Kobe Bryant called me up a couple days ago. After a few minutes of chit chat, we got down to business.
Kobe: Nate, I saw your post on the new blog. You really think I should sit out?
Nate: Yeah. I mean, you need the rest, man. You gotta win another chip. Last year was last year. People think like Janet Jackson: “What have you done for me lately?”
Kobe: The team needs me. Pau is a wuss, Fisher got his first social security check last week and as for Andrew…ship his ass out. How can we keep pace with the West if I don’t play?
Nate: Home court is overrated. You’re the Mamba. Road or away, if you’re healthy, no team can beat the Lakers in the playoffs. Period.
Kobe: Yeah, you’re right. I’m going to heal up.
And that’s how the conversation went. Kobe sat out and instead of the Lakers losing, something strange has happened. They won. Even more surprising, they’ve looked great doing it. In Portland this past weekend, the Lakers won there for the first time in the last 10 tries. Last night, the Lakers did it again beating San Antonio 101-89.
Gasol looked like a franchise player against Duncan, netting 21 points, grabbing 19 boards, dishing eight dimes and swatting five blocks. Those are GOAT numbers right there. Lamar Odom was a beast on the glass contributing 10 rebounds in addition to his 16 points. Ron Artest was solid with 18 points and Derek Fisher shot above 50 percent en route to 13 points. Shannon Brown provided solid play as a starter in Kobe’s place, while Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar looked better off the bench than they’ve done all year.
This all begs the question: Are the Lakers better without Kobe?
To anyone who said yes, in the words of Rick James , “cocaine is a hell of a drug.” Of course the Lakers aren’t better without Kobe.
The Lakers are better without Andrew Bynum.
The Lakers these past two games looked about as good as they did last season—just a little worse offensively. Last year, they didn’t have Andrew Bynum for most of the season and won 65 games. They didn’t rely on Bynum in the playoffs and won the championship.
In the San Antonio game, Bynum didn’t play. In Portland, he didn’t play in the second half when the Lakers really started to gel. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but Pau Gasol is a better center than Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom is a better power forward than Pau Gasol.
It is crazy to think, but defensively, Bynum misses assignments and rotations constantly. His inability to play help defense negates his special ability to block shots. Even in one-on-one situations, Bynum plays poor position defense and generally ends up fouling the offensive player.
Gasol can also use his length to block shots just like Bynum, but Gasol is quick enough to stay with the centers. Pau is also a veteran, so he doesn’t fall for fancy footwork and doesn’t pick up cheap fouls. If a center gets too rough, you can always count on Pau to flop draw the offensive foul.
Odom forces power forwards to make a decision. Offensively, he can start at the top of the key and beat you off the dribble. If you help on Odom, he’s such an accomplished passer that he’ll get someone else an easy bucket. If you don’t help, and you don’t force him right, he’ll finish at the rim. Defensively his 6′10" length bothers power forwards and once the rebound is in his hands, he pushes up the floor creating tons of transition opportunities.
Bynum’s inability to get back on offense or defense fast enough prevents the Lakers from running at full potential and that is why we have seen what appears to be a better Lakers team in recent days.
So here’s my proposal: Andrew Bynum, Adam Morrison, and Flea for Chris Bosh
In the words of the Laker faithful, “Do it, Mitch!”
Originally published at http://thetransition3.wordpress.com