Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 at 4:41 pm  |  41 responses

Links: Floppers

Plus, would Kobe leave LA?

by Lang Whitaker

Let’s gooooo!

Linkstigator Matt Walsh writes…

Hi Lang,

One of my pet peeves on the basketball court is flopping and watching the Cavs v. Magic series I cant help but get frustrated by Varejao’s acting (even Ben Wallace in Game 3 was diving all over the court).

I understood that this season players would be penalized for flopping but I have not seen this happen once all year. Was this rule ever put in place? How badly does someone have to flop to get T’d up for this? Am I the only one that screams at the TV when they see this happen over and over again?

On a lighter note, how is the book going?

Ha! There’s nothing light about writing a book, I can promise you that. Especially a book that’s due in about three months. I’ve tried not to mention it much here on The Links, but…well, it’s a lot of writing. Think of it this way: A normal 4- or 5-page feature I write for SLAM every month runs about 2,000 words. This book is supposed to be something like 90,000 words. So I have to write the equivalent of about 45 SLAM features before September. At least the Braves are starting to play well again. But enough about that.

The flopping thing is funny, because if you think about it, everyone is flopping all over the place, even LeBron and Kobe. It’s just that Varejao just might not be as good at flopping as everyone else is.

But to your point, yes, one year ago at this time, the NBA made a lot of noise about their new flopping rules. They even said players would be fined for flopping.

But you know what? I don’t remember hearing about anyone fined for flopping this season. I spoke today with an exec from an NBA team and he said nobody on his team was fined for flopping. And I just texted with an NBA player who said he doesn’t remember hearing of anyone being fined for flopping, either.

Weird, right? Did the rule change scare everyone into not flopping? Or does the NBA just interpret a flop differently than everyone else in the world?

(I also emailed an NBA spokesperson about 20 minutes before posting this. If I hear back I’ll either update this post or incorporate the answer into tomorrow’s Links.)

• The Conference Finals are going strong, and all the games have been mandatory viewing for hoops fans. I still think the Lakers and Cavs are going to win, because that’s how much I respect Bron and Kobe. If these guys are as good as we all think they are, they don’t let their teams lose these series. Right? Right?

Especially Kobe. He’s the second-best all-around player in the NBA right now, which isn’t a bad place to be, and he’s got such a talented team surrounding him. But ever since I saw “Kobe Doin’ Work,” I can’t stop thinking about how horrible it must be to play on Kobe’s team. The constant correcting of everyone else, the constant unsolicited advice, the constant Kobeness. I don’t think Spike Lee meant to make a movie that exposed Kobe as one of the more fussy teammates of all-time, but he did.

I got into a little twitter argument about Kobe with Vince Thomas and Nate Jones over the weekend. I said that Kobe’s titles with the Lakers were as much or more about Shaq than they were about Kobe, and that in my eyes Kobe still needs to win a title on his own to be one of those true super-duper-duper stars. Because if their careers ended right now, I’d have to rank Shaq ahead of Kobe. (Hey, that could be a good idea for a new issue…) Yes, Kobe is awesome. And in his prime he was awesome. But in his prime, Shaq was better.

Vince and Nate tried to engage me in an argument that if Duncan had been on those Laker teams instead of Shaq, they would have won more titles than they did with Shaq. Maybe, I said, though after I thought more about it, i realized that I don’t think Tim would have put up with Kobe’s micromanaging for long enough to win four titles. Because Kobe spared nobody in “Kobe Doin’ Work,” when he knew he was being recorded. He talked at the best players on his team: Odom, Fisher, Gasol, etc.

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. “Kobe Doin’ Work” has made appreciating Kobe Bryant very hard for me. I understand the obsession with perfection, the work ethic, wanting all of his teammates to become better. But I think he’s got to figure out a way to turn it down a notch, at least when he’s dealing with his teammates. Like I said, Kobe is the second-best player in the NBA right now. But as far as being the best teammate…I’m not sure he’s even in my five.

• While we’re talking about the Lake Show, watching them play these games against Denver, it’s become obvious to me that the Lakers aren’t as good a team as they could be. As good as they are, they could still upgrade at their starting guard slot, and they could definitely use someone in the post who will play with a little aggression and fire, who will battle for rebounds and not get out-toughed against a team that gets physical, like Denver’s been doing. But this morning I looked up the Lakers’ salary situations, and getting better isn’t going to be easy, not by a long shot.

Without re-signing Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza or Shannon Brown, three of their best players this postseason, the Lakers already have $74 million committed to salaries next season. And that’s with the luxury tax threshold expected to be around $69 million next season. They have a total of $19.8 committed next season to Fisher, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Adam Morrison. Let’s say, considering how many teams are looking to shed as much money as possible, the Lakers are forced to keep all these guys they’ve got signed to bad contracts, then somehow get Lamar to take the midlevel and give Ariza and Brown a total of about $8 million next year. That would put their payroll figure at about $87 million, which means with the luxury tax included they’d be paying out $105 million total. And that’s just maintaining, not getting any better.

• One interesting wrinkle…you know who could become a free agent this summer? Oh, a guy named Kobe Bryant. Just saying. He has a player option and can opt out if he chooses to. Will he? Probably not. Though…

• Hey, shoutouts to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for quoting me in their Ricky Rubio coverage of late. (And I managed to get Sekou on my Toney Douglas bandwagon.) I’ve also talked about Ricky on several radio shows lately, and almost everyone asks me about Ricky’s potential. Does he need time to develop? Will he take a while to learn the NBA game? And my answer to everyone is to watch the tape of the Gold Medal game. Or ask Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd if Ricky can play right now.

• Linkstigator Joe R. writes…

I’ve watched the final second of Game 2 over and over again, and it’s unarguable that was the best shot LeBron has ever hit. After the game the TNT guys were arguing how to defend that last play, and I was wondering if you think Orlando did the best they possibly could to stop LeBron from scoring.

Van Gundy had Lewis on Williams inbounding, Alston on West, Howard on Ilgauskas, Pietrus on Pavlovic and Turkoglu on James. West sets a screen for Z at the elbow, giving him a corner three (Williams doesn’t consider it), Pavlovic comes from the baseline to the three point line, leading Pietrus away from the basket. LeBron goes for the lob but Hedo denies it, so he then goes out for three and drains a ridiculous off-balance shot. It wasn’t by any standards an easy shot, but should Orlando have even let James touch the ball at all in that final second?

The way I would have it, Alston on West and Pietrus on Pavlovic as they did, then have Lewis on Ilgauskas. Have Howard on the rim, defending any attempt of a lob for a dunk or layup. Have Turkoglu completely deny the ball instead of cutting off the rim as his main priority. Sure, this leaves Mo Williams open, but one second isn’t enough time to pass, get himself inbounds and get the ball back then get a decent shot off. Orlando’s single main priority should be keeping the ball away from LeBron. I’d take a contested Pavlovic or Ilgauskas three or even a contested West mid-range jumpshot over leaving the game in James’ hands. I’m keen to hear your take on this.

Loved the email, because I’ve thought a lot about that play also. (Especially after the game when Reggie Miller said it was “bad defense,” and Kenny and Charles almost choked him for spewing nonsense.)

(Also, if you want to get familiar, you can re-watch the play here.)

My take is that I think Orlando played it pretty well. Bron tried to go backdoor, Turkoglu prevented that, and then LeBron pushed off and created just enough space to catch and shoot. But Turkoglu even closed on that pretty well, too. LeBron basically had the minimum room necessary to catch and shoot, but he pulled it off because he’s LeBron and you’re not.

But if you want to nitpick, there’s a couple of places I can think to do it.

1) When the teams lined up for this play, I immediately thought of the play earlier this season when the Cavs threw an oop for LeBron and he was “fouled” and sent to the line for two free throws. With one second left, I thought for sure that’s what Cleveland would do. And they did try it, but Turkoglu cut it off. Tukoglu cutting it off, however, meant that he had to play between Bron and the basket, so when Bron changed direction and went to the ball, he was momentarily open.

2) What was Rashard Lewis doing on the play? I understand he was ostensibly guarding the inbounds man, but get on him. He’s standing about a yard back, watching halfheartedly. He’s way taller than Mo Williams, so why not try to make the pass as difficult as possible. Or…

3) Leave Mo Williams open and double LeBron. Put Lewis behind him to stop the lob and put Turkoglu in front of him to stop the three. Or…

4) Take Dwight Howard off of Ilgauskus in the corner and have Dwight watch for the lob and have Turkoglu watch for LeBron cutting the ball, and have Lewis split between Ilgauskas and Mo Williams.

Basically, I would have done anything possible to keep the ball away from LeBron James, including leaving other guys open. And if you lose on a three from Ilgauskas, hey, you lose on a three from Ilgauskas. But whatever you do, under no circumstances should you let LeBron James touch the rock.

One other interesting thing: Watch the play again and notice that the Cavs don’t even use the right half of the halfcourt. You know how football announcers always talk about how hard it is to score in the red zone because you have less room to work with? Setting up the way they did, the Cavs basically took away half of the room they had to work with. And the play still worked.

• Which reminds me: Anyone else noticed that Sasha Pavlovic can’t even come close to defending Hedo Turkoglu? There was a moment in the first half of Game Three when Mike Brown sent in Pavlovic to guard Turkoglu, and Turkoglu took him off the dribble on back to back possessions. So what did Mike Brown do with the game on the line in the fourth? He put in Pavlovic to guard Turkoglu! And what did Turkoglu do? He drove, drew a foul and made both free throws to help put the game away.

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  • TADOne

    Sasha Pavlovic can’t come close to guarding anyone, much less Hedo.

  • TADOne

    As for the Shaq v. Kobe debate, i’m not going anywhere near that.

  • TADOne

    Also, i’m quite sure the flopping rule never made it in to the rule book this past season. Stern is getting soft.

  • Tommy Patron

    If the refs can’t get flagrants or block/charge right, how will they ever be able to call flops? Maybe penalties could be assessed from watching tape?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    “Especially Kobe. He’s the second-best all-around player in the NBA right now, which isn’t a bad place to be…”

    -I caught that. Not sure I disagree, but it’s not a given–yet.

  • tenorca

    Pau is probably the most egregious flopper left in the playoffs, including Varajao.
    And LeBron should be guarding Hedo. Stick Sideshow on Rashard and hope for the best. But Hedo’s KILLING the Cavs right now.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    RE:Shaq and TD, Its also worth considering that while Shaq is the __th (Its too funny for me to spoil it for anyone…) gretest player of all time, the source of many of his clashes with Kobe were that Shaq isnt exactly the hardest worker of all time. So maybe KB wouldnt have to ‘micromanage’ TD since he doesnt have that problem. Or any other Spur, since theyre normally veterans? Furthermore, Vince made a strong point that Mac is the only other player who could possibly have threepeated with Shaq aside from Kobe. So who would be the better combo, those two or KB & TD?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I saw the title of this post and assumed it was a Champions League final preview.

  • http://andrewamcneill.wordpress.com Andrew A McNeill

    Sports Guy talked with JA Adande last friday in SG’s podcast about the Lakers financial situation next year and the possibility of Kobe opting out. It’s good listening to compliment Lang’s piece today.

  • JB

    Its going to be very, very difficult to compare the ultimate skill level of two every different players in Shaq versus Kobe.

    There hadn’t been a center as dominate as Shaq is/was in modern basketball, where rules had to be altered for his playing.

    Kobe is/was about the same height as Jordan (not comparing, but using as physical example) and close enough in weight, unlike the various centers Shaq played against.

    Shaq was physically gifted and added a post game to compliment. If he had been able to be a great (not just somewhat clutch) free throw shooter…it would be a wrap for players of all skill positions.

    Kobe’s game has adopted, much like MJ’s did, but he’s going against players who can play against him who are physically comparable. That does allow for Kobe’s game to flourish because the skill is brought out to the forefront whereas Shaq’s is a little bit more hidden due to his size (especially versus most opponents).

    The same thing is going to happen to Lebron, to an extent. When has the L seen a guy THIS big and athletic, with a arsenal of basketball ability and no ceiling on potential?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    @Ryan: 2mmrw. I assume you’ll be watchin’?

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Ryan wins the internet.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Young Chris MP3

    The Shaq/ Duncan argument for me begins and ends here: Shaq is far more dominant than Timmy. Tim Duncan wins with a solid cast of veterans that allow him to do the things he’s best at, such as play the high post. Shaq did all of his work in the low post, and was completely unstoppable. Tim Duncan has never required the double and triple teams that Shaq did because he played the high post, where other power forwards would play him much like they do Gasol right now. Shaq would demand so much attention that Kobe would go one-on-one, and Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, and the countless other shooters the Lake Show had would be open or facing minimal defense to get there shots off. Shaq also had great chemistry with Brian Shaw, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and those role players. Throw in the fact that while Duncan may have 4 rings, he has never been on a dominant team that could go back-to-back. Not to take anything away from the Spurs, but they were fortunate to take advantage of O’Neal in ’03 when he gained that weight, and again fortunate that D-Wade and Shaq were injured in that Detroit series, and yet again when the Suns lost their minds in ’07. Duncan was never the dominant force that O’Neal was. Nobody since Jordan was, which is why we have never seen another back-to-back Champion, let alone a three-peat.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Young Chris MP3

    Also, would Kobe Bryant be the second option to Tim Duncan? Shaq never was until the final 4 or 5 mins of the game. Also, if the Cavs do end up exploring a trade to obtain Shaq this offseason, Lebron will likely win 2 or 3 and Shaq will end up leaving with 6 or 7 rings.

  • Infama

    What about vintage VC teaming up with Shaq? I’m sure they could of also threepeated.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    “we have never seen another back-to-back Champion” Hakeem Olajuwon would like to meet you behind the woodshed. Especially since he swept Shaq for one of those titles.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    i’m tired of all this “oh coach said that..he won’t come tell me in my face” crap, wether it’s lebron, wallace, shaq, whoever. They DONT HAVE TO say it to anyone in their face. That’s what they saw out there, that’s what they pointed out, it’s basketball. Players need to stop getting offended, it’s not like they were called anything they aren’t. Stop flopping and maybe people will stop calling it that.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    and here is a link to a new shane karaoke vid, with a guest appearance by Scola: http://bbs.clutchfans.net/showthread.php?t=169634&page=1&pp=20

  • http://twitter.com/TH3_R3AL_CHRIS Young Chris MP3

    Myles: I thought it was understood when I said “Nobody since Jordan was” that I meant since the Bulls 3-peat. But I’ll give you that and take it to the 3-peat. There has been no back-to-back Champ since Shaq’s Lakers, though.

  • http://twitter.com/TH3_R3AL_CHRIS Young Chris MP3

    Since the Lakers* 3-peat. Spurs, Detroit, Miami, and my beloved Boston Celtics have been unable to defend after winning the chip.

  • http://hoops4life.com overtime

    Like the ideas that Joe.R put forward. Pietrus was a key on that play…he went a little too far when chasing Pavlovic…if hed been just a few feet behind that, Mo would have had to lob or bounce to even get the ball to Lebron, making it an incredibly harder shot…or Pavlovic gets a shot from half-court, which could easily still be contested

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Lang Lang!
    I was asking about the Kobe scenario on another thread today! This is a topic close to my heart right now – I really think he could opt out if it’s perceived that this post run was a “failure”, certainly if Phil Jackson and his high char aren’t on the sideline things could get very different and in terms of guys like Lamar or Ariza, they’ve really bolstered good reps for themselves again and I wouldn’t be surprised if we here more about these guys ‘seeing what options are on the table’… interesting. I call Shaq a better player than Kobe…
    ALSO… Is it just me or could we be soon discussing the severe drop off in talent on both Cleveland and the Lakers’ benches this post season?!

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    RJ’s champions league comment was gold!
    (lord i hate me some Christiano Ronaldo. prissy punk)

  • http://www.galatasaray.org madamerica

    Cavs in 5!

  • http://www.sprint.com/pre dma

    it’s one thing when them foreigners flop. but it’s a complete disgrace when lebron flops. and yes, kobe is a foreigner.

  • sko

    Kobe could take less money. We hear more often these days about the veterans who come to contenders for less money for their last shot a t a ring, Kobe’s last shot is coming sometime in the next 5 yrs, if not sooner

  • http://slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    Kobe and LeBron could both opt out – when neither wins it all this year.

  • Igor

    Lang Whitaker is a fool!

  • Dave

    If Lakers don’t get it this year PJ walks.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Myles: regarding the Kobe or Tmac for the ring 3peat, I think I’m taking Tracy.
    During that period, in my honest (and suprisingly), unbiased opinion, I take Mac.
    It’s never appeared until perhaps this year (and it is touch-and-go) that Tracy has had the ego and personality.. ‘issues’ that Kobe has had – starting from his ‘white-anting’ games to then play hero in his H.S career.
    If you put Tracy circa 2001 on that squad you get a 6’8 shooting guard instead of a 6’6 one, Tracy was just as athletic, and is a far better passer than Kobe was (and still is).
    McGrady is (arguably) a better ball-handler than Bryant, and has the ability to play the three as well.
    The Lakers don’t lose anything defensively either, as T-Mac was the defensive stopper on the Toronto teams, while Vince was the offensive juggernaut. So, he brings the ability to guard multiple positions as well…
    Great question/debate regardless.
    Also, Tracy and Timmy Duncan? or Shaq and Kobe?

  • http://www.hoopmixtape.com Simon S.Y Lawy

    DAMN IT, what do you mean second best all around player?? HE’S the BEST ALL AROUND PLAYER. LANG is fool …

  • Prentice Mcgruder

    When was the last time a team reached the finals playing half the season without their all-star point guard?

  • http://myspace.com/edilvia_da_best edilvia

    KOBE, come to CHICAGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Whatever

    “2) What was Rashard Lewis doing on the play? He’s standing about a yard back, watching halfheartedly”

    Rashard Lewis is a halfhearted player. That half is dedicated to shooting wide open 3′s. This guy is as soft as fresh doodoo and makes Dirk look like Dwight Howard on the boards. He also has a very low basketball IQ.

    All you had to do was front Lebron and make them throw the ball over after Hedo stopped the lob instead of letting him pop directly to the top. Take the chance at OT instead of a 3. Hedo has no D anyway.

  • illydiva

    The thing about flopping is it looks that much worse when you have floppy hair (see Gasol, Varejao). I think this is what keeps the league from enforcing the rule if there is one on the books.

  • bulldog

    Any flop is POSSIBLLLLLLLLE!!! (Sincerely, The Boston Celtics)

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    Great links mang.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    Lang….i know you still want the clip of deke on conan, not that i have it, but if you have any connections at all with NBC or whoever, wouldn’t this be the best time to try to get them to pull it? With conan switching they may bust out a “best moments” episode…hopefully its planned already…

  • merv

    correction: kobe is the BEST player in the NBA…

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Jordan was ten times harder on his teammates, Scottie wanted to leave, Kerr punched, Cartwright threatened to harm Jordan legs, I remember Bulls heads, saying Jordan ran everyone off except the tough guys, they stayed, THIS is what Kobe wants and needs, if the Lakers had some tough player-they would be waiting to play in the Finals now. We have soft play when I want Odom, Bynum-overrated, Pau wants ball-but last night at key moments looked to pass, even Kobe had to tell him to try to score, but wants ball and I hear a article about Kobe doin work- Kobe hard on teammates DUH!!. TMac can’t touch VC how can he touch Kobe, dummies, TD to me is the better player than Shaq, TD would not worry about stats and being call the best player on the team, he did what he had to do to win. Shaq wanted to be head hocha forever, but didn’t put in work to be better. Russell, Hakeem, Chamberlin, Kareem, TD and to me David Robinson, I would take over Shaq. Not even top 5-Shaq. Kobe is the best player proved it last night, Lang lets see your best player Lebron change his game for the Cavs to win.

  • http://mindyourbusiness@nosybutt.com Allenp

    I’ve heard the TMAc and Kobe argument before.
    I think everybody looked at TMac’s talent and thought he was better than Kobe, but his heart was always, ALWAYS suspect.