Tag:Oscar Robertson
Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:17 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 1:28 am
 

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook joins an elite club of NBA players who accumulated points, rebounds and assists early in their career. Posted by Ben Golliver. russell-westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is one of the most intriguing players in the NBA because Kevin Durant's presence makes it so easy to overlook him, at least until you watch him play. When that happens, Westbrook inevitably leaves you speechless. I've gone through this process at least 15 or 20 times and yet his name still doesn't come to mind immediately during the "elite point guards" discussion, as he gets left behind guys like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and others.

The craziest thing about the fact that Westbrook is still overlooked is that he's been doing it for awhile -- a long while -- already. On Friday night, Westbrook joined an elite statistics club alongside some of the biggest names to ever play the game.
Westbrook added 13 points and 11 assists, becoming the fifth player in NBA history to reach 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds during his first three years in the league. The others are Chris Paul, LeBron James, Anfernee Hardaway and Oscar Robertson.
Surveying this list, you see some of the most complete players of the modern era. In James and Paul you have arguably the two best all-around players currently playing in the NBA, in Oscar Robertson you have arguably the best all-around player of all time and in Anfernee Hardaway you have probably the single biggest case of "What could have been if not for injuries" over the last 20 years. Early Penny was just ridiculous; No one could match up with him. 

So how did Westbrook get here? A combination of a few very important factors.

First, it speaks to how much trust was placed in him immediately upon his entry into the NBA. This is a guy who was averaging 32.5 minutes as a 20 year-old-rookie point guard, a feat not often seen, especially these days when coaches are so often afraid to play young players so as not to risk their own jobs. 

Second, it says a lot about his durability: Westbrook didn't miss a single game in either of his first two seasons and hasn't yet missed a game due to injury this season. That's 228 straight games and counting.

But Westbrook hasn't just had the opportunity to play and good luck with health, though. He's also been insanely productive, improving his points per game and assists per game each year that he's been in the league, and being a steady, rock solid rebounder since Day One. His unique skillset -- an insane vertical leap, an explosive first step, a natural ability to put the ball in the basket -- coupled with Durant's presence as a knockdown shooter and all-around scorer have combined to make the three-category accumulation possible. His 22.4 points, 8.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game this season are at video game status.

Three years in, Westbrook stands as a textbook example of how things can go right, and go right quickly, for a young floor general to whom much responsibility is given. He has learned to deal with issues with turnovers and helped turn Durant into the game's single best scorer, he's continued to hit the boards night in and night out and he's improved his vision and decision-making.

Extrapolating Westbrook's statistical progress and accounting for his team's ability to make the post-season and the fact that he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this season at the age of 22, the sky is quite literally the limit. There's no other way to put this: he's on the Hall of Fame track.
Posted on: November 15, 2010 10:29 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:46 pm
 

Kobe Bryant, labor leader

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is taking up the player's cause in the NBA collective bargaining negotiations. Posted by Ben Golliver kobe-bryant
Kobe Bryant's reputation as a basketball player is secure. If he walked away from basketball today, he would leave as a legend. A generation-leading, annual all-star game attending, gold medal-winning, MVP, Finals MVP and five-time NBA champion, Bryant has done everything there is to be done on a basketball court. He's already a top five guard of all time, will likely retire as one of the top 10 NBA players ever, and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no questions asked. But CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that Bryant is ready to break some new ground, joining Laker teammate and player's union president Derek Fisher as a leading voice for the players in the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations, a dispute that threatens the 2011-2012 NBA season. 
Bryant, the highest-paid player in the league under what is likely to be his final contract, is scheduled to join Michael Jordan as the league’s only $30 million players in the final year of the deal in 2013-14. Asked where he stands in the labor dispute that could be more punitive to stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose – who likely won’t get new contracts until a new CBA is in place – Bryant said, “I’m going to fight for our players.” 
“It’s about making sure we have the best deal going forward,” Bryant said. “That’s my stance and that’s not going to change. I’m not going to waver. It’s about taking care of the generation that’s coming after us. That’s what the guys before us tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to waver from that.” 
On the court, Bryant doesn't give his opponents an inch and he doesn't stand slights from anyone without exacting some form of revenge. And "slighted" is exactly how the players should feel given the owners' recent rhetoric surrounding salary cuts, roll backs, a hard cap and potential contraction in the face of increasing basketball-related income.  Really, the owners are engaged in Kevin Garnett style huffing and puffing, demeaning the players by dragging the negotiations to needlessly sensational levels.   The most obsessively driven NBA player since Michael Jordan, life is a competition for Bryant, so the current labor strife is a natural fit for his personality, even if he's chosen, like Jordan, to generally steer clear of hot topics and controversy, especially since the incident in Colorado. Good on Bryant for taking this step to stand up for his fellow players, following in a line of superstars that traces back to Bob Cousy, who championed for a player's union, and Oscar Robertson, who helped establish the legal basis for free agency in the NBA.  From this point forward, everything Bryant does and says should be viewed as historical positioning. A quest to top Michael Jordan's six rings, a climb up the all time scoring list, a second gold medal as part of the 2012 Olympics team: all will help his case when it comes time for history to compare him to the league's other super-superstars. Leading a labor charge, or at least throwing his heft behind it, is worth brownie points in bunches when it comes to the big-picture. Reaching a labor deal would have a practical payoff for Bryant too, of course. Should the Lakers win their third straight title this season, the 2011-2012 season, the one that's in jeopardy due to a potential lockout, would be Bryant's first chance at a seventh title, which would surpass Jordan's mark. Whatever Bryant's motivation for entering the debate -- his own self-interest, the common good of the players, or both -- it isn't as important as the fact that he has spoken up. Players around the league idolize and fear him, and his words therefore carry more cachet than any other player's. Bryant talks; everyone listens. NBA owners may be about to find out what NBA coaches have known for more than a decade: you don't want to anger Kobe Bryant. 
Posted on: October 18, 2010 2:01 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:52 pm
 

Forget MJ, Kobe Bryant is a top 5 guard

Michael Jordan says Kobe Bryant is a top 10 guard of all time. He should have said top five.
Posted by Ben Golliver

In a recent interview with USA Today , Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the history of basketball, was asked how Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stacks up to the greatest who have ever played the game.
It's so hard to say. I think he is always going to be within the conversations of some of the greatest players who've played by the time he is finished. Where does he rank among those, if you are talking about positions? If you are talking about guards, I would say he has got to be in the Top 10.

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports caught up with Bryant for his reaction to Jordan's comment.
“It’s an accurate statement,” Bryant said. “I’m definitely one of the top 10 guards. It could mean two, it could mean one, it could mean four or five. I’m definitely one of the top thousand. Look, I know how he feels about me. “There have been a lot of great guards to play the game. For me to sit here and say, ‘He should have said top five,’ that’s disrespectful to the other guards that I’ve watched.”

In this case, I'm happy to be "disrespectful" to Jordan on Bryant's behalf: Michael Jordan should have said Kobe Bryant is a top five guard. Period.   In his 2009 The Book Of Basketball , Bill Simmons set out to rank the best players in the game, in part, to help settle questions like this one. Simmons ranked Bryant as the No. 15 player overall, and the only pure guards ranked ahead of Bryant were Jordan (No. 1 overall), Magic Johnson (No. 4 overall), Jerry West (No. 8 overall) and Oscar Robertson (No. 9 overall).  You can quibble over West/Robertson, but the rest, including Bryant, seem right to me. Since the book's release last fall, Bryant won another title with the Lakers, so his standing has only improved. Bryant refused to rank himself when given the opportunity by Spears, and this was a wise move, because current players will always be at a sentimental disadvantage when compared to retired players. Magic Johnson brings back memories, Oscar Robertson evokes tales, and Kobe Bryant still makes plays. That process of continually adding to his resume works against him whenever we try to assess his standing against stationary targets. Given that he is battling legends, the standard for Bryant to overtake guys like Robertson and West will be exceedingly high and probably not attainable until he retires, and his statistics and ring total go final.  Jordan and Johnson may wind up completely unassailable, regardless of how Bryant's career plays out, such is the magnitude of their cultural power.   Whether Bryant ever cracks that top two isn't today's discussion. Today, it's more important to realize that it's far more difficult to exclude Bryant from the top five guards of all time than it is to include him.  Who would you rather have? Bob Cousy? Isiah Thomas? John Stockton? Rick Barry? Cousy - with his titles, leadership and revolutionary back court play - makes the strongest sentimental case, but he doesn't pass the smell test. You don't think Kobe Bryant in his prime would wipe the parquet with Cousy in his prime if given the chance? On both ends Bryant's athleticism and length would be overpowering. As for the rest, they didn't win as often or in as dominating a fashingon as Bryant has. Jordan's comment shows an appreciation for the game's other great guards and, perhaps, a self-protective impulse. Surely it's easier for Jordan to remain king eternally if his strongest current challenger is given more ground to make up. It was a savvy play by Jordan and Bryant's response showed equal thoughtfulness.  Bryant knows historical rankings can't be campaigned for, they are given out collectively once they've been deemed "earned".  He also knows he's well on his way.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com