Los Angeles Lakers: Dispelling the Biggest Fan and Media Misconceptions
One of the biggest drawbacks to having the greatest media spotlight in the NBA are the gross misconceptions that spread through the consciousnesses of fans and analysts alike. The Los Angeles Lakers possess this blessing and curse.
For example, one of the most widely known urban myths is that Kobe Bryant never passes the basketball.
This notion has spread into the psyche of non-basketball fans via forums such as NBA memes and various other media outlets that cater not only to the NBA fan, but to the layman as well.
Though I am neither debunking nor agreeing with the previously mentioned notion, there is no doubt that the Lakers, given their national spotlight and large market, have accumulated a myriad of misconceptions over time that have run rampant.
These range from silly memes regarding Kobe Bryant and his lack of passing to generalizations about the softness of certain players and things of the like.
This article addresses some of the most recent and most concerning misconceptions that could ultimately prove detrimental to the team in the long run.
Is Metta World Peace Still a Top Tier Defender?
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In the case of the artist formerly known as Ron Artest, NBA fans seem torn in two in his regards.
While half of the fans feel that he is still a premier defender in the league, the other half feel as if Ron Artest's production on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court have significantly dropped off.
The main reason Ron Artest dropped off the map last year in terms of credibility is because he came into training camp and the regular season significantly overweight.
However, despite how inexcusable that may seem, a lot of NBA players came in with the same physical setbacks given the lockout shortened season.
Consider Dirk Nowitzki, who got almost zero criticism for coming into the season out of shape fresh off of his championship season. Ron Artest had a similar approach; but was much more maligned due to his prior reputation—and the need for a scapegoat in L.A.
Though the misconception that Ron Artest has completely fallen off as a defender wasn't truly a misconception in the first half of the season, most fans do not recognize that as the season wore on, and his weight dropped from an approximately 270 pound number to under 250 pounds. He was defending and scoring at a much better clip.
In fact, by the end of the season, he had regained much of his defensive tenacity and upped his averages by a good margin for the playoffs.
So, though the misconception that Ron Artest is no longer a premier defender may be true in essence, it did not ring true the entire season. The misleading point here is that the well deserved criticism he garnered at the beginning of the season created an opinion for the masses that did not change over the season despite his gradual improvement.
As shown by his gradual improvement during last season as he got back into shape, Ron Artest is still a great defender when in shape and should not be written off yet.
This misconception may help Ron Artest return to form while flying under the radar.
Is Mike Brown a Bad Coach?
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Ever since Mike Brown joined the Lakers, he has been sitting on the hottest seat in the entire franchise.
Almost every step back the Lakers have taken has been linked back, in some manner, to Mike Brown—and his reputation as a coach is taking quite the beating.
However, from an objective point of view, Mike Brown is nowhere near incompetence. In fact, having won a Coach of the Year award with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Mike Brown is used to harnessing tremendous amounts of talent (i.e. Lebron James) and leading them on successful runs (NBA Finals 2007).
The only reason Mike Brown is receiving so much flak for the hindrances that may or may not be out of his control—such as the departure of Lamar Odom or World Peace's weight gain—is because he is being compared to the greatest coach of all time.
Phil Jackson had the ability to motivated and mesh together any group of personalities and talent and create championships out of them. Only Phil Jackson could have successfully managed to make strong personalities like Dennis Rodman and the rest of the Bulls or Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant mesh together for as long as they did.
People should not expect Mike Brown to be Phil Jackson because Phil is the very best.
With Phil Jackson, the Lakers had a motivator and a true figure head. In Mike Brown, the Lakers have a talented and hardworking coach who is known as a defensive specialist.
This season, Brown has hired Eddie Jordan to aid him coach the offensive end and formulate a new system under his reign.
These things take time, and this misconception that Mike Brown is a lousy coach is a resounding falsehood given his credentials, abilities and the unfair comparisons he is garnering given the shoes he has to fill.
Is Father Time Catching Up to Kobe Bryant?
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During the 2010-2011 NBA season, Kobe Bryant did not look like himself. Hindered by a myriad of injuries that have accumulated over time, Kobe Bryant played only 34 minutes a game.
Though this may be a lot for a player of his age, it was definitely lower than Kobe Bryant was used to. It appeared as if Kobe Bryant was finally slowing down.
Fast forward a season, and after some overseas treatment on his knee, Kobe Bryant looked young and spry once more for the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Although he wasn't dunking and slithering through the lane with the authority he used to, he still managed to jack up the most shots he had taken in a season since at least five seasons and played approximately 38 minutes a game.
His age has altered his game slightly—as evidenced by his increased amount of elbow post ups and jump shots as opposed to baskets in the paint—however he still has the stamina and strength to log major minutes and jack up shot after shot.
Though it is debatable whether his high volume shooting is a good thing or not, there is no doubt that Kobe Bryant still has a few seasons left of high level basketball in him. He proved that the 2010-2011 season was more of an anomaly than a trend, and hopefully and he can continue to prove it to be merely a misconception this season as well.
Is Pau Gasol Soft?
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Ever since Pau Gasol entered the glitz and glamor of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, he has often been criticized for being a soft player.
Furthermore, his epic collapse playing against Kevin Garnett during the NBA Finals in 2007-2008 further fueled the conception that Pau Gasol was a mentally and physically weak player.
Despite his finesse style of play, Pau Gasol is not really a soft player.
Similar to the stigma that has plagued Chris Bosh since before the unfortunate RuPaul comments issued by Shaquille O'Neal, the softness that has been allocated to Pau Gasol has been hard to dispel.
In retrospect, it is clear that Pau Gasol has a definite weakness in his game. However, that weakness has fueled the misconception that Pau Gasol is soft, when that simply isn't the case.
Pau Gasol is a finesse player with an assertiveness issue.
In a way, this lack of assertiveness he sometimes faces mirrors the problems Chris Bosh had after initially joining the Miami Heat.
Both players play alongside top, high profile and high volume shooters and sometimes they become less assertive to defer to their teammates.
However, one could argue that this lack of assertiveness is a variety of softness in the form of mental strength, and that argument could have merits.
But consider this—Pau Gasol players under Kobe Bryant, a player who even the coach fears to criticize when taking too many shots or when deferring too much. Kobe Bryant is a player that the coaching staff and teammates themselves can't really touch or criticize.
Can Pau really be blamed for not being sure when to assert himself when playing against the highest volume shooter in the NBA?
Furthermore, can he really be blamed for being unassertive at times against a player who cannot be told whether or not he's shooting too much?
Does Kobe Bryant Lack the Ability to Pass?
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The resounding answer to this misconception is no.
Kobe Bryant proves that he is a very capable play maker with a career average of 4.7 assists a game.
The reason he is labelled as a ball stopper, which does hold some kernels of truth given the nature of his game, is because he took the most shots out of any player in the NBA this season.
However, think about the structure of the team and consider the fact that Kobe Bryant was the only adequate mid range shooter in the starting line up this past season.
Derek Fisher's shooting averages had dropped off to under 35 percent from the field and after his departure, Ramon Sessions filled his place.
Sessions is a quick and speedy point guard who accumulated a high field goal percentage from close range and from the three during the regular season. However, the gargantuan pressure from the L.A. spotlight hindered his ability to perform well in high pressure situations, and he was not a reliable option at the end of the shot clock.
Furthermore, Ramon's field goal percentages plummeted to under 35 percent during the playoffs and his three point percentage was at an abysmal 16 percent due to the national glare of the NBA Playoffs.
Factor in World Peace's waning shot selection and accuracy, which did not show any symptoms of life until the season was well underway, and there is no surprise that Kobe Bryant had to jack up the shots he did.
When Gasol or Bynum went to work in the post, the only real reliable shooter they had to kick out to when double teamed was Kobe Bryant.
When they were winning championships, the Lakers could rely on Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and a myriad of other players to hit the open shot or make plays out of the double team. With the way the roster was structured this past season, Kobe Bryant had no choice but to play hero ball for prolonged periods of time.
This ultimately lead to a stagnant offense that grew too dependent on Kobe, and part of this was his fault.
However, this entire situation regarding the offense should not cloud the fact that Kobe Bryant is a willing and able passer who averaged 4.6 assists on the season.