Pump Up Music: Wax -- "California"
The Big Picture: It's too easy to take shots at the Lakers and their fans. When they're in Bynum-less mode, they play a style I love, with Pau Gasol at center and Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, and Kobe Bryant all playing variations on wing roles. It's like a three-guitar rock band, with Derek Fisher on drums and Pau on bass. But even though there's so much to love about them from a purely aesthetic perspective, they have a vocal contingent of fans that embarrasses everyone else. You know them. The Kobe-fanboy psychos who don't understand that everyone does respect Kobe's greatness -- we just also apply reason to our basketball viewing and judge LeBron James, at least, the better player.
And Kobe, himself, doesn't help matters. The man will never shake the impression he's actively constructing his persona, even on the court. A-Rod has the same problem. Tiger will, moving forward. Michael Jordan never had it, even though everyone knew he was doing it. The lack of authenticity is off-putting, especially because he wants us to believe he's some kind of supreme badass when, actually, he's a total nerd. By "nerd", I mean that he knows every single thing there is to know about basketball, his teammates, and opponents, because he's driven to win. I also use "nerd" to mean that he has an extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia, implying he's more Brook Lopez than Stephen Jackson, if you know what I'm saying.
Basketball is more influenced by personality than any of the other major American sports, so Kobe's quirks and uniqueness affects his team in ways a noted eccentric like Chad Ochocinco can't affect his. Thus, the shots. And the same percentage of crackpots freak out when Kobe's "insulted" as freak out when, say, Kevin Garnett is criticized for something, but the huge Lakers fan base means there are thousands more of those people than those who would go nuclear on message boards and comment sections in defense of KG.
Kobe shoots too much. Every one of his championship teams would have, at least, made noise in the playoffs without him. The 81 point game was a monument to his ego, not an honest attempt to win. And he's one of the five best players in the league, the best player on the best team. I, for one, enjoy getting caught up in the show.
Key to Victory: L.A. had a tough game in Miami last night. With all our centers not named Ratliff still ailing, we'll be hard-pressed to deal with the Lakers' big lineup, with Andrew Bynum at center and Pau at forward. Not only would our center have trouble, but Boris Diaw would have issues dealing with a guy so comfortable mixing it up on the block as Pau. I'd rather see Diaw try to contain Odom. Put it all together, and I'd like to see the Cats put one of the big guys in foul trouble early so that they're forced to play a one-big lineup most of the game. We'll take our chances with one on one matchups with only one Lakers big man on the floor.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Up to last night's game, Kobe had more than doubled the field goal attempts of the next most prolific Laker shooter, Bynum, who'd played one more game than the Kobester.