Tag Archives: Lakers

NOW THAT THE NBA DUST HAS SETTLED, DON’T BLAME KOBE

                              Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Why the Lakers were supposedly the favorites over the Celtics is a bit of a mystery.  You know the old rule: when in doubt, go with the superstars (plural).  The Lakers, whatever you think of the superstar status of their coach, only had one.  But don’t blame Kobe for this failure.  And don’t blame Kobe for not being like Mike.  Remember, Mike wasn’t Mike until the emergence of Scottie Pippen (check your NBA Top 50 of All-Time list).  Kobe?  Like most superstars, he needed another – Shaq.  And even when Shaq won one without Kobe two years ago, he found his other superstar – Wade.

    

The reality of the NBA for the last ten or twelve years and, for the most part, in the history of the league, is that you need more than one guy.  You know the list going back to the late 90s:  Jordan and Pippen, Duncan and Robinson, Shaq and Kobe, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker (Finals MVP), Shaq and Wade, and this year’s trio of KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

    

The only exception, arguably, is the Detroit Piston team of 2004.  But what a talented team that was – Rasheed Wallace a superstar? No, but borderline when at his best.  Billups and Hamilton – All-Stars and arguably the best backcourt in the game. Prince? A difficult to guard guy who was a great defender in his own right.  Ben Wallace – a rebounding fool.  That’s a stunning team whose defense surpassed anyone’s in recent memory.

    

This Celtic team won because they could (and did) smother one guy with stunning defense.  It’s hard to quantify even with good defensive numbers.  It’s frustrating for a guy like Kobe and nobody really stepped up to help him.

    

Kobe’s a hard guy to like.  Whatever happened in that hotel room in Colorado was bad.  The only question was how bad?  An arrogant guy?  You betcha.  Trade me?  How stupid does he look now?  But it’s not his fault they lost.  It’s like defenses ganging up on Barry Sanders all those years with the Lions.  It’s not a one-man sport.  Similarly, in basketball, Michael could and did make the big shot but he also could and did make the big pass with confidence (Steve Kerr, John Paxson, even Bill Wennington – you get the point).

    

The Lakers have a nice supporting cast.  Pau Gasol – excellent in the regular season but it remains to be seen where he tops out in a big series (good, not great so far).  Lamar Odom – ultra-talented but only in bursts.  Is consistency in his future?  Andrew Bynum – missed the learning curve this post-season.  But none of these guys, it says here, will rise to Shaq and Kobe or Michael and Scottie or even Duncan and Parker.  They’re close, but they’re still far away.      

    

Kobe took a beating this week for “not being Michael.”  But is Michael really the greatest basketball player ever?  Not really.  The greatest basketball player ever is either Oscar Robertson (go look at the numbers) or Wilt.  The greatest basketball champion is, of course, Bill Russell.  The greatest athlete in a team sport is Babe Ruth.  And the greatest athlete ever is Jim Thorpe (did you know that, in 1950, a group of expert sportswriters voted Thorpe number one with over twice as many votes as Ruth – somehow, ESPN flipped that vote and had Jordan leapfrog both of them in their Top 50 of the 20th Century.  There’s no chance that those rankings are correct).

    

But give Michael credit because his greatness is that he’s high on all of those lists.  That’s his greatness and it shouldn’t be hard to understand.

    

But never forget:  Michael won nothing without Scottie and it says here that until Kobe gets superstar number two to play with him, he won’t get ring number four.

    

Kobe and his coach go back to the drawing board far ahead of where they were a year ago.  But it will be extremely difficult for them to get back to the NBA Finals (remember, next year is an odd-numbered year so it must be San Antonio’s turn), let alone beat the Celtics, who will probably be laying in wait for them this time, next year.  We’ll see.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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PAT RILEY, GREATEST COACH EVER?

                                                             Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas       

Pat Riley’s time to retire not only is here, but was actually here two years ago right after he stole an NBA Championship from the Dallas Mavericks (and it looks like the Mavericks won’t get another chance).  Rather than go out on top, he chose to struggle along for two more years before he saw the light.

But it says here that Pat Riley is one of the greatest coaches ever, maybe the greatest coach ever.  Preposterous, you say?  Wait just a minute.    

Riley enters the conversation because of his four titles with the Lakers.  Of course, many believe that anybody could have coached the Magic-Kareem-Worthy Lakers and, while that’s a decent argument, the reality is that to be a great coach and win NBA titles, you need great players (Red Auerbach – Russell, Cousy and the rest; Phil Jackson – Jordan and Pippen, Shaq and Kobe, to name two great coaches).    

But Riley’s ability goes way beyond four titles with the Lakers (plus a fifth with the Heat).  What he did, which puts him in the conversation for greatest coach ever, is CHANGE THE WAY THE GAME IS PLAYED IN THE NBA.      

Now, we may not have liked it, but when Riley coached first the Knicks and then the Heat, he changed the league from the up tempo “Showtime” Lakers to the defensive “let’s make the game a rugby scrum” New York Knicks.  People still actually believe there was a “rivalry” between the Bulls of Jordan and Pippen and the Knicks of Patrick Ewing and … well, not that much else.  There really wasn’t, yet Riley made everybody in the league, including the Bulls, scratch and claw for every basket.  If he had coached the Knicks the way he coached the Lakers, the Knicks would have been non-contenders.  But he did great things with the Knicks during the regular season and at least made the Bulls sweat during the Jordan years.  He even got the Knicks to a Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Rockets (in a Jordan-retired year, of course).    

He then worked similar magic with a Miami Heat team that also wasn’t really that good.  When Tim Hardaway could play on two legs, Alonzo Mourning wasn’t quite yet ALONZO MOURNING.  By the time Mourning became a star, Tim Hardaway was essentially playing on one leg.  The only time the Heat could beat the Jeff Van Gundy-coached Knicks was when half the Knicks got suspended in 1997.  Again, a “great” rivalry that really wasn’t as great as it was cracked up to be.    

So, the reason that Riley is in the conversation as greatest coach is because he’s the most diverse NBA coach ever (Showtime Lakers v. Scrum Knicks) and, the icing on the cake, his delivery, as promised, of a title to Miami, another franchise he turned from pretenders to contenders.    

Does Riley have his downside?  You betcha.  Faxing in his Knicks resignation was bush league, to say the least.  Cutting the legs out from under Stan Van Gundy to replace him as coach (right when Shaq was coming back from injury) during Miami’s title season in 2005-06 was nauseating, especially to those of us who always thought Stan Van Gundy would be an excellent NBA coach (he’s showing that now with Orlando).  But in the big picture, this guy won five titles and did even better work with two franchises that simply didn’t have a talent level high enough to realistically compete for an NBA title.    

To stay for this final 15-67 disaster in Miami was another mistake.  But I don’t think you can find another coach with Pat Riley’s success who made teams that he coached better and literally changed (for better or worse) the way the game was played in the NBA in the 1990s.    

Pat Riley, greatest coach ever?  You can certainly make a case for him.       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.