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Does Kobe's extension really extend the Lakers' title window?

Apr 3, 2010, 11:47 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Bryant_miss.jpgRe-signing Kobe Bryant was a major objective for the Lakers this year, even if it was largely a formality, given Kobe’s stated desire to remain in LA and the fact that, let’s face it, there’s nowhere better for a basketball player to be. The weather, the celebrities, the night life, and an organization that will always be in a position to spend enough to win. Still, Mamba’s a tricky snake, so getting him on their side until 2014 is a great development for the Lakeshow. And Bryant is worthy of the reward of a long-term contract for everything he’s given the team and its fans.

That said, what really are the effects of this deal?

Yesterday our fearless leader tried to tell you through yellow-tinted shades that the Lakers’ championship window is open through 2014. Four more years of Laker dominance in the West, is apparently the summation of the effects of Kobe’s gajillion dollar extension. But how accurate is that?

Next two seasons? Absolutely. Bryant will be 33 at the end of the 2012 season. Jordan was 34 when he won his last with the Bulls. But after that? Pau Gasol will be 32 the following season as his already questionable physical presence begins to shrink. Lamar Odom will be 33. Lakers fans love to talk about the Celtics’ age tearing them down. Take a look at that plus-30 core.

But let’s focus on Bryant. This season fans have noticed significant dip-nights in his shooting, like last night’s abhorrent performance, luckily in a game where Lamar Odom destroyed the Jazz (more on him later today). They’ve also noticed a surge of turnovers, particularly in big games like the Denver showdowns and both losses to the Cavs. So if we take a look at the numbers, we’ll see a drop in … nothing?

Bryant’s field goal percentage, turnovers, points, and assists are all within range of his averages over the last four years. So no worries. Unless we examine some higher metrics. Don’t roll your eyes, stats-haters, just hear me out.

Bryant’s PER is the lowest it’s been since 2000. His effective field goal shooting (which factors in three point shooting) is the lowest it’s been since ’06. His usage, which measures how many possessions he absorbs, is the highest since ’05. So usage up, production down. His per 36 scoring (points per 36 minutes of play) is the lowest it’s been since ’05.

Even with his injuries this season factored in, that doesn’t help his case, because those injuries only become more likely as age catches up with him in his mid-30’s.

So surely he’s not able to get the job done like he used to… Oh. And oh. And oh

So we’re left with conflicting information. Bryant’s still the best closer in the game. He’s always managed to adapt his game to his changing body and do what he needs to, like adapting the post-game this year. He has an indomitable will. But on the other side, by 2012 he’ll be 34, with an aging roster, and his numbers have at least showed signs of a fade. The next two years are a lock, but after that is when things get dicey. So betting on Bryant to be in title contention for four more years may be a risky proposition.

But betting against him?

That’s just suicide.

  1. KB24Fan - Apr 3, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    When comparing Jordan and Bryant it might be more logical to compare the number of seasons played instead of age because Bryant came straight out of high school.
    Jordan won his last championship in his 13th season and that includes the two off-seasons (one injury, one baseball). Bryant will be entering his 15th season which I think is indicative of the number of miles on his tires and how probably the window is closing at a much faster rate than anticipated.

  2. Khloe's Gut - Apr 3, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    KB24Fan – Kobe only averaged about 20 minutes a game in his first two years. Jordan played in all 82 games @ 38MPG his first year, then only played in 18 game in his 2nd season. Also, in 94-95 he only played in 17 games.
    So through 15 seasons for MJ, with 2 shortened, he logged 41,000 minutes.
    For Kobe, through just about 14 seasons, none of which he played fewer than 50 games, Kobe has logged 37,000 minutes.

  3. Greg - Apr 3, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    This is a good factual statement here. This is why they should trade Gasol this summer, and try to sign Lebron James to make the Laker’s winning ways last.

  4. JJ - Apr 3, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    Jordan never even sniffed a title game under Magic and Bird declined at the end of their careers. He only even finally reached a title game once those 2 were at the end of their career.

  5. Lion Woods - Apr 3, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    Kobe is the key to the Lakers success. Dr. Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson have the best player in the game. Yes, Lebron brings his A game most nights but its Kobe’s world of championships now. To sign Kobe to a 3 year extension further solidifies the fact that the Lakers organization is by far the best in sport. Go Lakers! What up Magic? Your boy bloggin’ from the D.

  6. Omega8 - Apr 3, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    Jordan was actually 35 when he won his last Championship with the bulls

  7. Craig W. - Apr 3, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    Certain shots and his handles for dribbling and passing have been most affected by his broken pinky. This accounts for a lot of the dip in statistics – even tho the talking heads and statisticians like to forget this fact.
    The broken pinky on his shooting hand is something almost any other player would would not play with or they wouldn’t be able to make the adjustments he has. This is not an injury that has anything to do with age or mileage. It is at this point I part ways with the John Hollingers of the world.
    I wouldn’t try to say Kobe won’t change over the years, but trying to down grade his performance based on statistics this year is not particularly valid either.

  8. Alex S. - Apr 4, 2010 at 1:33 AM

    It’s actually his index finger that is broken. Much worse for ball handling and shooting than a broken pinky.

  9. Rod F - Apr 4, 2010 at 7:20 AM

    There is no mention that Jordan not only had to wait until Bird and Magic careers were on the downside, But the league had decline too.

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