Monday report

I heard this quote from Robert Horry on “Pardon the Interruption” and wanted to see in just what context it was said. This is what Horry told San Antonio Express-News columnist Mike Monroe for a Sunday story on Kobe Bryant’s chances of winning the NBA MVP award:

“Nobody’s going to vote for Kobe because of the perception about his attitude, that he’s arrogant,” said Horry, who also stressed that he considered Bryant a good teammate. “It’s going to be a while before he ever wins MVP. I hate to say that, because it’s MVP on the court, not MVP off the court.”

Let me say up front that I don’t have an MVP vote . . . or at least I haven’t my first two seasons on the beat. But there’s no player I see more than Bryant and it seems obvious to me (and probably everyone in Los Angeles) that the Lakers would be in the draft lottery if it wasn’t for Bryant. That seems like one standard for being an MVP.

Here’s another: As I wrote Sunday, if the Golden State Warriors are going to take credit for holding Bryant to 43 points, then he should be the unquestioned MVP. If Bryant played baseball, he’d be Barry Bonds getting intentionally walked by opposing managers a hundred times a year. And Bonds is a seven-time MVP in his sport.

It’s a shame that a de facto standard has emerged whereby a player needs to come from a team that wins 50-plus games in order to merit MVP consideration. Bryant is unquestionably the biggest game-changer in the NBA regardless of whether the Lakers finish with 44 or 46 or 48 wins. The same would be true if they finished 39-43.

Obviously, the worse his team’s record, the more extraordinary such a player’s accomplishments should be. In Bryant’s case, he has seven 50-point games this season. The rest of the NBA has accounted for eight such games (Gilbert Arenas has three, Michael Redd two, Jamal Crawford, Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton one).

To his credit, Bryant has tried to do everything right this season. You have to remember that he sat out all of the exhibition season and the first two regular-season games while recovering from knee surgery. That he is able to finish the season this way is – - to borrow one of Phil Jackson’s favorite words – - remarkable.

He shot less and looked for his teammates more when the Lakers were on their way to a high playoff seed. Then he watched the bottom fall out due to injuries. His run of 50-point games pulled the Lakers out of a seven-game slide and bought time for Luke Walton and Lamar Odom to play their way back from injury.

The suspensions afforded everyone the opportunity to see what they wanted to in Bryant. If you’re a Kobe fan, then you saw the league singling him out for plays that lacked obvious intent and happened in a split-second. If you’re a Kobe hater, then you saw him as a dirty player and, worse, a repeat offender.

Behind the scenes, No. 24 has been a seemingly different person. It’s an oversimplification to say that, but he has gone above and beyond in talking to reporters. He continues to promote his work with the Boys and Girls Club, Make a Wish Foundation and his own Vivo Foundation. He was celebrated throughout All-Star weekend.

All I’m saying is that it would be a shame for Bryant to arrive at the end of his career, having written his name alongside Chamberlain, Jordan and Baylor so many times in the record books, only to have never won an MVP award. Until then, I guess Bryant will have to settle for the unofficial title as the game’s best player.

* * *

Just for fun, I asked Bryant what number he thought he might put up when he scored nine points in the first two minutes of Sunday’s game.

His answer: “I wasnt really thinking about it. I actually said, `Theyre going to have to make some serious adjustments. Just in the middle of the first quarter, after the second timeout, I said, `Theyre going to have to do something drastic. Because the crowd was getting into it, we as a team had jumped on them, every shot I hit seemed to be creating a lot of momentum for us.

It’s hard to see how the Grizzlies will keep Bryant under 50 points Tuesday unless the game is such a blowout that he doesn’t need to play late. That wouldn’t be the worst thing; Bryant is averaging 46.6 minutes in the last five games.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Even as Kobe Bryants run of 50-point games came to an end Sunday, the Lakers were left with another streak to consider. That would be the 10 consecutive games in which they have allowed 100 points or more.

For the team that stressed defense from the first day of training camp, the Lakers are riding a season-high five-game winning streak solely by being able to outgun teams. So far in March, they are giving up 110.1 points on average.

“The one positive thing is we have been coming up with the stops when we need them down the stretch, Luke Walton said. “But giving up 110 points a game isnt going to make anything easy for us, and its definitely not going to win us a playoff series.

All the Lakers have to do is consider their probable first-round opponent to understand how important defense will be. The San Antonio Spurs are third in the Western Conference standings and came into Monday allowing 83.5 points this month.

Not only does Bryant credit San Antonios Bruce Bowen with being the toughest defender he faces but he praises the Spurs for playing the best team defense in the league.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have been unable to build any cohesion on defense with the injuries that have forced one player after another out of the lineup. Kwame Brown, in particular, is still limited after returning from a sprained ankle.

There were encouraging signs for the Lakers in the fourth quarter Sunday as Ronny Turiaf blocked shots and Lamar Odom turned a steal into a layup. Yet the Lakers also gave Golden States Al Harrington a look at an open 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Asked if the Lakers could still be a good defensive team, Bryant answered: “We have the personnel to be able to do it and do it collectively. The thing that really hurt our rhythm as a defensive unit was having all of these injuries.

“Having the guys back now, it seems like were trying to build a little bit more rhythm on the defensive end, Bryant added. “I think well get to a point where well be more consistent.

Kobe show: Five days after scoring 60 points against Memphis, Bryant might be in for another big night with the Grizzlies in town. Not only does Memphis rank 29th in the NBA in defense, but it will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set.

“What we want to try to do is just continue to put pressure on the defense, Bryant said. “Its not necessarily me scoring 40 or 50 points but its making the defense adjust. Now when we match up against teams, they understand that theyre going to have to deal with the issue of me being aggressive. Its going to compromise their defense somewhat.

Follow up: Part of the explanation for Bryants scoring burst comes with a change in how he shoots the ball. Bryant said he switched from a two-finger release to a one-finger release. He could be seen on the bench practicing his form during timeouts Sunday.

Fame game: Assuming that 915 coaching victories and nine championships are enough, Jackson will be introduced as part of the Basketball Hall of Fames Class of 2007 on Monday in Atlanta.

With the Lakers playing three games in four days, however, Jackson has told the Hall that he would not be able to travel for the announcement before the NCAA Tournament final.

Jackson said: “Its either an award for longevity or its acknowledgment of the (Chicago Bulls) teams that I was able to be a part of that really were remarkable in their duration in the 90s and then this team here in this century thats just been playing great basketball.

Injury report: Vladimir Radmanovic shot around for the first time since separating his right shoulder while snowboarding in Utah over the All-Star break. He was limited to shooting a series of short bank shots before climbing onto a treadmill.

Jackson said he hoped Radmanovic could return the week after next, although he described it a “technical injury to a guy whos a 3-point shooter. One benefit of the time off for Radmanovic is that a finger injury on his right hand has healed.

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  • confusedindianguy

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and in the past Phil Jackson has said that he would refuse induction into the Hall of Fame until Tex Winters was voted in. Has any reporter asked him about this, and if so what was his response?

  • http://latimes.com JOMO

    Ross…thanks for the inside info on the Lakers. Out of all the LA columnists, you seem to be the only one that actually likes the Lakers. Keep up the good work.