There will be no "dunk bounties" on Greg Oden tomorrow night
At least none talked about publicly. But judging by the lack of winks, cocky smiles and elbow nudges, I believe the sincerity of disinterest expressed in embarrassing Portland's Greg Oden during tomorrow's season opener, much less anyone offering a grand like Kevin Martin won for dunking on a rook being hyped as the game's next great defensive presence (although if you watch the video, K-Mart didn't so much dunk on Oden as next to him). And even if money did change hands over a sweet throw down, Derek Fisher wouldn't see it as teammates paying to debunk "The legend of the Bearded One" as simply a continuation of a tradition where young 'uns pay their dues.
"I think that's more about being a rookie than it is defensive reputation, " laughed Fish. "In particular, rookies that get a lot of fanfare early, certain guys just get excited about welcoming them to the NBA."
Truth be told, most Lakers don't seem all that intrigued by
Oden to begin with. Not because of any disrespect towards the Ohio
State product, but because they've only really seen him in a Buckeye
uni. Yes, as Phil Jackson acknowledged, Oden is likely to be a paint
deterrent even as a rookie, but until consistent evidence is displayed
at this level, hold off on going gaga. "I haven't seen him
play yet, so it's pretty hard to say," replied Vlad
Radmanovic when asked if Oden has a defensive
rep that proceeds his time in the L. "Not that I know of," agreed Farmar when
asked the same question. Kobe didn't even bother feigning interest in the first meeting between high profile seven footers. When asked if he was curious about Oden going up against Andrew Bynum, Kobe
responded with a casual "no."
If anyone ever wonders why the players are the players and the suits who hype every marketing aspect of the NBA are the suits who hype every marketing aspect of the NBA, there you have it.
In the eyes of some Laker Nation residents, there are a fair amount of players that, like Oden, haven't truly earned a defensive rep, either. Perhaps that will change in 2009, given the markedly increased emphasis on lockdown during preseason compared to previous training camps. Fish mentioned that aspect today and it's not the first time such a description has been given, which prompted me to inquire why that focus wouldn't be as heavily stressed every October by Phil. To some degree, as Lamar Odom explained (and I agree), if the offense breaks down, the subsequent turnovers, scrambling and extended time spent on the other side of the ball will automatically lead to a boatload of points surrendered. Thus, time spent drilling the triangle is necessary. But it's also perhaps taken some time for Phil Jackson to recognize the need to instruct accordingly with a younger team lacking a surplus of savvy.
"In a professional basketball setting, there's not necessarily the time or the ability to teach every aspect of the game from scratch," explained Fisher. "You have to prioritize things. In the past, we had smart, high I.Q. veteran guys that knew how to play the game. I think that was something that Phil was accustomed to in Chicago as well. His best guys were his best defensive guys. I think it was even an adjustment for him, having younger guys and having maybe Kobe as the best guy on the team and your best defender, possibly. But then, who's behind him? Who's that next guy that is a great defensive player that can just make things happen. I think as a coaching staff, they also question themselves and try to figure out what happened and didn't happen last year. It's something that they brought to us. They wanted to put an emphasis on it and we were open to it as a team."
"He's really sensed the need to teach a little more," nodded Kobe in agreement of PJ's approach tweaked in accordance to a less defensively intuitive roster. I asked if it was a matter of emphasizing the importance of continual effort or literally breaking down the X's and O's. In Kobe's mind, it's mostly about the drawing board. "A lot of it is technique. It's rotations. Understanding where guys are coming from. Having a defensive system that you play out of that involves all five guys. Once you have the system, then it becomes an effort thing. If you have effort without the system, you have a bunch of guys running around getting cut apart."
For those wondering, I wanted to get Phil's take, but after failing to box out a good spot among the sea of cameraman during his short Q & A, I wasn't anywhere close enough to grab his attention. But I'll try to work it in tomorrow.
On a fun note, Kobe talked about his "Guitar Hero" spot with Tony Hawk, Michal Phelps and A-Rod. Some writers and fans have expressed surprise at Kobe letting his hair down in such public fashion, but to the Mamba, it was no different than time spent acting silly with his daughters. Besides, the "acting" technique was pretty simple. "I was just moving around like I was drunk," quipped the MVP. As a "Guitar Hero/Rock Band" enthusiast myself (I'm best at bass or drums, but can sing the HELL outta "Black Hole Sun," even though the absurdly long track leaves my throat bleeding), I was curious about Kobe's prowess.
"I played in between breaks and I did okay, if I stick to the songs I know," grinned Bryant. "Beat it." "Thriller" Classic stuff like that. I can sing it, but playing the instruments is the hard part. But we got a game coming to the house. My girls and I, we'll be messing around with that a lot." As it turns out, Kobe had more trouble with the slide-pop move upon entering the frame (even great athletes can struggle with hitting a mark while in beat). That and donning the underwear, which he immediately nixed. "I can't trash talk and be the alpha dog around here if I'm in a commercials with chonies on. That's just not going on."
And finally, for those looking to rock their Sun Yue jerseys tomorrow night at Staples, unless it's literally your only one, I'd perhaps switch to your "Bryant," "Bynum" or even the "Mbenga." But Phil already said that the Chinese import won't be suiting up tomorrow night.
- Derek Fisher, Part I: Download derek_fisher_practice_10.27.08.mp3
- Derek Fisher, Part II: Download fisher_2_10.27.08.mp3
- Vlad Radmanovic (with a hilarious line about the media at the end): Download vlad_radmanovic_10.27.08.mp3
- Lamar Odom: Download lamar_odom_10.27.08.mp3
- Phil Jackson, Part I: Download phil_jackson_1_10.27.08.mp3
- Phil Jackson, Part II: Download phil_jackson_2_10.27.08.mp3
- Jordan Farmar: Download jordan_farmar_10.27.08.mp3
- Kobe Bryant, Part I: Download kobe_bryant_1_10.27.08.mp3
- Kobe Bryant, Part II: Download kobe_bryant_2_10.27.08.mp3