Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seriously, Who Is Better Than The Black Mamba?

By Haz Bey
After dropping 48 points on the Phoenix Suns earlier this season at Staples Center, Kobe Bryant said at his post game press conference,"Not bad for the 7th best player in the league".  Kobe was referring to the ESPN Player Power Rankings that had Kobe as the 7th best player in the league.  Really, I mean really.  The Black Mamba entered his 16th season playing with a ligament tear on his right wrist, you know his shooting hand, and yet Kobe is 2nd to only LeBron James in the league in scoring with almost all season long.  Not to mention the 5 rings, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 regular season MVP, 14 All-Star appearances, 4 All-star MVPs, 9 All NBA 1st team selections, 9 NBA All-Defensive teams selections, 2 scoring titles & countless game winning shots throughout his career, I dare anybody out there to find an active player today that has a resume similar to the Black Mamba's.  Yes I agree there is a lot of miles on his engine.  Not just the 16 seasons, but the deep playoff runs have all taken its toll on Kobe's body, but he continues to play through injury after injury and doing it at a extremely high level. 

Kobe with no doubt is still the best player the NBA right now and it will take someone reach the level of excellence that Kobe has displayed year-in and year-out.  The first name that comes to mind that should have already eclipsed Kobe is LeBron James.  LeBron career averages of 27, 7 & 7 plus the back-to-back MVPs suggest that he would be the front runner to own the league, but the lack of playoff success doesn't put him in a class with Kobe Bryant.  Then there is LeBron's teammate Dwyane Wade.  We all seen D-Wade get it done against the Mavs in the 2006 Finals, but what has he really done since then.  5 All-Star appearances with an All-Star MVP and 1 deep playoff run.  D-Wade is an elite player, but he doesn't have the offensive arsenal that Kobe possesses.  Kobe has a deadly mid-range game and he can hit shots far beyond the 3 point line.  D-Wade has a decent mid-range game, but he is more of a player that is most effective when he can drive to the basket.  How about Kevin Durant?  He has led the league in scoring the last 2 seasons and seems to make clutch shots.  A huge upside and may actually own this league for years to come if he can win a title this year or the next, but defensively he is still very pedestrian.  Kobe made the All NBA Defensive 1st Team 9 times.  Tied with Michael Jordan and Gary Payton for the most all time.  Last but not least there is reigning league MVP Derrick Rose.  Look the guy is a bad man.  He takes no prisoners on the court.  He has expanded his range to the point that he is now a deadly 3 point shooter and he has cut down his scoring which has brought his assist up to help his team improve on last year's success.  There is not too many  weaknesses in his game.  If he can get a title this year playing at the level he is, then he would be my top candidate to take the mantle of "Best Player in the League" away from Kobe Bryant, but time will tell. 

Kobe Bryant deserves the respect of the league, the media & the public to give him the benefit of the doubt. Just because we seen him play for 16 seasons and we all notice his athletic decline does not mean he can not play at a very high level. We all get caught up with the "Next Best Thing" instead of realizing that someone like Kobe Bryant comes around once in a life time.  You don't have to like him, this isn't a popularity contest, but you can not discredit his accomplishments.  So until someone else emerges to be the undisputed best player in the league, give Kobe his due.  He is still the best player in the league whether you like it or not.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How Far Can This Laker Team Go This Post Season?

By Haz Bey
The Los Angeles Lakers are a brand new bunch these days.  With Lamar Odom & Shannon Brown leaving, the Lake-Show had to incorporate some new faces to the Purple & Gold.  Troy Murphy & Josh McRoberts joined the team in the off-season and are actually playing very well this season.  Neither one of them can never fully fill the void left by the departure of Odom & Brown, but by them contributing in a different way via on the boards and hustle plays, the Lakers seem to be in good shape moving forward.  The teams hugest problem right now is the health of Kobe Bryant.  The Black Mamba is clearly the toughest player in the league, with out a doubt.  The man was playing with a torn ligament on his shooting hand and ended up averaging 27.9 ppg to finish the season.  16 long years in the league and he is still putting up MVP-type numbers, but he never complains.  Kobe's model, "Just do your job."  So if he isn't letting up, no one else on the team should either.  Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol got the message and both played at an All-Star level including both 7-footers averaging high double-doubles.  Andrew & Pau are 2 of the 3 best big men in the league hands down.  Bynum is a straight up beast down-low & Pau can dominate a game from the inside out. That is an advantage teams will have nightmares preparing against and 1st up is the young Denver Nuggets.  I would put the Lakers "Big 3" against anybody in the league, if the Lakers want to win a title this year, newly acquired point guard Ramon Sessions will have to cause havoc on both ends of the floor.  Not since Nick "The Quick" Van Exel has the Lakers had a dynamic point guard that can get to the rack with such explosion.  He will be key to make sure Kobe, Bynum & Gasol receive the ball in their sweet spots and to put pressure on the defense from the top of the key. If the Lakers can just stay afloat with Metta World Peace out on suspension, then we will see if they can make a true run at the World Title.  That would be their 4th trip to the Finals in 5 years and if they win it all, a 3rd title in 4 years. That's dynasty status and not to mention the fact that winning the "17th Banner" would tie hated rival Boston for the most in NBA history.  That's goal for this team.  It is still championship or bust in L.A.  That will never change, but if the Lakers play to their potential, there might not be a team in the league that can stop them.