarter, and it soon became evident that he ruptured an Achilles tendon, a profound sadness set in -- even among most of those who root against Bryant. A severe injury is not the kind of failure fair partisans want to witness an opponent suffer.
Bryant might offend, but he never withholds. The theater of NBA Basketball can't achieve its full potential without intensity, and Bryant has generated more of it than anyone in the game over the past 15 years. Championships, awards and recognition have rightly followed. While Bryant is in rehab -- and ultimately when he's gone -- we'll be deprived of all that, no matter where we stand on the Kobe continuum. Because even if you reside at the revulsion end, the origin of those judgments lies with him. Kobe makes you feel, as any exceptional performer or artist should. And that warrants our empathy.
Basketball is better when its most ambitious talents are on the floor to test the game's limits. Bryant has never stopped trying to stretch the boundaries of possibility. The Hero Ball, legitimacy of the myth-busting and self-absorption don't negate that. Bryant's body of work can still be the subject of examination and debate, but appreciation for mastery should always exceed any personal failings. This instinct allows us to fulfill one of basketball's cooler missions -- the collective celebration of the sport.
The gritted teeth. The peaked eyebrows. The scrunched face.
The look has been the logo for Kobe Bryant at his best over the past few years.
But here was Bryant, sitting near the east foul line at Staples Center, his knees near his chest and both of his arms attempting to stabilize his limp left leg, and the look conveyed only horror.
Two nights earlier, Bryant turned in a heroic performance -- a 47-point, 8-rebound, 5-assist, 4-block, 3-steal gem in a much-needed win at the Rose Garden, a place that had so tormented him in years past. It was the type of game that made you believe that nothing could stop him from lifting the tired and tattered Los Angeles Lakers into the postseason.
But here he was, one of the game’s last few giants, crumpled into a heap.
All of it has conspired to create a more educated fan, and, in turn, a new ideal for a superstar basketball player. It’s not so much about heroic feats as much as it as about cold, hard reality.
The guy who jacks up all types of shots, from every angle, against every defense has given way to the guy who can do a little bit of everything and do it efficiently.
The last-second dagger may have gone in, but should it have been taken in the first place? The discussion of Hero Ball has effectively killed our basketball heroes.
Except for a select few, most notably Bryant.
This emphasis on process over raw production regardless of the means most undercuts a stone-cold gunner like Bryant, who, despite a 17-year career that has been nothing short of prolific, has a tendency to take the reins and refuse to give them up, regardless of the obstacles thrown in his path.
But the more the game of basketball becomes grounded in statistical truth, the greater the myth of Kobe Bryant seems to grow. Because while his historic scoring ability has fueled his rise, it’s the defiance of a TV anti-hero that has defined his 17-year career.
I can’t skip college? Watch me.
I can’t succeed without Shaq? Watch me.
I can’t play with a gnarled finger? Watch me.
I can’t win as many rings as Jordan? Watch me.
Even as his age has crept past 30, his brashness, that impenetrability of a teenager, never waned.
So it was no surprise that after a 2011-12 season that saw his attempts rise and his shooting percentage dip, Bryant again defied the odds this year, turning in some of his best performances as the unbridled hope of a Lakers NBA Finals run quickly disintegrated into a daily fight to save face. The means had indeed changed. A healthier Bryant was taking three fewer shots per game, and more and better shots at the rim while scaling back the midrange jumper a bit. He also vacillated roles at times to Stucco over the Lakers’ injury woes, sometimes even eschewing his tunnel vision for the rim to become more of a facilitator, at one point racking up double-digit assists and near-triple-doubles in clumps.
But it wasn’t enough just to do it. In the midst of his facilitating binge, Bryant made sure to underline the ease with which he could do it. He would go into games with the clear mission to get others involved, drop 10 assists or so, and afterward act like it was no big thing, at one point even evoking Neo from “The Matrix.”
By any means necessary, Kobe would often say.
At some point during this season, as the injuries began to mount and the losses dragged the Lakers’ playoff chances deeper and deeper into a hole, Bryant became more myth than man, and the charming cockiness he displayed in postgame scrums -- cracking jokes despite dire situations and swearing openly into live mics, always with a sly grin -- only added to the persona. Slap a 10-gallon hat on him and you’d think the stubble-faced Bryant was a character conjured up by Elmore Leonard.
LeBron James has been superhuman this season. But while his physique is Herculean, The Decision and the emotional toll it clearly took on James has made him seem so mortal, even as he defies gravity. He is also very much a star of now, the model of all-around brilliance and efficiency the game now craves. Bryant, too, has endured his share of personal and professional obstacles, but his foibles only further emphasis the old ideal of a superstar athlete -- the cocky, manly gunner with the ice in his veins and a fear of no one.
But there he was, as always, after the game: in front of his locker being peppered with questions from the media. Only this time it came with crutches underneath his arms and a glossy coating around his eyes as he dammed his emotions.
As ESPN's Chris Palmer noted: "Kobe with tears in his eyes. Never seen him so...human."
Bryant will likely rehab and make a comeback. After the game, a Lakers win over the playoff-bound Golden State Warriors, he told reporters that the thought of pundits questioning his ability to do so already pissed him off.
And, surely, such a recovery will be hailed as heroic.
But already 34 and 232 days and facing perhaps a year-long comeback, it’s possible that, at least in spirit, the NBA lost its last hero of Hero Ball on this Friday night.
April, 13, 2013
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillLos Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant grimaces after being injured during the second half of the game Friday against the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers won 118-116.
Perhaps the wear and tear of 17 NBA seasons is catching up with the 34-year-old Bryant, who has played 3,013 minutes this season. He's the first player age 34 or older to play 3,000-plus minutes in an NBA season since both Michael Jordan and Gary Payton did so in 2002-03.
Bryant's average of 38.6 minutes per game this season is only the eighth-highest of his career, but his minutes have escalated in April. He's averaging 45.2 minutes in six games this month; that's his most in any month of his career, minimum two games.
In his past seven games, Bryant has played 95 percent of the minutes, and he has played 47 minutes four times. Compare that to the first 71 games of the season, during which he never played 47 minutes and was on the court for only 80 percent of the possible minutes.
On top of his 17 NBA regular seasons, Bryant has played 8,638 minutes in 220 playoff games. Plus he played another 747 minutes in winning gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
The playoff and Olympic minutes add up to more than three seasons worth of time, which means he has played the equivalent of more than 20 NBA regular seasons.
If Bryant did tear his Achilles, he can look across sports to other 30-something stars who returned to action. Dan Marino ruptured his right Achilles in 1993 at age 32, then made the Pro Bowl in both 1994 and 1995.
David Beckham, then 34, tore his left Achilles in March 2010 with AC Milan, and while he missed the World Cup, he came back to win two MLS Cups with the Los Angeles Galaxy and now plays for French club Paris Saint-Germain.
On the other hand, as this Basketball Prospectus article from last year details, several NBA players, including 32-year-old Isiah Thomas, never played again in the NBA following an Achilles tear.
Whether or not this is the end of Bryant's career, he has made his case to be included among the greatest basketball players ever. Earlier this season, he passed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth place on the NBA's career scoring list, and he's 675 points behind Jordan for third.
Kobe has won five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP and two scoring titles. His 15 All-Star selections are tied for the second-most ever, and he has been named first-team All-NBA 10 times, one shy of Karl Malone's record of 11.
April, 7, 2013
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Lakers' leaky defense put out the welcome mat for Chris Paul and the Clippers.
The teams were far more concerned with their respective agendas. For the Lakers, a win was necessary to maintain their hold on the No. 8 seed, while the Clippers are acutely aware they’re in danger of opening the postseason on the road. Those shadows eclipsed any animosity that might have previously existed over head-patting, post-dunk mugging, or bragging rights.
Five thoughts about the Clippers’ steady 109-95 win over the Lakers:
- The Clippers shredded the Lakers’ defense. In a game that featured only 88 possessions (unofficially), the Clippers had an offensive efficiency rating of 123.9 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers are such an easy defense to scramble. Why is Steve Blake cheating eight feet off Paul to offer a meek double-team on Griffin, who’s more than capable of kicking the pass out or spinning baseline away from Blake? What kind of defense worth its salt doesn’t pick up either of the opponent’s two wing players in transition? Why on earth is Antawn Jamison finding himself on the high side of a Paul-Griffin slip screen, essentially creating a five-on-four situation for the Clippers in the half court? And these are just a few examples from the Clippers’ run late in the first quarter. Optimists can talk all they want about how the Lakers will make noise in a potential first-round matchup with San Antonio, but the Spurs run the kind of offensive system that brutally punishes defensive cluelessness.
- Kobe Bryant’s first and only breather came with 40 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter long after the Clippers tied a bow on their victory. Bryant is now averaging more than 46 minutes over the past four games, and he looks exhausted. He’s getting to the line at a fair rate, and averaging 11 assists per game over the stretch, but shooting just 37 percent from the floor. Following the game, Mike D’Antoni took a slew of questions about the load Bryant’s carrying, even as he maintained the management of Bryant’s minutes has been ceded to Bryant. “That’s a risk we’re running with Kobe,” D’Antoni said. “We’re playing with a little bit of fire, and we wouldn’t like to. But we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have to. … He wants to go. He wants to do it. He has to know his body and he will.” Is this denialism on the part of the D’Antoni and Bryant? The Lakers aren’t a deep team along the perimeter, but one look at Bryant down the stretch against Memphis on Friday -- when he looked as if he might just expire at the top of the floor while plotting the offense -- and again on Sunday, and it’s hard to fathom that the Lakers can’t find three or four minutes a half to spell the guy.
- After some throat-clearing to begin the game, the Clippers refocused their offense around their two horses, Paul and Griffin. For Paul, it was child’s play. All afternoon, he swung right of a high pick from his big men and found space to launch uncontested mid-range jumpers. And that’s when the Lakers were lucky. When Howard was on the bench, Paul maneuvered his way to the rim with little resistance. For Griffin, nothing inspires like a few possessions matched up one-on-one with Jamison. When he caught the ball at the elbow, he didn’t deliberate and drove without hesitation. Griffin is well-served when he thinks dribble-drive as his first option in that situation, especially if he has space to get into his move. For Griffin, just because the jumper is “there,” doesn’t mean a drive isn’t. “Whenever those two guys are aggressive, it opens up the floor,” Jamal Crawford said. Crawford, Caron Butler, Willie Green and Matt Barnes -- the Clippers’ wing crew -- saw a bevy of open looks from the perimeter, many of them by way of Paul (12 assists) and Griffin (five dimes of his own).
- The Clippers have had their own issues defensively of late, particularly against the pick-and-roll. They got somewhat of a pass on Sunday because Lakers don’t run a lot of ball-screens. The Lakers looked early into Dwight Howard, posting him up quickly if he found deep position. They also ran a bunch of stuff out of the horns formation, with dribble-handoffs and swing passes until Howard found a spot on the block, Gasol had a clean look in a good spot, or post-ups or freelance isolation for Bryant. The Clippers weren’t perfect. Howard bullied their big men, and defensive rotations were slow at times when they blitzed Bryant on the pick-and-roll. But things improved for the Clippers in the second half as the Lakers became more desperate and the Clippers used their speed to compound that desperation with chaos.
- Griffin couldn’t find the net during warmups from long distance. Asked a minute or so after that warmup session whether players are less likely to look for shots they missed badly before the game, Griffin said no -- though he conceded other players might approach things differently. Sure enough, despite the cold snap during warmups from beyond the arc, Griffin attempted three 3-pointers for the first time this season, hitting one of them -- a dagger in the fourth quarter that essentially iced the game and induced a laugh from Griffin. “The thing I was laughing about was that I’d missed every single shot before that,” Griffin said (he was 0-for-7 from outside the paint before the 3). “Guys on the bench were telling me to keep shooting. ‘We want you to take that shot. We see you every day before practice. Keep shooting.’ And I was just like, ‘Man, you guys are crazy.’ So for it to go in, I was laughing.”
March, 14, 2013
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsKobe Bryant is out indefinitely after spraining his ankle late in Wednesday's loss to the Hawks.The Lakers road to the playoffs hit an unexpected bump Wednesday in Atlanta when Kobe Bryant severely sprained his left ankle. It happened as Bryant was going up for the potential game-tying shot with time winding down in the fourth quarter.
Bryant is out indefinitely and if he misses Friday's game at Indiana, it would be the third time in the last four seasons that he has missed at least one game in a season.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Lakers are 611-350 (.636) with Bryant and 41-32 (.562) without him since 2000.
Bryant has been remarkably durable over the course of his career, especially as he’s gotten older. He’s actually missed fewer games as he’s risen in age.
Prior to the 2007-08 season, Bryant missed a number of games with various injuries.
He missed the first 15 games of the 1999-2000 season after breaking his right hand during the Lakers preseason game against the Wizards. The Lakers didn't miss Bryant though going 11-4 without him during their run to their first NBA title under Phil Jackson.
Bryant missed six games in January 2004 after injuring his surgically-repaired shoulder against the Cavaliers. He came back for two games and then missed seven more with a cut in his index finger.
The next season, Bryant missed a month after spraining his ankle against Cleveland in January. The Lakers weren’t able to recover as they missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
Bryant has more than tripled the scoring of the next closest Laker in crunch time this season and has taken half of the teams shots in those situations. Entering Wednesday, Bryant scored 122 points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter with the score within five. Only Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James had scored more in crunch time.
Bryant’s injury would only add to the number of games missed by the Lakers Big 4 this season. Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have missed a combined 60 games this season.
Accuscore runs computer simulations to determine team win-loss probabilities.
The Lakers chance of winning each of their next three games can be seen in the chart on the right.
If Bryant only misses three games, it shouldn't have much of an impact on the Lakers' playoff chances. Accuscore gives them a 71 percent chance of making the playoffs if he plays in those games, a 69 percent chance of making it if he misses the next three.
February, 24, 2013
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN Stats & Information
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant has scored a combined 78 points in his last two games.Since a Sports Illustrated article was published on Thursday in which Kobe Bryant guaranteed that the Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs, Kobe has been playing some outstanding basketball.
For the first time in Bryant's career, he has scored at least 38 points while shooting better than 60 percent from the field in consecutive games.
After scoring 40 points on 15-of-23 shooting (65 percent) in a win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, Kobe had 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting (62 percent) as the Lakers defeated the Mavericks on Sunday.
Kobe is the oldest player in NBA history to score at least 38 points while shooting at least 60 percent in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Sunday was just the third time in Bryant's career that he's had at least 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a game. It's the first time he's ever done so while shooting at least 50 percent.
Bryant is the second-oldest player in NBA history with at least 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a game while shooting 60 percent or better from the field. The only older player to do so was Elgin Baylor in 1970, according to Elias.
Kobe was especially dominant down the stretch on Sunday. He shot 9-for-11 in the second half, including a perfect 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter.
It's the fourth time in Kobe's career that he's attempted at least five shots without missing one in the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, the Lakers are 4-0 in those games. It's the first time he's done so in nearly five years (April 2, 2008 vs Portland).
In his last two games, Kobe is 8-for-10 from the field and 8-for-9 on free throws in the fourth quarter.
Sunday was the first time Kobe made a 3-point attempt in the fourth quarter in over a month. His last fourth-quarter 3-pointer was January 20 at Toronto. It snapped his streak of 12 straight missed 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Is Kobe playing his best basketball of the season right now? Perhaps it goes even beyond that. It seems that he could be playing the most efficient basketball of his career, as he's done things in the last two games that he's never done before.
Kobe's "Game Score" on Sunday was 31.5, his third-highest of the season. His highest Game Score this season was 32.2 on Friday against Portland, so based on that metric his last two games are among his three best performances of the season.
The last time Kobe had consecutive Game Scores of more than 31 was March 2007, when he scored at least 50 points in four straight games.
Game Score, tracked by Basketball-Reference.com, was created by John Hollinger to give a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game.
The Lakers have now won three straight and eight of their last 10 games. But the important streak: 2-0 since "the guarantee" was published.
February, 18, 2013
Isaac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant can both reach notable statistical marks in the near-future.
James is presently averaging 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game. If he finishes the season pushing the assist numbers up a smidge, he could be the first player to average a 27-8-7 line since Michael Jordan in 1988-89.
Only three other players besides Jordan have averaged those numbers for a full season- Oscar Robertson (five times), John Havlicek (twice) and Larry Bird (once).
Kobe Bryant enters the post-All-Star Break portion with 30,933 points. That’s 486 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for fourth-most all-time.
At his current scoring rate of 26.8 points per game, he would pass Chamberlain on March 28 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bryant’s teammate, Steve Nash, should move into fourth place all-time on the NBA’s assist list pretty soon. His 10,137 assists are four shy of Magic Johnson.
The Lakers playoff push
We detailed the state of Los Angeles basketball last week, but just to offer a quick recap from a Lakers perspective:
The Lakers have made the playoffs 34 times since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, the most of any team.
But with a 25-29 record and a .463 winning percentage, the Lakers are on pace for their third-worst season since the merger, trailing only the 33-49 team from 1993-94 and the 34-48 team from 2004-05.
The Mavericks playoff push
The Mavericks are in danger of having their playoff streak come to an end at 12 straight seasons.
The Mavericks got off to a 13-23 start and only five teams had given up more points per 100 possessions through January 9 than they did.
But since then they’ve won 10 of 16 and rank fourth in offensive efficiency and first in turnover percentage.
The Mavericks remaining opponents winning percentage (.511) ranks seventh-toughest in the NBA. The good news for them is that two of the teams they’re chasing down from the No. 11 spot- the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz- face the toughest and third-toughest remaining schedules respectively.
The bad news is that two of the other teams- the Houston Rockets and Lakers- face the fifth-easiest and 11th-easiest remaining schedules
The Bulls without Derrick Rose
The Chicago Bulls are 30-22, 1½ games behind the Indiana Pacers for the Central Division lead. Point guard Derrick Rose’s status remains uncertain.
The Bulls averaged 110.7 points per 100 possessions with Rose on the court last season. This season, that has dropped to 103.5 points per 100 possessions (10th-lowest in the NBA). The Bulls have gone from outscoring teams by better than eight points per game last season to outscoring them by just 1.6 per game this season.
One other oddity: the Bulls have a better road record (15-9) than home record (15-12).
The last .500+ team to finish the season with a better road record than home record was the 2009-10 Boston Celtics -- a team Tom Thibodeau knows something about since he was an assistant coach on their staff, his last year there before leaving for the Bulls. That team reached the NBA Finals before losing in the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.
February, 16, 2013
Kevin Durant (left) and LeBron James have the two highest scoring averages in All-Star Game history.
• Kevin Durant won his first All-Star Game MVP award last year after scoring 36 points. He’s scored 30 or more points in two straight All-Star Games, the only player in NBA history to accomplish that feat. His career scoring average (28.3 points) is an All-Star record (minimum 60 career points).
• LeBron James, making his ninth All-Star appearance, ranks second in career scoring average (25.9 points) in the game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James has scored at least 20 points in each of his past seven All-Star Games, the longest such streak for any player in NBA history.
• Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett were selected to the All-Star Game for the 15th time. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has more career selections (19). Bryant’s 15 selections have come consecutively, the longest active streak. His 271 career points are the most in NBA history and his four MVPs are tied with Bob Pettit for most all time.
• Bryant and Dwight Howard are slated to start for the Western Conference, but the Los Angeles Lakers enter the All-Star break in 10th place in the West. According to Elias, the Lakers could be the fourth team since the merger (1976-77 season) to miss the playoffs in a season with two All-Star starters on the roster. The last team to do so was the 2005-06 Rockets (Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming).
The Lakers will also become the first team in All-Star Game history to start two different centers in back-to-back years (Andrew Bynum in 2012).
• The Miami Heat lead the way with three All-Star selections -- all three of whom will start -- becoming one of eight teams with multiple selections. According to Elias, they’ll be the sixth trio of teammates to start the All-Star Game following a championship season, and the first since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy in 1986.
• Kyrie Irving is the sixth-youngest player ever selected to an All-Star team (he’ll be 20 years, 331 days old on Sunday).
• David Lee earned the Golden State Warriors' first All-Star selection since 1997 (Latrell Sprewell). That leaves the Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings as the teams with the longest active streaks without an All-Star (nine seasons).
• Stephen Curry is averaging 21.0 points per game this season, the highest average for a player not selected to an All-Star team. Monta Ellis is fourth on that list (18.4), but he’s got the highest career points per game without ever being selected to the All-Star Game (minimum 400 games played).
• The Eastern Conference leads the series 36-25, but the West has won two straight and three of the past four games. A third straight victory by the West would be tied for its longest win streak (three straight from 2002 to '04).
February, 14, 2013
Harry How/NBAE/Getty Images
Chris Paul and Steve Nash: System quarterbacks?
The NBA is a superstar league, but it’s often governed by systems. “The system” can be a monument or a mess. It can bring out the best in some players while alienating others. If executed to perfection, it can win a team a title. A system can delight purists, annoy the casual fan and drive a wedge between a coach and management. A system is philosophy, physics, architecture and chaos theory all rolled up into one.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, 2012-13 has been the Season of the System. Mike Brown was fired for a failure to effectively implement his Princeton offense, then succeeded by Mike D’Antoni, the architect of a high-octane spread pick-and-roll system that’s been appropriated by coaches all over the league. Had many Lakers fans had their druthers, Phil Jackson would’ve returned to re-institute the triangle, the gold standard of modern-day systems.
Back in November, when Los Angeles was engulfed in system overload the week Brown was dismissed and D’Antoni hired, Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro was asked which system he deployed.
“Chris Paul,” Del Negro said.
Del Negro wasn’t being flip or coy. The question was straightforward, and he offered the best approximation of his team’s blueprint when it had the ball -- the Chris Paul System.
“All those names and all that stuff,” Del Negro said of the Princeton, the spread, seven seconds or less, etc. “You just put the ball in the best player's hands.”
To Del Negro and Paul, the NBA is a superstar league, and the offense they run is dictated by Paul. In the Clippers’ world, his instincts take precedent over any dogma. That intuition is rooted in strong principles. Paul will probe, but he’s meticulous and patient, and in the half court he’ll rarely act until the defense is leveraged.
“On offense, you just try to make the right play,” Paul said. “Every time I come down the court, I want to make sure that two people have to guard me, no matter what. If I’m in a ball screen, I want to make two people have to guard me and then somebody is going to be open.”
Draw the defense, make the play. Apart from that, there’s no defined program etched into the Clippers’ playbook. A system has principles, but not every principle belongs to a system.
Down the hallway at Staples Center, D’Antoni subscribes to a different basketball value system, but his doctrine has been a tough sell in Los Angeles, particularly to his big men. In the confines of D’Antoni’s system, size and length aren’t virtues unto themselves. Big men have the same imperatives within the offense as the little guys -- they must stay in motion, move the ball and keep the paint vacant so that there’s space for drives and cuts. Want to make yourself useful? Set a drag screen, make a quick pass from the high post, do anything that keeps the offense moving.
For Pau Gasol prior to his injury and Dwight Howard, who’s nursing one of his own, D’Antoni’s system has been vexing. Gasol won championships in a triple post offense, while Howard feels he can bully anyone on the left block if you just feed him the ball. All the while, Steve Nash, who flourished under D’Antoni’s system in Phoenix, has remained quiet on strategic matters, and Kobe Bryant has largely turned the conversation away from a debate over tactics and toward a discussion about urgency.
For all the comparisons drawn between the Lakers and the Clippers -- their disparate histories, the organizational credo, even Clipper Darrell versus the Lakers Bros -- the most prominent contrast this season among basketball junkies in Los Angeles has been the strategic visions of each team. The Clippers have found harmony in simplicity, while the Lakers have butted heads over academic differences. The Clippers make plays, as Paul says, while the Lakers lock horns.
The great irony in all this? The two teams rank seventh and eighth in offensive efficiency. The Clippers score 106.1 points per 100 possessions, while the Lakers score 104.8. Over the course of your average NBA game, that amounts to approximately one Dwight Howard missed free throw.
The daylight between the two teams, who square off Thursday night in their third meeting this season, is on the defensive end, something that often gets lost amid the contentiousness surrounding the Lakers and whatever competing agendas exist in their camp.
Neither team features a hard-and-fast system on that end of the floor, but the Clippers rely on the same brand of simplicity that drives their offense -- maximize strengths like speed and athleticism, and communicate when a situation calls for clarity. Howard was supposed to be the Lakers’ defensive strength -- the Chris Paul of rim protection, the guy who when a defensive possession went awry could quickly erase the mistakes. Only it hasn’t played out that way -- there is no “Dwight Howard System” in Los Angeles yet.
Do NBA teams need systems to fall back on, as D’Antoni maintains? Can common sense trump organization on the court when the stakes are raised, as Paul and Del Negro believe? There’s probably a happy medium -- but right now, the Clippers are more happy, while the Lakers are more medium.
February, 8, 2013
ESPN Stats & InformationThe Celtics have sandwiched two six-game win streaks around a six-game losing streak.
Thursday’s 21-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers extends the Celtics’ win streak to six games (matching their longest streak of the season), and all six wins have come since Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 25.
In their last 18 games, the Celtics have two six-game win streaks around a six-game losing streak. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they are the first team in NBA history in an 18-game stretch to win six straight, lose six straight then win six straight games.
On Thursday, Boston did a lot of its damage close to the basket. The Celtics made 21-of-35 shots inside of five feet, their third-most field goals made from that distance this season. Entering Thursday’s game, the Lakers were allowing 35.6 points inside of five feet, the fifth most points allowed per game.
As for the Lakers, they were playing their first game since Pau Gasol injured his right foot on Tuesday. It’s doubtful he would have made a difference, but the Lakers are a .500 team with Gasol (18-18) and now 5-9 without him.
Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 27 points, but did not have an assist -- only the third game this season he did not have one (Lakers are 0-3 in those games).
The Lakers are 8-17 on the road this season, and have lost 13 of 15 road games against teams currently .500 or better.
As for Garnett, he joins Bryant and Moses Malone as the only players in NBA history who did not go to college to score at least 25,000 points. What's more impressive is that Garnett is the first player in NBA history with: 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals.
January, 30, 2013
By Ernest Tolden
ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN Stats & Info
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant has a team-high 39 assists during the Lakers' three-game winning streak.
Bryant has recorded 39 total assists during the Lakers’ win streak, the most he’s ever recorded over a three-game stretch. Pau Gasol is second on the Lakers with just 14 assists since the win streak began.
Bryant has reached at least 11 assists in each of his last three games. The only other time Bryant has recorded 11 or more assists in three consecutive games was from January 16-21, 2009.
The Lakers have usually had success in Bryant’s career when he involves his teammates more often. Since Bryant’s rookie season, the Lakers are 52-22 in regular-season games in which he records at least 10 assists including 4-0 this season.
Since January 25, Bryant has assisted on 51.3 percent of his teammates made field goals when he’s been on the court. Among the 149 players who have played at least three games since that date, Bryant’s assist percentage is the highest in the NBA. His percentage was just 23.1 over the first 42 games of the season.
One of the main reasons for the boost in Bryant’s assist total is where he’s setting up his teammates. During this stretch, 61.5 percent of Bryant’s helpers have come on baskets made inside the paint. In his first 42 games, just 50.5 percent of Bryant’s assists came in that area.
In fact, Bryant has been setting up his teammates even closer to the basket. Over the last three games, 48.7 percent of Bryant’s assists have come on baskets made inside the restricted area, including an average of three dunks per game. Bryant assisted on just 1.7 dunks per game entering the streak.
The good news for the Lakers is that the culture of sharing has spread throughout the team of late. A season-high 87.2 percent of the Lakers’ field goals were assisted in their win Tuesday against the Hornets and, during their win streak, 72.4 percent of the Lakers’ field goals have come off assists. Only the Trail Blazers have recorded a higher assist percentage over the same span (72.8).
Can the trends continue when the Lakers take on the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night (10:30 ET on ESPN)? Time will tell, but there is one oddity worth noting: Including the playoffs, the Lakers are 1-6 against Phoenix in games in which Bryant records 10 or more assists with the only such win coming in Game 2 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals (13).