Pro basketball analysis is stuck in an odd confluence of influences. The personalities behind the game drive its day-to-day intrigue, but the 82-game schedule demands patience and tact. The season starts in the fall, when a baseball team's entire season can change over the course of a long weekend, or a college football squad's season can end after one misplaced option decision, and an NFL team's decision-making down the stretch of a fourth quarter can fill three cable stations at once with fodder for six days. This sort of obsessive tone tends to take over the NBA airwaves, even when teams have 80 — eighty! — games to work through between now and late April.
[Related: Steve Nash hurt as Lakers fall to 0-2]
Kobe Bryant might be smug, and he might be kind of a jerk, but he's also in the midst of his 17th rodeo, and hoping to shoot his way toward his sixth ring. And he's absolutely spot on when he asks that everyone stop obsessing over the Los Angeles Lakers while on their lunch break. Sure, the Lakers have lost 12 straight counting the exhibition season and dating back to last May's conference semifinals loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder — but that stat counts the exhibition season, two early season games, and last May's loss to the eventual conference champs. In other, non-italicized words, "shut up."
Kobe said it. Not me. From Thursday's post-practice chat, via the Los Angeles Daily News:
"Shut up," a bemused Bryant demanded. "Have patience. Let us do our job."
He was just getting started.
"I just, I don't understand," Bryant said. "The city here, for me, not trying to bite my tongue and not calling them dumb, which I kind of just did, but they've seen us win multiple championships here playing in an offense that was tough to learn.
"They know how that stuff works. So for them to be so stupid now and say, `Let Steve dribble the ball around and create opportunities for everybody. Let Dwight (Howard) post up. Or let me iso.'
"I won't say idiotic, but it's close."
The anti-"shut up" parts allow my daughters to enjoy too-expensive school lunches and for Skip Bayless to harvest more gallons of newt eyes within the trunk of his Bentley. It's the day-to-day back and forth that keeps this game interesting and keeps all these websites and cable channels afloat.
After 96 minutes of -- admittedly terrible -- basketball, though? Seriously, "shut up." The trees haven't even been stripped of leaves, yet.
[NBA season previews: Every team, all in one place]
Pretty soon, Dwight Howard is not going to be an eyelash short of contesting Darren Collison's shot. Pretty soon, all the helpers involved will know which side to hedge on when Steve Nash twists his hips, defensively. Soon enough, we hope, Mike Brown's staff will find a way to create a league-average defense. Eventually, we hope, the argument will come back to Kobe dominating the ball offensively, and not why the Lakers (who currently are ahead of last year's team in terms of offensive efficiency, ranking-wise) are screwing up because they decided to deign to adapt to a 10-win college team's offense.
Looking back to the Chicago Bulls' 1990-91 season makes no sense despite that team's 0-3 start, and Phil Jackson's second-year status as coach. Running comparisons between Jackson's first year in Los Angeles is just as pointless, considering the fact that Kobe missed the first few weeks of that season due to injury. Nothing really matters over 96 minutes of pro basketball spread out over 48 hours.
Ninety-six minutes. Ninety-six minutes!
(I'll stop shouting when the guys on TV do.)
Listen, the Lakers have to run. It's more than unnerving to see Steve Nash need several picks in the backcourt in order to bring the ball up against "pressure" from Darren Collison or a rookie point guard, and it's upsetting that the team is currently ranked 18th out of the 23 NBA teams that have played a game thus far in terms of possessions per game. But it isn't as if Mike Brown is stopping this team from throwing 70-foot outlet passes or driving out on the break. The squad's defense is terrible, which is why the running opportunities have been scarce, and Nash is still finding his legs after his typical summer off.
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Frankly, just as most, I don't trust Mike Brown much. The sniff test of taking the ball out of the hands of the ONE point guard I actually want dominating the ball doesn't seem right to me. But, as has been the case when this whole Princeton experiment was disclosed during the summer, I'm still choosing to err on the side of patience.
I suggest we all do the same, for a while at least.
This is an unprecedented experiment. A coach that has done nothing but disappoint, despite his obvious smarts and basketball savvy. A top-two ego and all-time legend at the off guard slot. A mess of an individual and monster of a basketball player, when healthy, in the pivot. A sometimes-martyr with tons to teach us at power forward. A nutter at small forward. A giant at point guard, one that may just have been cut down by age's slingshot. Also, Jodie Meeks.
The Lakers will need months to figure this out. Let's give them, at the very slimmest, a few weeks before grinding their initial results into our 24-7 mortar and pestle. This group's history deserves our patience.
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