Our editors determined that this was the game of the night, and rightfully so, and thus, I did the Dime lead.  You can read here about what I saw as the main storyline from last night’s win:

With the Rockets trailing by just four, Kobe Bryant checked in at the 4:23 mark and proceeded to miss a 3-pointer, a jumper and a fadeaway, and had the ball stolen away from him over the course of the next two minutes, during which Houston took the lead for good. While Kobe did recover to hit three awe-inspiring jumpers to close the game, the damage had already been done. Houston had sealed a 107-104 victory at the Toyota Center. The decision to abandon Sessions, who finished with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting, was baffling.

Still, while Kobe may have caused that loss, he is one hell of a spectacle – the local faithful got more than their money’s worth:

Bryant dazzled the locals with an assortment of moves early on, going behind his back on one occasion to set up a left-handed jumphook. When he spun baseline to split two Rockets, the crowd got a taste of the greatness they so desperately craved. It was a reminder of why people come to watch.

I spoke with another writer at length last night about this, but there’s just something about watching a guy like that that you simply can’t put into words. He’s not Jordan, no, but you have to remind yourself, “enjoy this.  This is this generation’s guy and it won’t be around much longer.”  And ultimately, as I wrote for the mothership, men of his ilk are why we, or at least I, watch.  I like winning teams, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s why I’ve never really been able to get into college hoops much.  I watch basketball for individual greatness.  I’m just being honest – that’s why I fell in love with this sport.  While obviously, I’m nowhere near as good as anyone on the Rockets, in your own mind, you can sort of conceive of yourself practicing enough to be able to do the things they do at your own level.  But Kobe, and guys like that, just let you marvel…you could never do that.  Hit fallaway baseline jumpers with three men draped on you.  Hit hanging double-pump 3’s.   You move to the edge of your seat when this guy has the ball. It’s just art.

That was the great irony of last night.  Kobe might have lost his team the game. But he reminded us of why we watch.

in musings

Post-game interviews: 3.21.12

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in multimedia

[video] Yao Ming still has it

in multimedia

Lakers @ Rockets, 7PM at Toyota Center

Check out my preview in anticipation of tonight’s meeting with the Lakers for ESPNLA’s Land o’Lakers blog:

The Rockets lost the game in Phoenix when Goran Dragic went to the bench early in the first half with foul trouble. Courtney Lee has taken on the bulk of the backup playmaking duties but he isn’t a point guard. Courtney Fortson–signed to a 10-day contract–has been horrific in limited minutes. When Dragic sits, the Rockets fall apart. They need Lowry back as soon as possible if they want to remain this race.

in game coverage

On Fortson, Ariza, Morris

Very tough loss yesterday from the good guys.  Suddenly, Phoenix has closed the gap in the standings.  Unless Kyle Lowry gets back quickly, this will be an uphill battle.  A few thoughts from last night’s game:

  • Courtney Fortson has been pretty painful to watch in his two appearances thus far, and by that I mean that I teeter on the edge of cardiac arrest when he dribbles.  He bounces the ball so high that you feel he’s on the verge of losing it at any moment.  With that said, the kid is no doubt nervous and you really root for him to do well – he’s basically a normal guy trying to make it with the stars.
  • That stretch last night when Dragic sat in the first half–and the game was lost–illustrates the difficulty of playing point guard in the NBA.  I think back to the Trevor Ariza saga and realize that most people don’t really understand how difficult it is to create shots and initiate an offense.  People see a guy like Courtney Lee who can bring the ball up comfortably and seems to have functional handles and naturally assume he can run an offense.  This is what happened when the team signed Ariza – many people thought he could be like McGrady.  The logic was hopelessly flawed.  Playing point/creating/initiating in the NBA requires so much more than just dribbling, from vision, to awareness, to a heightened level of body control.  (For much, much, much more commentary on this topic, see my ‘Assessing Ariza’ series.)
  • Marcus Morris once again saw minutes with the team playing short-handed.  He hit a nice turnaround on the baseline, but overall, like the previous night, didn’t do much offensively.  He played pretty well defensively, however, which was encouraging as the issue of whether he could keep pace with perimeter players was the primary concern.  He was able to stay in front of Jared Dudley and for the most part, Michael Redd.  While Redd did score on a foul, it’s not an issue – he’s a shooting guard; not even a small forward.  Some observations or I guess, affirmations, on Morris – he doesn’t have that athletic explosion.  No burst.  We knew this though.  A lot of rookies are able to come in and impress and earn more playing time just by scrapping, without the ball.  I think back to Carl Landry’s rookie year when he came in and dunked back every offensive board in sight, earning himself a spot in the rotation.  Morris can’t do that because he doesn’t have the athleticism to get those loose balls.  For him to be effective, he will need the ball, and therein lies the problem because as a rookie, he isn’t going to get the ball.  Another example: Chandler Parsons and Patterson earned their spots by playing smart defense and picking their spots offensively.  Marcus Morris’ value is as a one-on-one offensive player.  See now why they kept him in the D-League?  The few times he was able to pin his man down in the post, he looked pretty good.  So calm down on Morris – it’s too soon to worry.

in essays

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