Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Sequel to Hack a Shaq

Is . . . gettin' Cozy with Kobe?

It doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Now, while college basketball is much more interesting than the glitzy pros, I still find it amusing to sometimes follow pro basketball. It was certainly a lot of fun last year watching the Pistons rip apart the Lakers at Mike's house.

Speaking of the Lakers, Kobe Bryant finally got what he wanted this offseason. A team all for himself. The Zen Master Phil Jackson left and Shaq was traded to the Heat (where, incidentally, Dwayne Wade is proving that he's quite the adequate replacement for Kobe, as he is playing beautiful fundamental basketball, averaging 27 points per game as well as shooting well from the line and seeing his assists skyrocket with Shaq in the paint).

Kobe was left with a shaky group of supporting players, and it was evident from the get-go that he would have to involve them more to bring up their level of play. Most people agreed that if he hogged the ball, nothing would get done. And it appears that exactly that is happening, with predictable results.

Now, teams used to play what was popularly referred to as Hack-a-Shaq. The theory was that Shaq was going to score from the paint, so by fouling him, they could rely on his pitiful free throw ability to reduce his potentness. It worked for the most part, but they did give him a lot of free points. The Pistons showed how to actually play with Shaq, which was to isolate him with the ball away from the net, and make him shoot from outside 5-6 feet.

This year, with Shaq gone and Kobe driving the ball more, teams are taking it out on Kobe. I haven't even seen a Laker's game on TV yet but it's evident that's he's keeping the ball and driving a lot. This is resulting in a disproportionate amount of fouling on Kobe, as teams seem content with sending him to the line as well. The idea there is that while he's an excellent free throw shooter, he'll eventually tire of elbows and forearm shots and be forced to play a more timid game. You change Kobe's game, you lower his effectiveness. And it's working.

In five games, Kobe has 74 free throw attempts. That's almost 15 a game. In years past, he got between 8-9 a game. Consequently, while his points are still there, his field goal percentage this year will probably be pretty dismal. It's always been ok, with his spotty jumpshot ability covered up by easy lay-ups, which happened because Shaq was a presence people couldn't ignore, but without Shaq, teams are collapsing on him, fouling him and making him play a different brand of basketball.

(In today's game, it's halftime and he already has 11 free throw attempts by the way, and is shooting 3-11 from the field).

Kobe will do one of two things.

1) Pass the ball more. Drive and dish, and make the defense play more conservative ball. This will allow him to drive harder, and also for his teammates to get into the game more often. Lamar Odom is a legitimate player, and the Lakers need to get the ball to him more often.

2) Keep taking the licks and just drive drive drive. This will result in a dismal shooting percentage, many losses for the Lakers, and a very angry Kobe. In all likelihood, being the prima donna that he is, Kobe will go this route as his averages plummet, which will make his numbers drop all the more.

I'm really enjoying this because it will serve as a rude awakening to Kobe, who will find that his fancy moves won't do a thing against a couple of 7-0 defensemen who have no problem teaching him a lesson for not passing the ball. There is a good chance that this will lead to injury as well for Kobe, so people that have him in fantasy basketball, I would trade him now.

Incidentally, Kobe is now 4-15 from the field and has 13 free throw attempts to his credit, of which he has made 10, and we're halfway through the third quarter. Sure, he has 20 points, but the more teams make Kobe hit 3's, the easier it will be to beat the Lakers.


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