Monday, March 5, 2012

2 comments Tim Keown Completely Misinterprets Kobe Bryant's Comments

I have started a Fantasy Baseball league and Fantasy NCAA Tournament Bracket in Yahoo if anyone cares to join. The league ID is 76959 and password is "eckstein" for the Fantasy Baseball league and the league ID is 5876 and password is "eckstein" for the NCAA Tourney bracket. We have about six spots left in the Fantasy Baseball league and feel free to give feedback on the set up of the league if you would like.

I am sure we have all heard or read about Kobe Bryant's comments directed towards Lakers management. If you haven't, take a look at the article that shows how screwed up the Lakers front office currently is. Ken Berger wrote that and it is very well written. There you go. One example of good journalism. Who says I am negative all the time?

So yes, Kobe is back at whining about the state of the Lakers team a few years after his whining resulted in the Lakers trading for Pau Gasol. Tim Keown heard Kobe's comments and either (a) wanted to have an original take on the story or (b) completely misinterpreted Kobe's comments. Since Keown's original take on the story made him look pretty silly, I am guessing Keown is misinterpreting Kobe's comments. I think you will agree.

Kobe Bryant threw down the gauntlet to Lakers management Sunday afternoon, telling those in charge to do one of two things: (1) trade Pau Gasol or (2) don't.

I think Kobe is in the right on this one. Of course beating up on Kobe Bryant is low hanging fruit for sportswriters, so the idea of acknowledging Kobe is doing his best to be a team leader and send a message to management isn't discussed at all. It's just assumed he is a huge jerk who believes Pau Gasol isn't carrying his weight on the Lakers team. I'm sure Bill Simmons has a really interesting "6 for 24" joke to go along with any future comment Kobe Bryant makes and T.J. Simers has already come out and called Kobe an asshole for calling out management. I would link the T.J. Simers article, but does anyone want to voluntarily read what he wrote? I doubt it.

Really, I blame David Stern for this whole problem. The Lakers wouldn't have to trade Gasol if Stern had allowed the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade to go through. If you want to bash someone for the Lakers current situation that resulted in Kobe's comments, then see if you can find Stern up in his ivory tower so you can blame him. He started this chain of events with his veto of the Lakers-Hornets trade.

It is assumed that Mitch Kupchak and his guys already knew their options on this one, but Bryant is there for them, just in case.

You are being snide, I get it! It's interesting Tim Keown is being snide about what Kobe's comments meant since he is about three paragraphs away from completely misinterpreting Kobe's comments.

Set aside for the moment whether Bryant should have said what he said. Set aside whether he's right.

I say he is right. It is hard to set aside whether Kobe is right or not knowing Tim Keown is about to misinterpret Kobe's comments, call Kobe a ball-hog and portray him as a person who thinks Pau Gasol is a wimp. It would be easier to ignore whether Kobe is right under the correct interpretation of his comments if the incorrect interpretation didn't reflect poorly in some ways on Kobe. So I can't ignore if Kobe was right or not in this case, because to ignore if he was right or not goes to the very heart of what his comments really meant and who they were intended towards.

Set aside the possibility that Gasol's problems extend beyond the external issues of trade talk, and that something internal -- say, Kobe's near-pathological insistence on taking every possible shot -- is part of his big sag.

This is probably very irrelevant. The Lakers won two titles with Kobe's near-pathological insistence on taking every possible shot. Why would it be a problem now?

Tim Keown refers to Gasol's "big sag" here, yet Keown will acknowledge in a few paragraphs that Gasol's play hasn't dropped off at all. Then Keown says because Gasol's play hasn't dropped off, then he hasn't been affected by the trade talk. Finally, Keown gives an example of Gasol looking at trade rumors on the Lakers' team plane, which shows he has been affected by the trade talk. This is a disaster of a column is my point.

The headlines dwell on the Kobe-rips-management angle, suggesting that Kobe's message had just one audience. On its face, that's a legitimate interpretation.

There is really only one interpretation.

"It's just tough for a player to give his all when you don't know if you're going to be here tomorrow," Bryant said. "I'd rather them not trade him at all. If they're going to do something, I wish they would just [expletive] do it. If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it."

"They" are Lakers management. It's the only interpretation, unless you believe that Kobe Bryant believes there is a higher being who controls the fate of NBA teams and controls the minds of the GM's running those teams. Now that would be news if the "they" Kobe is talking about is a higher being with this mental power over NBA teams and their front offices. Otherwise, "they" are Lakers management so that's a huge clue as to who Kobe was referring to in his comments.

But it seems to me the true target of the message was Gasol himself.

It seems to me you are very wrong.

"It's hard for Pau because of all this trade talk and all this other stuff; it's hard for him to kind of invest himself completely or immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day."

What do you hear in those words?

I hear Kobe Bryant sticking up for a teammate that has already been traded once this offseason (to the Rockets) and has been on the trade block for nearly three months now. I hear Kobe Bryant saying Pau Gasol is being affected by the trade talk and the team as a whole is tired of it.

Is Kobe really telling the Lakers -- through the media -- that the trade either needs to be made now or not made at all? (His preference, he said, was for Gasol to stay.) Or is he not-so-indirectly addressing not only management but also Gasol and his effort?

Nope, Kobe is pretty much just telling the Lakers through the media that he hasn't been updated on any of this trade talk and he would prefer it if the Lakers make a decision. Shit or get off the pot. In the (semi) words of Tony Soprano, it isn't so important what the decision is, but it is important that a decision be made in a timely fashion. That's what Kobe is saying.

Most people, whether they play for the Lakers or not, probably feel that a guy making more than $18 million a year (as Gasol is) can put aside the rumblings from the front office and manage to give an undivided effort a few times a week.

And Gasol has done exactly that. He is averaging 16.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. Kobe was probably being hyperbolic in an effort to get Lakers management to make a move or don't make one at all. I don't think Kobe's intention was to say, "Pau isn't playing well and it is completely management's fault because they are looking to trade him."

There's no question that these guys aren't robots, and ancillary events undoubtedly play a role in what happens on our fields and courts, but we've found a new definition of "sensitive" if Gasol's attention on the court somehow drifts in and out because Kupchak might be talking to the Bulls about Carlos Boozer.

So ancillary events undoubtedly play a role in what happens on the court...but Gasol is being overly sensitive if his attention on the court is distracted because of the trade rumors? So the trade rumors undoubtedly have an impact on what happens on the court, but generally they shouldn't have an impact on what happens on the court? I'm not sure this makes of sense.

(The weird thing is, Gasol's performance doesn't seem to reflect an uninvested, nonimmersed Pau. He seems to be about what he always is -- roughly 17 points and 11 boards -- and he's doing it on 10 fewer shots a game than Bryant.

Which is exactly why the idea of Bryant criticizing Gasol's performance on the court is a misinterpretation of Bryant's comments.

Maybe it came to a head Sunday because Gasol reportedly was busted by Lakers coach Mike Brown on the team plane Sunday morning. Gasol's offense? Looking up trade rumors on his laptop. Which, if true, is kind of weird.)

Seriously? Tim Keown's interpretation of Kobe's comments are that they were directed at Gasol and the part that said:

it's hard for him to kind of invest himself completely or immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day."

is Kobe saying Gasol needs to get his head in the game. That's how Tim Keown read them. Meanwhile the rest of the free world believes Kobe was saying Gasol is being adversely affected by the trade rumors. A position which is completely rational to believe considering we now know this anecdote of Gasol reportedly looking at trade rumors on the Lakers' team plane. Doesn't this anecdote pretty much completely support the idea Gasol is distracted by the trade rumors and Kobe wasn't directing his comments at Gasol, but at Lakers management? I'm convinced. Tim Keown still isn't convinced.

He can address his comments to management much more easily than he can to Gasol, and this way the message gets to all the right people while potentially annoying only those with whom Kobe doesn't share the court.

That's a great theory...except for the fact Kobe's comments were clearly directed towards Lakers management. In fact, there is a chance the comments weren't even directed at Mitch Kupchak, but at Lakers management above Kupchak to get their shit together. One thing I know for sure is these comments weren't directed at Pau Gasol, even though they were about Pau Gasol.

But given that there hasn't been that much Gasol-trade talk since the demise of the Chris Paul deal --

Really? Perhaps Tim Keown should do an internet search for "Pau Gasol trade rumors." A lot of the stories are about Kobe's comments, but there are also plenty of trade rumors concerning Gasol going another team through trade prior to Kobe's comments.

it's safe to assume the message was meant mostly for his teammate.

It really isn't safe at all to assume the message was meant for Gasol. There is only one piece of information that helps us assume the message was meant for Gasol. That piece of information is that Tim Keown believes the message was meant for Gasol. On the other hand, there is much more evidence the message was meant for Lakers management. Here are the facts that support Kobe's message was meant for Lakers management and therefore it is ridiculous to feel safe in assuming the message was for Gasol.

1. The content of the message was entirely directed towards Lakers management and how they need to decide whether to trade Gasol or not. We know Lakers management is looking to trade Gasol.

2. Lakers management has already traded Gasol once, to the Rockets.

3. The supporting facts around the situation (Berger's report the Lakers front office is a mess) directly support Kobe's contention of indecision in the message intended for Lakers management.

4. The message would not be meant for Gasol because Gasol's statistics on the court have not declined this year. Pau doesn't seem affected by the trade rumors going around him, at least while on the court. So Kobe has no reason to covertly call him out for his performance.

5. There is proof the rumors do have Pau Gasol worried when he isn't off the court. He was reportedly found to be searching trade rumors on the team plane. So Kobe's comments seem to have some merit.

6. It is clear from Ken Berger's column that Lakers upper management and ownership don't exactly have their shit together. It is safe to assume they also aren't communicating with Kobe on what moves they want to make, which is why Kobe would have a problem with the trade rumors. They are prolonged rumors and he is being left out of the loop. He doesn't like this.

So the facts surrounding the Lakers and Kobe Bryant seem to indicate there is very little reasoning to assume Kobe's message was meant for Pau Gasol. Yet, this doesn't stop Tim Keown from still believing this to be true.

Bryant has his faults, but his basketball acumen isn't in question -- and neither is his desire. You've got to believe this issue -- fully investing under duress -- is close to Kobe's heart. He has played through personal and professional issues his entire career, maybe more than any other player in the Internet era: rape allegations, the Shaq stuff, divorce -- yet his intensity seems to rise in relation to the severity of the scrutiny.

This means Kobe also understands how off-the-court distractions can affect a person's mindset and the Lakers team as a whole. This doesn't mean he thinks Gasol is an emotional wimp.

Judging by his words, he doesn't see the same qualities in Gasol right now.

No. Judging by Kobe's actual words, he wants the Lakers to either trade Gasol or not trade Gasol.

He might think a vote of confidence from management is the solution to the problem, or maybe he believes such a vote will settle -- once and for all -- the issue of whether Gasol remains a viable candidate to share his court.

Or he may, and I know this sounds crazy because it is backed up by the words that Kobe actually said, want Lakers management to stop submitting Gasol and the Lakers team to trade rumors. The Lakers have already tried to trade Gasol once, and Kobe would like for the Lakers to change the makeup of the team or keep the team the way it is. I derive this conclusion from what Kobe actually said, not speculation on what he could have maybe possibly meant if you think about it he really could have perhaps meant if you look at it from a certain angle.

In the end, the headlines were right; Kobe was directing his message at Lakers management.

Tim Keown from earlier in the column:

But it seems to me the true target of the message was Gasol himself.

So the true target was Gasol, but it was directed at Lakers management. I don't get it. Tim Keown has come to the conclusion Kobe's comments were meant for Gasol, but were actually sent to Lakers management, but were really meant for Gasol. Tim Keown bases this conclusion on...umm...on...a...if you...well frankly Tim Keown had a deadline to meet and didn't know what else to write about. He had to come at this from a different angle and he stretched it as much as he could. You're welcome.

But what he was saying was this: Gasol is unable to play through distractions.

Kobe thinks this despite the fact Gasol has been able to play through distractions. Or perhaps, just maybe, Kobe believes Gasol CAN play through distractions and was directing his comments towards Lakers management. Is there a chance Kobe isn't trying to mindfuck us all? Nah, that's too obvious of a conclusion.


cs said...

This is like Jordan/Pippen from 1998. Same kind of deal with Jordan taking his frustration to the media. And like Jordan, I think Kobe is taking a slightly veiled shot at Gasol. But, ultimately, like in '98, the frustration is ultimately aimed at ownership. Didn't Pippen refuse to play at some point during the 97-98 season in reaction to ownership? At least Gasol shows up.

Bengoodfella said...

Cs, I don't take it necessarily as a veiled shot at Gasol. I see it more as Kobe recognizing that Gasol is sensitive to the trade rumors and trying to get Lakers management to make a move. I do think it is mostly at ownership, especially if the front office situation is a mess.

I think Pippen refused to play in '94 at the end of a game because Phil Jackson refused to allow him to take the last shot. I know Kukoc hit the game-winning shot after that, but Pippen wasn't in the game b/c he refused to enter if he didn't get the last shot. He probably had issues with Bulls management, I just don't remember them.