Brandon Bass: healthy Kobe still ‘arguably the best player in the game’
It looks like new Laker Brandon Bass wants to make sure his tenure in Los Angeles starts off on the right foot. And that means observing the Golden Rule of Lakerland: “Thou shalt speak highly of the Mamba.”
In an interview with Terrance Harris of the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Thursday, Bass kissed up a bit to local legend and new teammate Kobe Bryant. “We have arguably the best player in the game still,” the former Boston Celtic said. “When he is healthy he is a monster still. If he is healthy, he’s right up there with the best players in the league, that’s LeBron or whoever the best players in the league are. When Kobe is healthy, 19 years in the game he is still elite.”
To quote Eric the Clown from Seinfeld, “YOU’RE LIVING IN THE PAST, MAN!!!” Maybe Bass is simply engaging in a futile campaign to get Kobe to share the ball with him next season. Because if he has any semblance of rational thought whatsoever, it’s unlikely that even Bass believes the words coming out of his mouth.
No one can doubt Bryant’s cemented status amongst the all-time greats of the National Basketball Association. His resume speaks for itself (seriously, like, to the point that it could deliver a speech atop the Mount of Olives). When Kobe hangs finally up his sneakers, he will be remembered as one of the top ten to fifteen players in basketball history. But a decaying 36-year-old superstar limping to the finish line of his career after major injuries to both his upper and lower body is an entirely different story altogether. Especially when said superstar still carries himself as if he was still the player he once was.
Heading into his 20th NBA season, Bryant has become an overwhelming net negative on the court. He’s a first-degree murderer of floor spacing and ball movement, he hoists up shots at historic levels of volume and inefficiency, and to call him a sieve on the defensive end would be quite frankly, a pretty generous assessment.
Kobe’s usage remains sky-high. But he doesn’t get to the line like he used to, he’s nowhere close to the same finisher in the paint he was in his prime, and his turnover rate goes further and further through the roof every season. The overwhelming majority of possessions he uses now (which he hoards like a TLC show) essentially end with a long-2 or a live-ball turnovers. Not great, Bob.
In fact, the Lakers last year, as a team, proved nearly five points per 100 possessions better on defense when Bryant was on the bench as opposed to when he was on the court. That number jumped to an absurd TWELVE points per 100 possessions better on the offense end.
We’re moving into an NBA that is placing a growing emphasis on efficient shot attempts, sharing the basketball, and spreading/maximizing every square inch of the floor. And that’s a reality that has simply rendered Bryant an anachronism, a mere caricature of the greatness he once espoused. While Bryant’s fundamentals, basketball IQ, and competitive fire will never wane, his hollow numbers are just no longer conducive to winning basketball in 2015.
Bass’ comments may be a nice, albeit symbolic, courtesy to ensure that he gets along with #24 by respecting his (once) upper-echelon greatness. But they couldn’t be further from the truth. Still, if it helps him get along with Kobe in the locker room and on the court next year, by all means, eat your heart out.
With Bryant’s long-term future up in the air and his seemingly non-existent relationship with his new teammates, it should be fun to see how this 2015-16 season plays out for the Lakers.
We’ll see if Bass’ sentiments change once the season starts. My bet is on the first time he calls for the ball after his man leaves him open to double Kobe, only to watch helplessly as the Black Mamba still launches his trademark contested turnaround fadeaway over two defenders.
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com*