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Q&A: Who is Kobe's likely successor?
With LeBron’s status as both an admirable person and an all-time great player lately so reduced, could Kevin Durant be the true successor to Kobe? -- Adam Thompson
Yes and no. Yes because Durant is a high-volume scorer who’s not afraid to take clutch shots, who always plays with great intensity, and who like the younger Kobe takes too many ill-advised shots.
No, because Durant’s defense — such as it is — only relies on his length and his athleticism. Plus, he lacks the strength to be able to absorb the kind of ultra-physical defense that Ron Artest used to limit his effectiveness in the playoffs. Nor does Durant have the court vision that Bryant often demonstrates.
Of course, after only three NBA seasons, Durant is still learning the pro game. Although he’s far behind where Kobe is now, there’s every reason to believe that Durant will get stronger and wiser in seasons to come.
For James to supplant Kobe, the Heat has to win a championship ASAP, while Durant “only” has to lead his team into the Finals. However, in order for LBJ to inherit Kobe’s majesty he’ll have to do something that he’s never done before — become a dominant, game-changing, game-winning force in the late rounds of the playoffs. He may or may not have the on-court mind-set and willfulness to do this.
Meanwhile, the Thunder seem to be only one good big man away from pushing the Lakers even farther than they did last spring — and even perhaps dethroning the defending champs. Given that Durant and his young teammates — Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden — also have more time to grow than do the Heat’s super luminaries, the long-range future might ultimately belong to them.
However, given that the Heat will probably win a title before Oklahoma City does, LeBron will surely have to share the credit with at least Dwyane Wade and perhaps with Chris Bosh. And if LeBron has to share the spotlight, Durant unquestionably is and will continue to be The Man for the Thunder.
For the present, however, KD is strictly a dynamic point-maker.
Yet, for most NBA fans, Durant wears the white hat and LeBron is the villain. So it also remains to be seen how James will react to being booed everywhere but in Miami.
In the end, the identity of Kobe’s successor will come down to who has more of a killer instinct. And who wins what, how soon, and for how long.
With Amar'e gone and the new additions of Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress to the Phoenix roster, how do you see the Suns performing this season? None of them is possibly as good as Amar'e but they certainly add some new dimensions to the Suns' offense, right? -- Srinivas Iyer
Turkoglu is smart and can knock down long-distance jumpers, but he’s also slow and rather defenseless. Moreover, he needs the ball in his hands to maximize his effectiveness. Nash will run screen/fans with him with great success, but Turkoglu is absolutely no threat to score in the low post.
Warrick is a slasher with excellent pull-up and turnaround jumpers, but whose perimeter shooting is weak. He’ll be terrific on the run. At the same time, he can’t pass, handle or defend and will need Nash to feed him one-gulp cookies in half-court sets.
Childress is another guy who’s good on the go. His speed and quickness make him a creative finisher, and his jumpers are surprisingly accurate. He’s the only one of these three who can play acceptable defense, but he isn’t much of a passer. It could easily turn out that, if he can stay healthy, Childress might be the most useful of this particular group.
However, the destiny of the Suns is entirely dependent on Steve Nash. And, from what I hear from an ex-player with a solid connection to the team, Nash was acutely despondent after Phoenix was eliminated by the Lakers last spring. After all, he’ll be 37 early next February and understandably apparently believes (but will never publicly admit) that -- especially sans Stoudemire -- his chances to win a championship in Phoenix are officially defunct.
As ever, the Suns will be good. As ever, they won’t be good enough.
With the league overflowing with so many outrageously selfish players, could you identify some of the NBA’s class acts? -- Trevor Dobbins
Absolutely. Here are only some of the guys whose classy way of deporting themselves is not an act:
Shane Battier, Chauncey Billups, Steve Blake, Matt Bonner, the Collins brothers, Nick Collison, Goran Dragic, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Jordan Farmar, Derek Fisher, Jeff Foster, Adonal Foyle, the Gasol brothers, Manu Ginobili, the Graham brothers, Chuck Hayes, George Hill, Grant Hill, Kirk Hinrich, Juwan Howard, Jared Jeffries, D.J. Mbenga, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Anthony Parker, J.J. Redick, Derrick Rose, Brian Scalabrine, Joe Smith, Etan Thomas, Ronny Turiaf, Dwyane Wade and Yao Ming.
No matter what their respective talent levels might be, these guys take full responsibility for their mistakes, never hide behind lame excuses, behave like adults, always compete, are coachable, intelligent and remarkably humble, as well as being exceptional teammates.
In a three-on-three game who wins: James, Wade and Bosh vs. Jordan, Pippen and Rodman? -- Andrew, Indianapolis
No contest. But first, here are the rules. Defensive rebounds, steals and blocked shots must all be “retrieved” past the 3-point line. Score by 3s and 2s with fouls-in-the-act penalized by two free throws with no rebounders and the fouling team then getting possession. After six team fouls, the penalty is a bonus 1-point free throw. Losers out, 25 points wins.
Pippen would prevent LeBron from scoring at will. Rodman would totally shut down Bosh. And MJ would have his way with Wade. Also, LBJ’s team would be at a distinct disadvantage because there’s no fast-breaking in a half-court game.
In a seven-game series and each player in his prime, the ex-Bulls triumph over the present-Heat in five games with their average margin being five points.
Following baseball's lead, the sabermetricians are invading the NBA. Are there "new" statistics that you like and find useful? Are there stats you hate? Are there stats that don't exist but you would like to see? -- Dan Green, Los Angeles
Here’s an undifferentiated glom of my answers:
A player’s plus-and-minus numbers in any given game are interesting, but ignore the importance of team play. Separate field-goal percentages should be recorded for shots in the paint, and separate defensive rebounding stats should be tallied for those caroms snatched when a player has inside position during an attempted free throw. A player’s rebounds-per-minute are more important than his total per-game average.
Other numbers that should be officially recorded include:
• Blocks that do and do not directly lead to a change of possession.
• Turnovers that directly lead to breakaway scores.
• Points made in early-offense situations.
• Points resulting from screen/rolls.
• Players getting credit for setting screens that lead directly to points.
• Points resulting from off-ball cuts.
• Points ultimately saved after hard and/or deliberate fouls.
• An assist being granted when a direct pass leads to a shooting foul and the shooter makes both free throws.
• Missed defensive rotations.
• Missed box-outs that result in put-backs.
• The inclusion of each player’s turnovers in the official NBA REGISTER.
• Three more court-side statisticians to keep track of all of the above.
If you have a question, comment or column idea for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.
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