Kobe makes lone appearance at the Palace

With the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Detroit Pistons today, PistonPowered reached out to Phillip Barnett and Emile Avanessian of Forum Blue and Gold, the Lakers TrueHoop Affiliate blog, to go 3-on-3.

Essentials

  • Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (21-26) at Detroit Pistons (18-29)
  • Date: February 3rd, 2012
  • Time: 1:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

1. Is it fair to say that the evolution of Kobe Bryant’s role has turned Steve Nash into a glorified version of Derek Fisher?

Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue and Gold: I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. With Kobe looking to be a facilitator, Steve Nash has essentially turned into a two guard with the Lakers looking for him to pick up some of the scoring Kobe has sacrificed to get his teammates involved. Also, if you’re watching these sets closely, Nash is really the one initiating the offense, directing everyone where they need to be before Kobe even touches the ball. Fisher, especially during his later years with the Lakers, was a guy the Lakers were just hoping could make some open shots, and anything more than six points in any given game was a bonus as Kobe was still leaned on to score 25 points per game. The roles for Nash and Fish are completely different.

Emile Avanessian, Forum Blue Gold: I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but it’s certainly fair to say that Kobe’s newfound love of playmaking has marginalized Nash’s role on the team. At his best, Nash is the NBA’s equivalent of Peyton Manning – not only the engine of the offense of which he’s at the helm, but also its brain. Beyond his obvious aptitude for making crisp passes and shooting from the perimeter, Nash possesses a Cousy-esque hoops genius that’s only fully on display when the ball is in his hands. Steve Nash is truly Steve Nash when he’s exploring opposing defenses – tightroping the baseline, probing, pinballing in the paint, and emerging, ball on a string, the opposition in disarray.

These days, Nash is, nominally, the Lakers’ point guard, though in reality his role hinges on the ability provide a spot-up release valve while one the game’s greatest- ever scorers shows the word how much better he thinks he is than Nash at Nash’s job.

Huh. Let’s move on, shall we?

J.M. Poulard, PistonPowered: Ever since the January 25th game versus Utah, Kobe Bryant has essentially abandoned the idea of solely focusing on scoring and is instead more focused on sharing the ball with his teammates and getting all of them involved. The consequence has been that Nash has had far less ball-handling duties and has been reduced to the role of spot up shooter for the most part.

In Fisher’s last three seasons under Phil Jackson, his usage rate (percentage of a team’s possessions) hovered around 14, while Steve Nash’s usage rate in the last five games since the shift in Kobe’s game has been at 14.7 per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.

The two-time MVP has been more of off-ball threat, but he’s also been converting a sizzling 56.8 percent of his field goals and 58.8 percent of his 3-point shots. So yes, Nash has been a glorified version of Fisher.

2. Which player would you rather have for the next three years: Greg Monroe or Pau Gasol?

Phillip Barnett: Based on age alone, I’d want Greg Monroe. If you take a look at Monroe’s game, he has a lot of skill sets that fit well with the current makeup of this team. He’s been the best this season cutting off the ball and in pick-and-role actions. He has a very good feel off the ball of knowing when to cut and where the soft spot in the defense is. With Kobe in his facilitator mode and Steve Nash on the roster, Monroe could have some fantastic games just making the correct basketball move. Gasol’s skill set is far superior to Monroe, but Monroe does some great things and has shown some improvement as a playmaker for others. He’s going to be a very good player as he continues to develop, and that coupled with his age, I believe, is enough to give him the nod over Pau for the next three years.

Emile Avanessian: At the peak of his powers, the group of bigs in NBA history for whom I’d trade Pau Gasol is not terribly large. These days, unfortunately, thanks to the effects of human aging, tendinitis and the cumulative toll on the psyche of an extended stay in Lakerland, the peak of Pau’s powers is firmly ensconced in the past. Under the right set of circumstances (I don’t want to say “without Dwight”… though I just did) Pau remains a very good NBA big man and, as we discussed ad nauseum prior to the season, an excellent stylistic fit alongside Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Were we to look only to the next year, I’d almost certainly opt to stay the course with Pau.

For the next three, however? Despite something of a Junior Slump (that’s a thing, right?) that’s removed him from this year’s All-Star conversation and temporarily put the “Monroe v. DeMarcus” debate to bed, it’s Monroe. For starters, he’s just 22, extremely durable (just two games missed in over two and a half NBA seasons) and provides a versatility similar to that delivered by Pau. Monroe’s productivity is down compared to last season, but he remains a fairly efficient scorer (52.6% true Shooting, 19.3 PER with a moderate 25% Usage Rate), a very good defensive rebounder (though his Offensive Rebound Rate has tanked, from 13.3 a year ago, to just 9.8 this season), one of the best passing big men in the NBA (http://bkref.com/tiny/EwcFx) and an excellent ballhawk for a man his size (http://bkref.com/tiny/wLwLx).

J.M. Poulard: In a vacuum, the answer might be Pau Gasol given his immense post skills — passing and scoring — as well as his ability to play in the high post.

But the poor use of Gasol’s talents leaves you wondering if his confidence has taken a small dent.

Greg Monroe on the other hand is already a terrific passer, good high post player and also a big man that can be devastating in the low post if he gets the right matchup. It stands to reason that he will only improve within the next three years and become an unstoppable force at the center position.

So the answer: Greg Monroe.

3. Favorite and least favorite Kobe Bryant moment involving the Detroit Pistons?

Phillip Barnett: Favorite: During that ridiculous 2006 season, Kobe led the Lakers to a win over the Pistons with 40 points on 26 shots. He had a True Shooting Percentage of .676 and an offensive rating of 157 (!).

Least Favorite: Game 3 of the 2004 Finals. 11 points on 13 shots. Four TOs. Lots of depression. Actually, everything about that series except for his game winner makes me want to vomit everywhere.

 

Emile Avanessian: Buzzer beater in Game 2 of the ’04 Finals.

Least favorite? Every other moment from the 2004 Finals.

J.M. Poulard: My favorite Kobe Bryant moment against the Pistons has to be Game 2 of the 2004 NBA Finals. Back then, the player that wore no. 8 sent the game to overtime with a killer 3-point shot and helped the Lakers close the game out in the extra period.

My least favorite Kobe Bryant moment is the 2004 title round as a whole. The Black Mamba ignored some of his teammates and force up some incredibly tough shots with Tayshaun Prince defending him.

The killer stat of the 2004 NBA Finals: Kobe attempted 27 more field goals than Shaquille O’Neal, and yet the Diesel managed to produce 53 field goals to Kobe’s 43. Bryant converted 38.1 percent of his field goals in that series but never stopped firing.

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Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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