The Zen Master speaks…
O.C. Register: At noon Thursday, the NBA MVP ballot detailed below is due in the league office in New York. And where to put Kobe Bryant on that ballot was an intriguing question, especially after hearing Phil Jackson’s answer to a seemingly softball question to name the Lakers’ MVP this season.
“Kobe for the first 50 games,” Jackson said. “But I think the last 30, Pau (Gasol) has played very well for us.”
It was borderline condemnation of Bryant’s pre-eminence as much as it was promotion for Gasol in the postseason awards, where he’ll be fortunate to make third-team All-NBA given the depth of talent at his forward position and his 17-game injury absence. To suggest that Bryant was only the Lakers’ MVP for 60-something percent of the season is radical, no matter how tremendous Gasol’s productivity and efficiency have been.
Some of it is Bryant being injured this season – the broken finger, back spasms, ankle tendon and sore knee. Some of it is Bryant, appreciating a little better how Shaquille O’Neal used to see it, adjusting the intensity in the regular season as he’s aging. Some of it is simply that he’s aging.
“The inability to go just over people and shoot the ball with people on him or at him, I think that’s something he has to adjust to,” Jackson said. “Individual vs. three or four players, sometimes he would draw a crowd and still rise above the crowd to score or to get fouled. I think those are things that now have to be measured.”