Each Nike ad touting Kobe Bryant's so-called system touts his driven quest to achieve absolute greatness.
And after seeing him push Chinese singer Wang Leehorn to reach his potential, chastise motivational speaker Tony Robbins for asking a question and challenge Jerry Rice to dominate during post-retirement, I can't help but wonder if Pau Gasol should be the next guest.
Gasol has recently lamented how Mike Brown's offensive system forces him to become more of a facilitator than a low-post presence. Bryant and Brown have mostly argued that Gasol needs to play with more aggression. Gasol's recent play showed all parties were right to some degree. Hence, why such a Kobe System Nike ad featuring El Spaniard would be interesting. Based on player tendencies and recent statements, the ad might go something like this....
The Lakers and Clippers say they don't have a rivalry.
But they sure do act like it.
The Lakers' 96-91 victory Wednesday over the Clippers ended with one image that defines the heightened animosity. After Clippers forward Blake Griffin fouled Lakers forward Pau Gasol with 1.1 seconds left, Clippers guard Chris Paul attempted to swipe the ball from Gasol's hands while the two sniped at each other. Kobe Bryant also stepped in, jawing continuously at the Clippers guard, as Gasol walked to the free-throw line.
Gasol then put his hand on top of Paul's hand, which prompted the Clippers guard to shove Gasol's hand away and tap him on his head.
"I got a son of my own," Paul said. "I don't know if Pau got kids, but don't touch the top of my head like I'm one of your kids. I don't know what his intentions were, and it doesn't matter. I don't know if he's got kids, but I'm not one of them."
Gasol appeared amused that Paul took offense at the incident.
"I'm sorry he felt that way," Gasol said. "I do that all the time with my teammates. It's OK. If I touch your shoulder or back, there's nothing mean about it. It is what it is."
And what is that exactly? From a neutral perspective, Paul acted pretty immature for trying to swipe the ball away. Gasol acted pretty immature for rubbing his head.
"Chris is chippy," Bryant said. "I'm extremely chippy and that DNA spreads to the rest of the team. That's how it is."
And how it is with Gasol and Paul went beyond just the overall contentiousness the Lakers and Clippers displayed in a game that featured six technicals, one flagrant foul and one ejection. When the Lakers played the Clippers in two preseason games, Gasol admitted his refusal to acknowledge Paul. The Lakers initially acquired Paul in a trade that would've resulted in Gasol going to Houston, but the NBA rejected the deal.
Instead, they find themselves on both sides of a brewing L.A. rivalry.
"I'm not much of a talker on the floor," Gasol said. "I play hard and try to do my best to help my team. Obviously a couple guys are talking. So I'll talk back."
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (10-8) host the Clippers (9-5) Wednesday at Staples Center:
1. There will be chippiness. Whether the Lakers and Clippers want to acknowledge a rivalry or not, it's indisputable that the animosity heightens when these two teams meet. So expect there to be plenty of hard fouls, technicals, elbows and animosity thrown all around. The key for the Lakers involves channeling that properly. If they get too consumed with it, it could result in too many Clipper free-throws and overall distract their focus. If they play physical for the sake of sharpening their defense and energy, that approach will give the Lakers an edge.
2. The Lakers meet challenges at point guard regardless of Chris Paul.The Times' Broderick Turner mentions it's likely Paul will play against the Lakers after missing the last five games because of a strained left hamstring. But it's not guaranteed. Surely Paul's presence even in limited form will give the Lakers fits. They frankly don't have the speed to keep up with him. With Steve Blake still sidelined because of a fracture of the cartilage connecting his rib and sternum, the Lakers don't have the depth, either. But the Lakers' problems at matching up with the Clippers at point guard hardly confines to Paul.
Clippers guard Mo Williams has averaged 25.66 points per game in the last three coming off the bench in Paul's absence, while Clippers guard Chauncey Billups nailed a game-winner against Dallas. While Derek Fisher matched Billups with a game winner against Dallas, rookie guard Darius Morris can hardly match Williams' play. Morris remains unpredictable with his excessive dribbling and decision-making. He has potential, but it's hardly a good thing at this point that he's playing more minutes during Blake's absence.
In some ways, Lakers forward Josh McRoberts is having a difficult time adjusting to Los Angeles.
Immediately after walking into a Costco on a recent Saturday, the Indiana transplant ditched his shopping cart and fled to his car. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound power forward was intimidated by the throngs of people buzzing around in an aisle.
In other ways, McRoberts seems right at home.
Because of his love for high socks, he's drawing comparisons to former Laker Michael Cooper. Lakers announcer Bill Macdonald even called him "The white Coop" at a recent event at Staples Center.
He's also drawing comparisons to Kurt Rambis, which McRoberts said is a "good" nickname.
"At least people can say it around my grandmother and she won't get too upset," said McRoberts, who acknowledged he's been called much worse names but declined to divulge specifics.
McRoberts is averaging 3.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes with the Lakers this season but perhaps is best known for his jumping ability.
McRoberts reportedly has the highest vertical leap on the team.
That stat has even given Kobe Bryant some pause.
After watching a video clip of McRoberts jamming a reverse dunk off an alley-oop from Metta World Peace against Dallas, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said that Bryant turned to the team and said, '"Wow, the game is changing.
"I've never seen a black guy throw an alley-oop to a white guy before.'"
The Lakers enthusiastically enjoyed their time off, as Andrew Bynum slept in, Matt Barnes spent time with his twin sons and everyone on the team finally rested their tired legs.
But once the Lakers set foot in the team's practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday morning, reality awaited them. The Lakers (10-8) enter Wednesday's game against the Clippers (9-5) with a three-game losing streak. They haven't scored 100 points for 11 consecutive games. And most important, the Lakers have no sense of their identity nearly a quarter of the way through a compacted 66-game season.
"The biggest thing is I'm still searching and looking on both ends of the floor," Coach Mike Brown said."I understand it's a process. The process has taken a little longer than you would hope. But this is a long-term thing for me. It's not a short-term thing."
But no one on the Lakers says he knows what the short term entails. Brown shot down any notion of making any lineup changes but said he "always has to keep that into consideration." Brown mostly lamented the team's inconsistent defense that allowed Indiana to rally Sunday from a double-digit deficit, but Bynum, Barnes and Pau Gasol alike argued the team's problems point more to their offense.
"It comes down to the little things and not just relying on our defense to win," Gasol said. "But also to do enough offensively with the weapons that we do have to win ballgames."
Kobe Bryant has suffered injury after injury. He's logged a high odometer rating. And nearly all the other NBA teams have loaded their rosters to bring him down.
Oh it's worked at times. The Lakers' sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals during the 2011 NBA playoffs illustrated that. It may continue as the Lakers (10-8) now struggle to remain on top with a coaching change and new personnel. Heck, when the Lakers host the Clippers on Wednesday, some will view the latter as the better team when in previous years they've often been nothing more than a punch line.
But Bryant has adapted. In his new Kobe System Nike ad, he explains to a confused Serena Williams how his adaptation somehow compares to why dinosaurs became extinct.
"Adaptation is not about reaction," Bryant said. "The dinosaurs reacted. The meteor adapted. The meteor won."
Of course, some could throw the punch line back at Bryant that he's a dinosaur too, and that it's only a matter of time before everyone else adapts too. Fair enough, but give credit to Bryant for continuing the fight. He sought out innovative procedures on his surgically repaired right knee and sprained left ankle. Bryant receives pregame injections for the torn ligament in his right wrist. And he's carried the Lakers with a league-leading 30.5 points per game.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown should adopt the adaptation part of the Kobe System too. That involves Brown playing Bryant fewer minutes than the 38.2 minutes per game he's averaging at this point. Simply put, that strategy has proven to be reactive toward the Lakers' current struggles instead of being adaptive toward the big picture. The consequences appear obvious. Just like the dinosaurs soon became extinct, so too could Bryant's current dominance once the postseason starts.
Tweet of the Day: "Just saying: Pau spent a lot of time outside the paint yesterday during a 2Q stint with both Bynum and Kobe on the bench." -- ZachLowe_SI (Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe)
Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "This is the dilemma ... having a nice guy like Pau avoids friction with the alpha male ... but nice guys rarely demand the ball in the post aggresively ... I don't think Kobe will refuse those who demand the ball as long they make the play ... on the other hand having team mate like westbrook in OKC could create potential frictions ..." -- Binsar Sitorus
-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at email@example.com
Photo: Pau Gasol is fouled by Denver Nuggets center Chris Andersen while receiving a pass during a game at Staples Center last month. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
If there's someone who needs to learn about the Kobe System the most, well, it's Kobe Bryant's teammates.
Aside from his spectacular scoring, the Lakers' offense hardly looks pretty. Mike Brown's system looks horribly unorganized. No one consistently makes the right reads and cuts. And the whole idea that the Lakers upgraded their outside shooting by adding Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy and having an improved Steve Blake remains hogwash.
Add everything up and the numbers don't lie. The Lakers haven't scored 100 points for 11 consecutive games. The only time they fared worse happened in the 2002-03 season, when Shaquille O'Neal famously healed his toe on "company time" and saw his teammates lose 12 straight. The Lakers shoot a league-worst. 25.6% from three-point range. And forward Pau Gasol continues to regress in the post partly because he's moving away from it.
So forget about Bryant's telling Aziz Ansari in his new Nike ad about evolving his attack mentality from quick to strong. The Lakers star should stress that to his teammates. But considering the system and the aging roster Bryant has around him, it won't be as easy for the Lakers to execute as it would be just for them to wear Bryant's shoes.
Out of nowhere, Lakers guard Derek Fisher swiped the ball from Darren Collison's hands and the Lakers appeared ready to draw up a game-winning play.
Instead, the Lakers improvised with disastrous results. After encountering multiple defenders, Kobe Bryant made a baseline pass to Pau Gasol, who immediately gave it back to Bryant as he cut to the right wing. Bryant beat another double team by sending the ball up to Fisher.
"I didn't want their defense to get set," Brown said of not calling a timeout. "I started to call it and then I pulled back. Obviously in hindsight, I should've called it whether Kobe had the ball or not."
The result: Fisher drove into the lane and appeared to air ball a floating shot in the lane that went out of bounds, denying the Lakers a potentially game-winning play in their 98-96 loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers. In reality, the play was actually a lob to Bynum, who like everyone else thought Fisher was putting up a shot.
"I probably should've looked to try to finish it," Fisher said, "and then maybe allow [Bynum] the opportunity to get an offensive rebound."
That didn't happen, and it represented one of many late-game miscues that shows the Lakers (10-8) have problems beyond their three-game losing streak. They still don't know how to execute on the court.
After Collison's free throws on the ensuing possession gave the Pacers a 97-94 lead with 8.7 seconds remaining, the Lakers blew another late-game play. Gasol dumped off a pass to Bryant as he curled to the top of the key. With no one else appearing open behind the perimeter, Bryant launched a long three-pointer from straight away. But the shot hit back iron.
1. The Lakers suffered late-game miscues in their 98-96 loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers. There's lot of plays that the Lakers could've executed better at the end of the game. Matt Barnes' missed three-pointer could've given the Lakers a definitive lead in the final minute. Pacers center Roy Hibbert grabbed a late-game rebound and made a shot over Andrew Bynum. Derek Fisher air-balled a floater and Bynum let the loose ball slip through his hands. Lakers Coach Mike Brown didn't call a timeout on that sequence. Kobe Bryant missed a long three-pointer that would've tied the score with 2.4 seconds left.
2. Pau Gasol is playing too much of a facilitator. Credit Gasol's versatility and ability to adapt. With Bynum an increased role in the post, Gasol has relied on his his play-making abilities and mid-range jumper to remain relevant. The former quality proved to be magnificant as Gasol dropped 10 assists, and could've had 11 if his Bynum converted off his one-timed behind-the-head pass. But his eight points on four for 12 shooting left a lot to be desired because most of them came off mid-range jumpers. It appears Gasol's losing his aggressiveness to score, while relying too heavily on his ability to facilitate.
3. Where's the Lakers' perimeter defense? This game wouldn't be close if the Lakers defended the perimeter. The Pacers stayed in contention, thanks to a 10-of-18 mark from three-point range. That included Indiana scoring 35 points in the second quarter and going on an 18-12 run after most of the starters entered the lineup at the 6:13 mark. While the Lakers' defensive communication and help looked sharp in the paint, they remained inconsistent on closing out.