Next Up, 100? Strategies, Rule Changes Make It A Possibility.
- From: Sports Fan <sports@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 17:51:12 -0800
Next up, 100? Strategies, rule changes make it a possibility
By David DuPree, USA TODAY
Forget the comparisons to Michael Jordan. For now, at least, Kobe Bryant
is in a Wilt Chamberlain stratosphere. The Los Angles Lakers star scored
81 points in Sunday's 122-104 victory against the Toronto Raptors, the
second-highest scoring output in NBA history to Chamberlain's 100-point
game 44 years ago.
And while Bryant raised eyebrows when he scored 62 points in three
quarters against the Dallas Mavericks last month, his 81-point outburst
makes the 100-point barrier suddenly look not so unattainable.
"I still don't think it will ever happen, but the amazing thing is that
we are even discussing that question and contemplating it," says TNT
analyst Steve Kerr, one of the top shooters in NBA history and a former
teammate of Jordan's. "If you had asked that question three days ago,
the world would have laughed at you.
"Now we have to seriously consider if a man can score 100 points again.
That, in itself, is shocking."
Bryant shudders at the prospect of scoring 100 points but doesn't rule
"I guess it's possible," he said during Sunday's postgame news
conference, then quickly added that it's "unthinkable."
Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay, an ESPN analyst who coached against
Chamberlain and Jordan and has been following Bryant since he was in
high school, says a 100-point game is only possible if it is against a
very weak team, "and everybody's objective is to let him do it."
Individual scoring has been the NBA's biggest story this season with
three players -- Bryant, Philadelphia's Allen Iverson and Cleveland's
LeBron James-- averaging more than 30 points a game, the first time that
has been done since 1982. Also, there already have been eight games in
which a player has scored at least 50 points this season; that happened
eight times all of last season and only five in 2003-04.
While Bryant's total Sunday night was otherworldly, it is just part of
an exceptional stretch. In the 10 games he has played this month since
returning to the lineup after a two-game suspension for elbowing Memphis
Grizzlies forward Mike Miller, he is averaging 45.5 points. If Bryant's
league-leading 35.9 points a game holds up, it would be the highest
since Jordan's 37.1 in 1986-87.
With those kinds of numbers, if anyone has a chance to score 100, it is
"Nobody has that type of shooting touch," Kerr says. "He shoots the ball
so well from any range. LeBron is capable of getting 50 or so, but he's
not the shooter Kobe is. When Kobe gets hot, he's the only one capable
of doing that kind of thing."
Adds Ramsay: "That's a ton of points, but nothing that he does really
surprises. He can pull up, post up, drive to the basket, is athletic,
has hang time, is flexible and is very, very competitive. And on top of
that, he wants his team to win above everything else."
Because their styles are so similar, comparisons between Bryant and
Jordan are inevitable. Bryant wishes they would stop.
"He was Michael Jordan, and I'm Kobe Bryant," Bryant says. "We're two
different players, and I just wish people would let it go, because you
can't compare what I'm doing to what he's doing.
"He's one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player of all
time, and it's not fair to us of another generation to be compared to
Kerr, however, thinks it's extremely difficult not to compare the two.
"It's the will to win, the desire, the absolute undying belief in
himself, the arrogance or confidence or whatever you want to call it,"
he says in describing what Bryant and Jordan share. "Nobody else playing
today has that. Kobe is exactly like Michael when he gets that look in
Changes favor athletic players
At least one thing the NBA's eight 50-point games this season have in
common is that they were done by perimeter players (Bryant four times,
James twice and Iverson and New Jersey's Vince Carter once each). These
players have the ball in their hands frequently, they play facing the
basket most of the time and they have a green light to do, basically,
whatever they want with the ball.
Over the last three seasons, the only true post players to reach the
50-point mark have been Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal and Phoenix's Amare
One reason is the changes in the NBA rules designed to increase scoring.
The changes, which went into effect last season, eliminated hand
checking and opened the lane by making it illegal for any defender to be
in the lane for longer than three seconds. The changes shifted the
advantage to the slick ballhandlers, players who can get their own shots
off the dribble and are athletic enough to make three-pointers and drive
all the way to the basket. These players also are tough enough to get
fouled a lot, then make their free throws.
"If you are athletic and can put the ball on the floor, the rules
benefit you," Ramsay says. "It's that simple, and no one takes more
advantage of that than Kobe."
Kerr says the elimination of the hand check has been a boon to scoring,
especially to players such as Bryant. Since defenders aren't allowed to
impede his progress with the hand check, opponents have often found
themselves at his mercy this season.
With the perfect basketball body ? a 6-7, 210-pound frame ? and a drive
to work on his game during the offseason as much as he does during the
regular season, Bryant has set a lofty standard for himself.
If Bryant played on a championship team, with more skilled teammates, he
wouldn't score so many points. He wouldn't have to. Though he has the
81-point game and the 62-pointer this season, his single-game high
during the Lakers' three NBA championships run was 56.
"He has to score big numbers now if the Lakers are going to win," Ramsay
says, "and even then they don't win sometimes. When he was playing with
Shaquille O'Neal, that just wasn't the case. He knew he didn't have to
score big for them to win except on rare occasions."
The really good teams in the league now don't rely on one scorer to
carry them. The Detroit Pistons, for example, who are challenging the
Chicago Bulls' all-time record of 72 wins in a season, don't have a
player among the league's top 15 scorers. Of the teams with the top five
records, only the Dallas Mavericks have a player in the top 15: Dirk
Nowitzki, averaging 26.1 points.
Teams such as the Lakers, the Cavaliers with James, the 76ers with
Iverson and the Houston Rockets with Tracy McGrady have no choice but to
turn their stars loose if they want to win.
Comparisons to Wilt
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Monday night on "The Phil Jackson Show"
on Sirius Satellite Radio that before Bryant's outburst that he wouldn't
have thought a player could score 80. He also said he thought Bryant's
81 was more impressive than Chamberlain's 100-point game.
"Yes it is," Jackson said. "(Knicks center) Darrall Imhoff was
interviewed about it. Darrall said (Wilt) was fed the ball every single
time he came down the court and he turned and shot it every single time.
"It was a decided advantage that they had and it was just an outright
determination that they were going to get 100 points for Wilt that
night. In fact, they tried to leave other people open and other guys
wouldn't even shoot the ball.
"But you've got to hand it to (Wilt). He was a great player but that was
a night that they went out to score 100 points and milked it. Last
night, there was a desire for Kobe to get his 80th point but until that
point in the game that was all pure competitive action."
Wilt Chamberlain, the only player in NBA history to score 100 points in
a game, completed the feat in 1962.
Chamberlain had two assists en route to his 100; Bryant had two Sunday.
Ramsay says Chamberlain was different type of scorer than Jordan or
Chamberlain was the NBA's strongest man and just a dominant,
overpowering player who was not only unstoppable once he got the ball
near the basket, but also had a nice 12- to 15-foot turnaround
one-hander off the glass. But Chamberlain was strictly a post player and
needed someone to feed him the basketball.
Bryant, and Jordan before him, doesn't need anyone to give him anything.
"Kobe can get whatever shot he wants whenever he wants it," Ramsay says.
"Michael was the same way."
Bryant scored in every way imaginable Sunday. Among his 28 field goals,
he had three dunks, three layups, seven three-pointers, eight baskets
from three to 10 feet, three from 11 to 15 feet and four from 19 to 22
feet. He also made 18 of 20 free throws.
Ramsay says the best way to defend Bryant is to double-team him every
time he touches the ball, "no matter where he is on the floor."
But not even that guarantees anything.
"He is so agile, he can back out of a double team and get to where he
wants to shoot it," Ramsay says.
Bryant attributes his scoring prowess to maturity.
"I think it's a combination of learning the game, and I trained my butt
off this summer, and I really put the pedal to the metal, so
conditioning-wise, I'm ready. I prepare myself every day, so I'm ready
Though his supporting cast isn't among the league's best, Bryant says he
couldn't accomplish what he has without it.
"I need help from my teammates," he says, "and they recognize it and
give me the ball in certain situations. They set excellent screens for
Bryant has also brought new excitement to the NBA and even has opponents
clamoring to see him. Fans who missed Sunday's game can purchase it
online with Google, and NBA TV is rebroadcasting it three times this
week (today, 3 p.m. ET; Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET; Friday, 5 p.m. ET).
"It's amazing. Beyond amazing," says Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban. "He's
on another level from any other player at this point. It's like he is
toying with teams.
"If you push up on him, he just takes two steps back and shoots from
further out. I hope the NBA adjusts its TV schedule so we all can see
him play more. It would be fun to watch and fun to debate how far a
one-man show can drag four other players in a team sport."
By the numbers
1.1: Kobe Bryant's scoring average jumped (from 34.8 to 35.9).
5: Times the Lakers have scored 81 points or fewer this season.
11: Points he scored against the Raptors on Dec. 7, 2005, the teams'
14: Point difference between his second-half output (55) and the
41: Total number of points by Bryant's teammates.
53: Points after three quarters, tying Allen Iverson's season high.
80: Combined points of the Raptors' starters.
88: Times an NBA team scored fewer than 81 this season.
Bryant's 81-point game Sunday marked the 101st time an NBA player has
scored 50 points in a game. Players with the lowest career
points-per-game average who have scored 50 or more points in a game:
Player, team Career high Avg. Games
Walt Wesley, Cleveland 50 (Feb. 19, 1971) 8.5 590
Tracy Murray, Washington 50 (Feb. 10, 1998) 9.0 659
Tony Delk, Phoenix 53* (Jan. 2, 2001) 9.2 521
Willie Burton, Philadelphia 53 (Dec. 13, 1993) 10.3 316
Dana Barros, Philadelphia 50 (March 14, 1995) 10.5 850
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
Stars' load can be cumbersome
Kobe Bryant leads the NBA in scoring and field goal attempts per game
(27.7). Allen Iverson (No. 2) and LeBron James (No. 3) also are enjoying
their highest scoring seasons. Percentage of their team's shots, points
and free throw attempts the three are contributing compared to the
highest scoring seasons of Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan:
Player, team Season PPG % of team pts. % of team FGA % of team FTA
Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers 2005-06 35.9 36.5 34.2 40.2
Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers 2005-06 33.4 33.0 31.8 39.0
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers 2005-06 31.0 31.3 28.3 34.3
Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors 1961-62 50.4 41.0 35.4 42.5
Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls 1986-87 37.1 35.4 31.9 43.1
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