Was Kobe Bryant wise to call it quits with 12 minutes to go on Tuesday night, giving up a shot at a prominent place in single-game scoring history?
The quarter left on the table
Four former NBA players, Will Perdue, Tim Legler, Greg Anthony and Bill Walton, along with former NBA coaches Jim O'Brien and John Carroll, weighed the merits of the decision to sit while fans chanted for a remarkable 62-point night to roll on.
PERDUE: WRATH OF AVERY NOT WORTH IT
I can see people wanting Kobe to go for it, but if I'm the opposing coach I want to make sure he's not going to do that. If I'm Avery Johnson, I'm putting all five guys on Kobe, just to make sure he's not going off against my team, because it shows up in the record books.
The reality of the situation is that Kobe was in a no-win situation. He was badmouthed because he took himself out. If he had stayed in, he would have been criticized, too. It's a tough situation for him. He's very conscious of what people are saying about him and I think sometimes that affects his judgment.
LEGLER: SHOULD HAVE LET HIM START FOURTH
However, I would have handled it a little differently. I would have allowed him to start the fourth and play for 5-6 minutes before making a decision. If he cooled off then it would be an easy decision to take him out and allow him to a bask in the adulation of the Lakers' fans. If he scored another quick 10-12 points, then no one would argue with allowing him to go for 80 points.
There is always a fine line when it comes to record-breaking and individual accomplishments. I almost always fall on the side of allowing records to be broken in the natural flow of the game. The Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to restore their franchise to a championship caliber. Jackson was prudent in keeping his eyes on the bigger prize.
After all, with a 30-point lead, and playing against a team that the Lakers may very well have to contend with in the postseason, there was no need to turn the game into a sideshow for Bryant's individual scoring spree.
ANTHONY: IF MAVS WERE MORE COMPETITIVE . . .
So Kobe had to come out. The game was over. You don't want to risk injury, and you don't want to throw it in face of your opponent. There was already enough tension out there with Dirk Nowitzki getting hit hard and coach Avery Johnson ejected. You were starting to see some hard fouls out there, and you don't want to add to that by turning the game into strictly a point-scoring quest.
The cons easily outweigh the pros of keeping him in. The Lakers have to think ahead, not antagonize the Mavs should they face them in the playoffs.
For me, this game demonstrates his greatness. He has been criticized for exactly what makes him great. He gave us reasons to appreciate him even more Tuesday night.
O'BRIEN: CLASS ACTION
I believe that was a very classy thing for Bryant to decide. The game is in the bag and there is never a reason to rub another team's nose in the dirt. If he reentered the game and got hurt, how could you ever justify why he went into the game up by over 30 points. It would have fallen on Kobe's shoulders more than Jackson's, and an absolutely spectacular performance would have turned into a negative.
Now class was appropriately added to greatness. Which is a very nice combination.
WALTON: JACKSON THE AESTHETICS DIRECTOR
I love the fact that it's happening now for the Lakers, that is, the team concept. In the beginning of the year, Kobe was on track to attempt the most shots ever. Kobe is learning that it is ultimately about the team. The team is playing a much more aesthetically pleasing game now. The encouragement, the teammwork -- because of all of this, Kobe is becoming a more likeable player.
While people can respect the individual abilities of someone playing for themselves, this is a team game and the most popular players in history are the ones who play for others. The list is a long one. For the Lakers to acheive any level of success, they are going to have to listen to the words of their coach. I think the best coaching right now is being done by Phil Jackson.
CARROLL: RESPECTING THE GAME
Coaches have a greater responsibility to the game of basketball and to their teams than to bettors, fantasy league gurus and statisticians. If a player is two points, or a rebound, away from a record then I can understand the concept of giving him a chance to break it. But to leave someone in the fourth quarter up 34 points just to see "how many he can get" borders on insanity.
But in the sporting world we live in today it doesn't surprise me that some people are more interested in the moment than the big picture.
Vince Carter swoops in for two of his 32 points in a 96-85 Nets' win over the Magic. New Jersey (13-12) has now won four straight heading into Friday's game in Miami.
Dr. James Naismith drew up basketball's rules back in 1891. Now his hand-written 13 hoop laws, most of which are outdated in some way, are up for auction. Asking price, a cool $10 million, according to the Kansas City Star.
Before you bid, check out rule No. 5:
"No shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping or striking, in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed; the first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul, the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed."
So, as originally drawn up, flagrant fouls meant you played short-handed, like hockey and soccer. Idea: Commish Stern, bring back rule No. 5. It would be cool to watch a team down, say, two players trying to hang onto a giant lead.
We've got throwback uniforms. How about throwback rules?
-- Andrew Ayres
With the Spurs' win on Wednesday, both the San Antonio andthe Detroit Pistons now have 20 wins.
Since 1970, the first team in the Eastern and Western Conference to reach 20 wins have met in the NBA Finals eight times.
The last occurrence came in the 2000 NBA Finals. The Lakers won in 6 games over the Pacers.
-- ESPN Research
Allen Iverson loomed large again, scoring 38 points for the Sixers in beating the Warriors. His Atlantic Division leaders, now 14-12, start a seven-game road trip on Friday in Atlanta.
Quote of the Night
-- Andrew Ayres
Pat, Bronx: Do you see Isiah Thomas making any moves for the Knicks? Or will we be stuck with the current circus?
Bill Walton: It's very sad what has happened with the Knicks. In the four years that ESPN and ABC have had the Knicks, the Knicks have never had a winning team. The only people who could possibly derive joy from the Knicks being so horrible are the diehard Celtic fans. It's sad for all of basketball. This is a business and the importance of New York City to this business is immeasurable
The Celtics defeated the Jazz, becoming the last NBA team to win two consecutive games this season. It's the furthest that Boston has gone into any season before registering a two-game winning streak. In NBA history, only two teams have gone through an entire season without winning two in a row: the 1986-87 Clippers and the 2004-05 Hawks.
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