Playoff Push (Kobe Time)

                The Lakers have finally started to click and chemistry has developed. These are not the same roll over and kick me dead, diva, drama filled Lakers that started the season. The new and improved Lakers are all about just playing basketball and winning games. No more distractions and finger pointing. After the Memphis loss on January 23rd the team called a players only meeting, and since that point there has been a 180 degree turnaround. These were the same Lakers who were 7 games under .500 at 17-24 and looked like a beaten down dead horse. Well something sparked after that meeting, and everybody turned the focus and intensity up.

Since January 23rd the Lakers have gone 17-8 and currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot over the Utah Jazz by ½ a game. At the moment the Lakers are standing at 34-32 and they have reached above .500 for the first time since November 20th when they were 6-4. The Lakers now control their own destiny simply by winning games. It also has been a tremendous help to the Lakers that the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Utah Jazz have all been struggling mightily and have been dropping games as well. If the Lakers keep winning and the Jazz, Warriors, and Rockets keep free falling then the Lakers could possibly earn a 6th spot in the Western Conference seeding.

            What is the reason that this ship we know as the Lakeshow has changed its course? Well I will spell it out for you with four letters, K-O-B-E. Kobe Bryant has singlehandedly sparked and led the Lakers to successive wins since the All-star game. Since the All-star break, Kobe has been scoring 30.8ppg, 7.3 apg, and 6.6 rpg while shooting near 50%. Kobe will do literally anything it takes to win. Whether that be the role of facilitating and dishing assists to teammates or taking the ball to the rack himself, Kobe taken it upon himself to will this Lakers squad to victory and has determined that this Lakers team will make the playoffs by any means necessary (insert Malcolm X quote here). The resiliency of Kobe has been imprinted onto his teammates and this Lakers team will not give up. The Lakers have had 2 back to back comeback wins in March vs. the New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors. In both of those games the Lakers were down by 20 points or more and rallied back to win the game in the fourth quarter. Kobe scored 42 points 12 assists and 7 rebounds against the Hornets to overcome a 25 point deficit and win the game. The very next night Kobe put up almost identical numbers with 41, 12, and 6. In the Toronto game Kobe hit a game-tying fade-away three to send the game into overtime. From there Kobe displayed his dominance as the Lakers won 118-116 in overtime. Not only is scoring at such a high rate and efficiency but he is also guarding the elite opposing guards in the game, did I mention that Kobe is doing all this at age 34 in his 17th year. Hence the name Kobe has adopted is Vino because his game is like a fine wine that gets only better with age.

            The next reason the Lakers have been playing better basketball is that everyone has accepted their roles. Steve Nash has become a spot up and perimeter shooter, Dwight Howard has become a defensive anchor and rebounder, and Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks have been playing much better coming off the bench. Dwight Howard has been playing much better as of late and it looks like he is getting healthier as he is more active in the paint and on the glass. Since the allstar game Dwight Howard has flipped a switch. Not only does he look healthier and stronger but his play has undoubtedly improved. Post All-star break Dwight is averaging 17ppg, 15rpg, and 2.5 bpg. In his return to Orlando, Howard had a monster game with 39 points, and shot 25-39 from the free throw line, he also had 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. The only other player to put 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks against the Magic is the Diesel Shaquille O’neal. The biggest improvement for Howard is that he is now contesting and altering shots as well as grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds more aggressively. Howard has stopped complaining like a whiny baby and he is now just focused on playing ball and winning. He says that his mindset shifted during the All-star break. Dwight realized that he was fortunate to play with one of the all-time greats in Kobe Bryant and this is his chance to compete for a championship. Howard also said that he has changed his diet and cut out all unnecessary sugars such as skittles and candy bars as well as getting better conditioning in the weight room to help with his improving back.

            With the team much improving and chemistry starting to flow it looks like the Lakers are making a nice run for a playoff push in the Western Conference. Injuries have really slowed this Lakers team down with all their stars missing time from Nash’s lengthy period of time out, to a recovering Dwight Howard playing with a surgically repaired back and torn labrum, and Pau Gasol who is expected to return after missing 6-8 weeks with Plantar Fascia. When everything seems to be going right, some sort of adversity happens again. Kobe last night in a close loss to the Atlanta Hawks, was undercut and suffered a sprained ankle by Dantay Jones which was a clear foul and a chance for the Lakers to tie the game at 94 and to send it into overtime. The X-rays were negative and Kobe is listed out as indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain. The Lakers are estimating that he will most likely not play at least the next 2 games. However we are taking about the Black Mamba who is the ultimate warrior and plays through every sort of pain and injury imaginable, so you never know. One thing that is for certain is that the Lakers must continue to control their own destiny from here on out by winning as many games as possible. These Lakers cannot afford to play under .500 ball. Every game matters from here. All Lakers fans everywhere are praying for a speedy and healthy recovery for Kobe Bryant so that the Lakers will make the playoffs and have at least a chance to compete for a title.

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Kobe vs Lebron. Lets Settle This Once and For ALL

Kobe vs Lebron. Lets Settle This Once and For ALL.
(Inside the numbers)

The age old question Kobe or Lebron who is better? The career averages of both players are actually quite similar to my disbelief but the biggest difference is RINGS. Advantage Kobe Bryant. Kobe literally has a handful of NBA Championship Rings at 5 while Lebron James is at a goose egg with 0. Kobe has been to the Finals a total of seven times where he has won it five of those times that’s a 71% rate. On the other hand Lebron has been to the Finals a total of two times and he has never won the title. I’m not to sure of the math but last time I checked 0/2=0. Kobe won his first title in just his 5th NBA season. Lebron James is entering is 9th NBA season and is still Ringless. So on the greatest stage off the basketball world I would pick Kobe Bryant because he knows how to get the job done and win the big game. Kobe Bryant has earned the title of “The Closer” and the “Black Mamba” because he is an assassin on the court and closes out games and series in the clutch.
James however has not had the same success rate as Kobe. Lebron lost in the NBA Finals both times he has been there. In 2007 Lebron James was not so kingly as his Cleveland Cavaliers got swept by Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Then nobody can forget last season 2011 when Lebron did a disappearing magic trick in the Finals and the Miami Heat and the so called “Big Three” lost to Dirk Nowitizki and the Mavs 4-2. In a total of NBA Finals games Lebron is 2-8; whereas Kobe is 23-15. Even in one of Kobe’s worst shooting performance games in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals where he shot only 6-24 he still scored 23 points but even more impressively willed his team to victory with 15 rebounds. In the 4th quarter of the 2011 Finals the time when the greats are supposed to shine, Lebron averaged only 3 points. For over 72 minutes of fourth quarter play LBJ only mustered up 18 total points when his team needed him the most. Kobe in the 2010 Finals averaged 28.5 points a game to Lebron’s 17 ppg.

Lets take a look at the regular season comparisons. The first few seasons for Kobe Bryant are skewed for the fact that former Lakers coach Del Harris did not give Kobe Bryant many minutes while Lebron instantaneously started for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kobe’s rookie season he only received 15.5 minutes while Lebron was averaging an astonishing 39.5 for a Rookie. Even in Kobe’s second year he only averaged 26 minutes a game to James’ 42. During Kobe’s first 2 seasons he only started 7 games out of 150 compared to James 159 games out of 159 (that’s 100% for you math geniuses).

Overall the career averages for Kobe and Lebron are alike. Kobe Bryant has averaged 25.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg (rebounds), 4.7 ast, .5 blocks, 1.5 steals, and 2.9 turnovers a game. Lebron James has averaged 27.7 with 7.1 rpg (rebounds), 7 assists, .8 blocks, 1.7 steals, and 3.3 turnovers. These figures may seem quite similar but who is more efficient? Well Kobe shoots the rock at a career average of 45.4% FG and shoots the 3-ball at 33.7%. Lebron averages from the field 48% FG with a 3 point FG of 33.1%. Both players are known for slashing to the hoop and getting to the free throw line which in turn creates foul trouble for the opposition and easy points for ones team. This should be a close comparison right? Not at all! In the easiest of all shot opportunities where the shot is called a “Free Throw” because it is basically two free points, Kobe Bryant annihilates Lebron in this category with a much higher efficiency. Lebron’s career free throw percentage is a measly 74%. Kobe on the other hand thrives to get to the line and make the most of his opportunities by shooting a career average of 83%. Kobe is nearly 10% better at shooting free throws than Lebron. For the amount of times that Lebron gets to the line you would think his free throw percentage should be higher. Its not. His free throw shooting actually hurts his team, while Kobe’s free throws have helped the Lakers win games. Another interesting fact is 2.9 to 3.3; those are the turnovers per game for both Kobe and Lebron. Lebron turnovers the ball more than Kobe as he tries to play the point guard position maybe more than he should be doing. At six foot eight Lebron should utilize his size more posting up smaller defenders and using his strength to get easy baskets. Kobe has perfected the post up as he took a full summer to learn from the great Hakeem Olajuwan. Kobe Bryant signature moves are going into the post and pulling out his turnaround fade-away jumper that is virtually unstoppable. Kobe picks his spots on the court where he knows he can get his shot off with a high success rate. The triple pump fake still gets defenders in the air as he coolly drains a jumper in between there eyes. Lebron far too settles on dribbling to the top of the key as shooting an ill-advised contested three pointer. Lebron James is at his best when he is driving to the hoop. But that begs the same question. Why if Lebron is so good at driving in the lane can he not make free throws?

Since we are talking about clutch factor lets compare Kobe and Lebron in the postseason when it really counts. Kobe and Lebron’s postseason numbers are nearly identical to that of their regular season. Kobe’s career postseason average is 25.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.8 ast, 1.4 steals, .7 blocks, and has a field goal percentage of 44.8% while shooting the 3 ball at 33.5% and has an 81.5% free throw percentage. Lebron averages 28 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 7 ast, 1.7 steals, 1 block, and shoots from the field 46%, 3 point FG 32.3%, and free throws at 71.4%. A big number that jumps out at me is 2.9 vs 3.6 and that is the turnover difference between Kobe and Lebron. Kobe has the lesser of turnovers which yields his team more opportunities to score and not let the opposition create easy transition baskets. The biggest number to this whole playoff comparison is 5-0 and that is Kobe’s championships compared to Lebron.

Lets take individual game performances now. We all now that Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain holds the record for most points in a game with 100, but where do Lebron and Kobe stand in that category. Well Kobe Bean Bryant is second all-time in most points in a game when he dropped 81 points on January 22, 2006 vs. the Toronto Raptors. Kobe also has dropped a 65 point game vs. the Portland Trailblazers back in 2007, a 60 point game against Memphis Grizzlies in 2006, as well as a 62 point game vs. the Dallas Mavericks in 2005 and Kobe didn’t even play in the 4th quarter of that game. How many 60 point games or more has Lebron scored? You don’t say. That’s right ZERO. Lebron has never cracked 60+ or over. Kobe has done that 4 times! How about we examine who has scored more 40 plus games in their career, Kobe or Lebron. Well Lebron has scored only had 46 40+ games compared to Kobe’s 111 and counting 40+ games. By the way Kobe has scored 40+ in 4 straight games this 2011-2012 season.

This season Kobe is entering his 16th season at 33 years of age while Lebron is entering his 9th season at 27 years of age. Kobe Bryant has battled an injury seemingly in almost every season but like the warrior he is he has powered through until the end. Kobe Bryant this season alone is averaging 30.5 pg, 5.6 ast, and 5.7 rpg. James is averaging 28.9 pg, 7.1 ast, and 8.1 rpg. I would say Kobe isn’t doing so bad for an “old timer” compared to the youthful whippersnapper. Kobe already has 2 scoring titles looking for his third compared to Lebron’s 1 scoring title. This season they are going head to head against each other to claim the coveted NBA regular season MVP award. This race will be neck and neck all season but I give the slight edge to Kobe so far because he is in his 16th season playing with a torn ligament in his right hand shooting wrist and still leading the NBA in points per game.

Here are some of the accolades and accomplishments that Kobe and Lebron both have received during their NBA careers. Kobe Bryant set the for the record of most 3 point field goals made in a game when he drained 12 in 2003 against the former Supersonics know the OKC Plunder I mean Thunder (Donyell Marshall tied Kobe’s record of 12 in 2005 against the 76ers). Lebron James career high of 3 point field goals made in a game is 8, which is still impressive but it doesn’t leave you awestruck like Kobe’s 12. When it comes to being the best in the NBA a player is named to the All-NBA first team and the defensive equivalent is All-NBA defensive First team. Kobe has been on the All-NBA First Team 8 times, All-NBA second team 2 times, and All NBA 3rd team 2 times. Defensively Kobe is also at the top of the NBA. He has been named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team 8 times, and All Defensive 2nd team 2 times. Contrary, Lebron has been named to the All-NBA first team 5 times, All-NBA second team 2 times, and 3 times All-NBA Defensive first team selections. Lebron has 2 regular season MVP awards compared with Kobe’s 1 (Steve Nash stole 3 away from Bryant). Kobe is a 12 time All-star and has won the All-star game MVP award 4 times, while James has been an All-star 7 times receiving the MVP award twice. The more important MVP award is the Finals MVP award because that means your team has been crowned NBA Champions. Kobe has received the NBA Finals MVP Award twice en route of his 5 Championship Titles, Lebron has been to the Finals twice and has not received the Finals MVP award, but instead has gone home (fishing) empty handed.

When it all comes down to it who is more clutch? Who do you want to have the ball in their hands with less than 5 seconds left? Kobe or Lebron? Here are the facts Kobe Bryant has made 38 Gamewinning shots. Out of those 38 gamewinners 8 of those were buzzer beaters! Kobe has also sank 23 game tying shots to send his team in Overtime. In the playoffs the most dramatic of all stages Kobe has hit 7 gamewinning shots, 3 game tying shots to send to OT, and 1 Gamewinner and 1 Game tying shot in the NBA Finals. The Black Mamba knows to strike the iron when its HOT. Lebron James has only 12 gamewinning shots, 0 in the Finals, 1 in the playoffs, and overall 2 buzzer beaters. It is CLEAR that when the game is on the line you want to have the best Closer in the game finishing it and that is KOBE! The biggest difference between Kobe and Lebron is that Kobe wants the ball in his hands in the final seconds of the game. Lebron does not, and he rather kick it out to the likes of Chris Bosh or even Dwayne Wade.

Let me give you 5 Championship reasons why Kobe Bryant is better than Lebron. Drive- nobody has the will and desire like Kobe. Determination- Kobe is focused at all times and his mission is NBA Championships. Kobe the Black Mamba and he is a killer on the court. You can’t tell Kobe he can’t do something because he will do it and prove you wrong. Intensity- Nobody has the passion and hunger to be the Best and Win like Kobe. Hardwork- There is no harder worker in the NBA than Kobe. He is in the gym from sunrise to sunset, always training always desiring to get better. Lastly natural raw Talent. Kobe is one of a kind. Sure everyone in the NBA is talented in the NBA but when you put your talent to hardwork, intensity, drive, and determination that my friend is how you become the BEST. Lebron has sheer talent, and he might be the most talented player in the league, but he does not have that same hunger, passion, and fire that separates Kobe from the pack.

“Kobe Bryant. I would have to say right now. He’s a really really good player. Individually he has some of the best skills that the NBA has ever seen in history. He’s shown year after year why he has been the best players in our league.”

“I try to get a dictionary and find a word that what he’s doing right now and I’m definitely just lost for words. I mean he is amazing. I’ve been quoted saying he’s definitely the best player in our league, to me in my eyes the best scorer in our league, and its unbelievable. I don’t know, its not another guy in our league that can accomplish some of the things that he’s doing right now.”

“’I’d give it to Kobe ,” James said. ”What he’s done this whole year, to carry that team to the No. 1 team in the West right now. He’s playing his best basketball all around. I’ve watched him the whole year. I saw it last summer when I played with him with USA Basketball and the sacrifices he’s made for the team and he’s done that with the Lakers.

“He’s someone I idolized in high school.”

“[Kobe] was someone when I was in high school I looked up to. [Kobe] going straight out of high school and seeing the success he had, I looked up to him. Like I said, its always a pleasure and honor to be out on the same court with one of the greatest.”

These are all quotes from Lebron James.

When asked who is better Kobe or Lebron? Michael Jordan responded with a simple answer, “Kobe Bryant.”