After listening to the Abbott slagging off Bryant yet again Jan 13th NBA Today podcast, and enduring yet another Henry Abbott near-diatribe on how "Kobe Bryant might be good, but not that good", it became almost questionable as to what Henry's actually seeing.
Ok... step back a bit - I guess the proceeding is said more for effect than anything else, but rather than Henry Abbott seeing stuff that we're missing, I'd suggest the boot's on the other foot: it's more about what he's not seeing (or... choosing not to see, which is more likely the case).
Before I get into it, it'd be appropriate to qualify what I'm talking about. Do I agree that there are times 'in the clutch' where LA and Kobe would be better served passing the ball rather shooting a fade away turn-around jumper over 2 guys while three others try and make life difficult? Absolutely. Most definitely.
But to continually deride the guy (Kobe), while focusing on what is a very, very short timespan... well, I think you're missing the big picture because of focusing on the minutae. And this is something that Abbott himself alluded to in his last anti-Kobe spiel, albeit unintentionally.
Before focusing in on the "clutch", Abbott makes an interesting statement in regards to a fact re. Kobe's time at the Lakers:
"... the Lakers were actually - over Kobe's career - the best offensive team in the NBA... in terms of points per 100 possessions over Kobe's career, the Lakers had *the* best offense over the past 15 years in the NBA. These numbers were true if you broke it into smaller numbers of years like 5 or 6 - the Lakers had the best offense."
Now, Abbott later mentions in regards to crunch time play that in terms of crunch time play, in the top 7 teams per 100 possessions - there is no go-to elite player, other than New Orleans (formerly Chris Paul) and Orlando (Dwight Howard). The next ones are Trail Blazers, Spurs, Raptors, Jazz, Cavaliers, Wizards. The next one is the Heat (who obviously have 2 "go-to elite players").
3. Trail Blazers
... and then at #9, the Heat (who don't really fit with what Abbott's saying anyway - something he acknowledges).
Now, I'm guessing here - and painting with very broad strokes, but the allusion Abbott's making is that by not having a "go-to guy", these teams are better off in the crunch. And he states that only the Hornets/Magic are substantially ahead of the field, NOLA quite so.
I can understand that. A team not dependent on any particular guy for their offense will continue to not be dependant on any particular guy in the clutch. Fine. But have a look at those teams, that top 8. Of them, only the Magic, Spurs and Cavaliers have been to the Finals in the past few seasons, and the Cavs... well, we know why and what happened to that reason. Only the Spurs have won in the last decade. And a sizable number of those teams are mid-to-very low ranked teams now.
So whilst having a better crunch-time offense, this hasn't equated to getting enough wins to make a heady difference. They're not "better" by having this crunch offense...
The reality of having a guy who is actually an "elite go-to player" is that he'll want to be the "elite go-to player". Now, this may mean some problems in crunch time at times, but it will also equate to a larger win share than if your team was without that player.
I'm yet to hear/see Abbott ever approach this. It's always "Kobe isn't clutch". But it's always just that, that's always the main focus. Sure, Kobe may not be the king of clutch as many hold him to be. But that needs to be paired with an acknowledgement that that Bryant's team has been the best offensive team over the last decade and a half, and in that time frame has one a third of the NBA championships.
Don't get me wrong: as stated before, Kobe and the Lakers would benefit from his having a more open and generous attitude towards who takes that last shot. Same with Melo, same with a few other superstars. However, that's not where we are currently, and whilst Abbott's right with his point that he asserts (over, and over again, ad infinitum) of "pass-to-the-guy-whose-open", the hammer he continually wields needs to be seen in light of "these-guys-win-games" - because that's just as true. And as far as Kobe Bryant is concerned, he wins titles. Five.
I can live with that.
I have put in writing more than once that if I had to choose a guy to take the last shot for my life I would take Kobe every time. Guys a complete asshat, but no one has the combination of the desire to make that shot and the ability to do it.
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@LFJeremy The one thing I take from Henry Abbott being on Friday's NBA Today is that I don't really mind if I miss it now. Hell... I don't particularly like Mike Yam, but at least Tim Legler's there too.
Good to have you back, Don! I actually like a lot of what Abbott has to say, but I'm 100% with you on this one. It's frustrating when the guys who are meant to be somewhat objective (Abbott, Wojnarowski, et al) let their bias show through. That's probably the main reason I'm finding David Aldridge to be my favourite writer at the moment. He's the most open-minded national guy I've come across.
@MichaelSaunders Got REALLY busy over the last few weeks!
Anyway - I agree with some of Abbott's points, but he avoids the big picture which is that regardless of "clutch statistics", Kobe Bryant is the primary reason that LA's the most successful franchise in the NBA whilst he's been there.
He'd argue that he's just "balancing the rhetoric". But you either have the whole picture, or not at all. Not into the microcosm that he's exploring.