It’s been a crazy week in the world of sports. A superstar athlete cheated on his wife? Are you serious? That’s as surprising as Rasheed leading the league in T’s (again) with 10 after tonight’s mini-tantrum (the highlight of my night). I really am trying hard to avoid writing a column about Tiger Woods. I think the best way to do that is to kick off my random thoughts by talking about the real player of the decade, Kobe Bryant.
It’s hard to find words that fully illustrate the greatness of Kobe Bryant. After much deliberation, (and the elimination of several lifeless analogies) I have decided that nothing sums it up better than the remarkable answer to this question:
Which of the following headlines are more newsworthy?
Bryant Misses at the Buzzer, Lakers head to OT in Milwaukee.
Kobe Drains Game-Winner as Time Expires, Lakers Win.
Think about it.
When Kobe missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation, I was completely floored. It was like eating at Panda Express and not ending up with a mild case of irritable bowel syndrome by the end of the night – it’s happened so many times that you have just come to expect it. When it doesn’t, you’re legitimately shocked.
Five minutes later, and in spite of the desperate pleas of Bucks TV announcers Jim Paschke and Jon McGlocklin (watch it here), Mamba buried the game-winning jumper over the helpless defense of Charlie Bell as time expired, giving the Lakers a one-point escape from the Bradley Center.
Were you even surprised to see that shot fall through the net? Did you, at any point, think: Holy crap, I can’t believe that just happened? You didn’t; and there’s no better way to amplify Kobe’s greatness than by simply looking at our own reaction to it. In fact, it’s exactly what puts distance between him and the other 430+ players in the NBA; including his closest competition, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James.
If Wade buries a fall-away at the buzzer to win the game, it’s unbelievable. If Lebron hoists a contested three as time expires to win the game, it’s remarkable. If Kobe drills a step-back to win it in overtime, it’s routine. Bryant makes the unbelievable very much believable, and there is no greater compliment to his rapidly expanding legacy than just that.
Lakers’ Road Woes.
Kobe has been nothing short of extraordinary (even with a broken finger on his shooting hand); but lost in the hype of his clutch play has been the Lakers conspicuous struggles on the road. We have played a total of just seven games away from the comforts of Staples Center and it hasn’t exactly been pretty:
We were completely destroyed in Denver (105-79) and never led in the second half during last weeks’ loss in Utah (102-94). It took overtime to secure a victory in Oklahoma City (12-11), Houston (14-10) and Milwaukee (11-12), all teams hovering around .500. We needed every bit of Kobe’s 42 points in Chicago (8-15) and only once this season have we looked like a championship team away from Staples Center – a 33-point win at Golden State. (If any of you caught tonight’s Warriors vs. Wizards game, you know that’s not all that impressive).
Am I pushing the panic button? Definitely not. Is there some cause for a little bit of concern? I think so.
We have 24 games between now and the end of January; 15 on them will be played on the road. With routinely challenging stops in Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Portland, Cleveland and Boston, the Lakers will have to play significantly better to hang on to the best record in the NBA.
Has anyone seen Lamar’s game? I tweeted Khloe about that very subject, but I’m pretty sure she was still at her WWE tryout (Boooo!). Speaking of Lamar and Tweeting, during the third quarter of the Lakers loss in Utah last week, I tweeted this:
@JRiley21: Last season, this was a game where Odom would get 18/15/5 and come up big for us. He’s been out of rhythm so far this season.
When Bryant struggled last season, Lamar often-times had his best performances (remember his 28/17 game in Cleveland when Kobe had the flu?). This season, he’s scoring less (-3 PPG) and shooting a lower percentage in FG’s (41%, -8%), FT’s (56%, -7%) and 3FG% (28%, -4%). He’s also rebounding a little bit less, turning the ball over slightly more and is on pace to set career lows across the board since joining the Lakers in ’04-05. Only once this month has he scored in double figures (vs. Minnesota) or grabbed double digit rebounds (vs. Utah).
Has anybody else wondered if Khloe is verbally (and possibly physically) abusing Lamar at home? Odom has been his usually productive self in very limited spurts this season. It’s hard to specify what exactly the problem with his game is. Phil’s sometimes inconsistent rotations? The (successful) addition of Ron Artest? His well publicized marriage to Khloe Kardashian? No matter the case, we are going to need Odom’s production to increase as the games continue to get more and more important.
Don’t forget to email or tweet me your questions/comments for next month’s OOB Mailbag (or fill out the form below). AXE Hair will be giving away one (1) Grand Prize – a $25 Visa Gift Card and an AXE Hair prize package – to the person with the most creative question or comment. Four (4) other winners will be selected at random to win great hair products and prizes. Get your questions and comments in by Christmas Day to be entered. While you’re at it, be sure to follow AXE Hair on Twitter and check out their new Hot Tweeters contest. Good luck!