06 February 2007

Which NBA Team Has Home Court Advantage In At Least 12 Cities?

That would be the LA Lakers right now. A remarkable thing has been happening in the 4th quarter of games the Lakers have played on this epic Eastern road trip (2 weeks away from Staples for all 3 resident pro teams cause of some dumb awards show).

That thing would be crowds in normally hostile places (even in Boston!) cheering for Kobe, and chanting MVP after he makes stunning shot after stunnig shot.

It happened again in Atlanta tonight. The game was tight throughout, but after Kobe came back from his usual sit down at the beginning of the 4th quarter, he was hitting everything, and doing it with style.

I'd never thought I'd see a Boston crowd cheer a Laker, or a Knicks crowd boo because the opposing team's star was suspended, but it's been happening.

Same thing happened in Washington, everyone expected to see a shootout between Kobe and Arenas, and for a bit, they got just that. Arenas made some sick baskets from outside the building practically, but the Lakers demolished the Wizards at the end, and Kobe put on a show once the game was in hand.

In Atlanta, it was a Laker crowd from the start (and a rare sell out in the ATL).

Kobe is once again something special, and the Lakers after a rough patch when Lamar first returned, are beginning to look like a team that can play with the really good teams in the West.

Still, there's something very wrong about MVP chants starting in a non-derisive manner for a player on the opposing team.

I doubt you'll hear that in Detroit, and you certainly didn't hear that in Indiana (and coincidentally, or not, the Indiana game was Kobe's worst on the trip so far).

Of course, that's only since they've been beating up on Eastern conference teams lately, we'll see how they do in their 3 games in 4 days facing Detroit Thursday, Toronto Friday, and Cleveland Sunday (on ABC, check your local listings)

(I always wanted to say, "check your local listings")

Bynum continues to get better, by the way. He's been putting up double-doubles almost every game in Kwame Brown's absence. If he could stay away from dumb fouls, he'll earn more and more playing time.

Who said Phil Jackson couldn't coach a young team?

As far as MVP goes, Steve Nash deserves it now more than the past two that he won, but because he has two, and only the greatest of the greatest in NBA history have won 3 in a row (only Chamberlain, Russell and Bird, not Kareem, not Jordan, not Magic), I think voters will be searching for somebody else to annoint.

Kobe's been more phenomenal as a player in previous years (last year he was pretty sick, just one word 81), but I don't think he's ever had a more consistently positive impact on his teammates than this season. This team enjoys when Kobe 'goes off', they don't become spectators, they still crash the boards, and they still play defense. When it was Shaq/Kobe's team, Shaq would sulk if he wasn't more involved in crunch time, but it was his own damn fault for being vulnerable to the 'hack a Shaq'.

The first year after the trade, everyone was certain it was a mistake. The second year, Miami wins it all, and again Kupchak and Buss look like idiots. This year . . ., Miami still has a chance to do well in the East (which is testament to how bad the East is), but the likelihood that Shaq will be a great and dominate player in this league again are looking less and less, while Kobe appears to still have another great decade left in him (and with his youthful and improving supporting cast the Lakers could be on their way to a 3rd Dynasty).

Also, he seems to be completely rehabilitated image wise after his fiasco year. I think in an odd way the Duke Lacrosse thing has helped Kobe. Folks realize that, yes athletes can be piggish horndogs, but women do sometimes lie, and prosecutors sometimes claim to have better evidence than they really have.

As far as the MVP thing goes, it seems a bit incredible that Kobe has yet to win won, he's the greatest basketball player playing right now and can dominate a game offensively or defensively. Nowitzki is great, and it's about time a European player wins the award, but he benefits from being a big man who plays an outside game (and doesn't play enough defense), Duncan is always Duncan and deserves consideration, but San Antonio has been on auto-pilot this season. Gilbert Arenas has been pretty special in stretches, but I'll just dismiss all players in the East for MVP consideration right now, cause the East is definitely the Least.

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