The Brooklyn Nets travel back home after a slim 102-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors, hosting the Los Angeles Lakers in Brooklyn tonight. If you only paid attention to the Lakers in the last 24 hours, you might be asking “why did the Lakers decide to pay $48.5 million to a man in a blazer?”
Yes, Kobe Bryant recently signed a two-year extension worth a little over $48 million, making him the highest-paid player in the NBA. He did this despite currently rehabilitating an Achilles tear that has kept him out since last season. But since Bryant hasn’t played yet this season, and barring a miracle is not playing tonight against the Nets, let’s focus on the team that they’ll actually play. The Not-Kobes, if you will.
The Not-Kobes are 7-8 under coach Mike D’Antoni, who’s instilled his run-and-gun style in Los Angeles. The Not-Kobes rank third in the league in possessions per game, even with primary creator and D’Antoni disciple Steve Nash sidelined indefinitely with back and hamstring problems. D’Antoni has started the erratic Jodie Meeks in Nash’s place, and Meeks has delivered… kind of. Meeks has shot a scorching 47.7% on nearly five threes per game as a starter, though it’s clear he’s not Nash: he’s recorded just one assist in those nine starts.
Meeks is just one of four Not-Kobes who are shooting over 40 percent from the field on threes, and that’s how they’ve built their seven wins. They lead the league in made three-pointers and rank fourth in the league in three-point percentage. They’ve shot the three substantially better from deep in their wins (about 43 percent) than their losses (under 39 percent). Perimeter defense is fluky by nature — just watch DeMar DeRozan hit contested three-pointer after contested three-pointer last night again — but if the Nets can limit the Not-Kobes’ clean attempts from deep, they should be able to contain their offense.
Though their hot shooting outside has helped, the Not-Kobes have relied otherwise on 7-footer Pau Gasol and shooting guard Nick Young, who is kind of like if a scientist tried to make Kobe Bryant in a lab but forgot the first ingredient. Gasol leads the team with 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game, but he’s shot just 43.3% from the field and under 52 percent from within five feet, well below the league average. Young has shot 49.5% on two-point shots and 34.5% on three-point shots in the team’s 15 games (six starts), which are incredibly similar to a certain $48.5-million-richer man’s career numbers.
The Not-Kobes are a team the Nets should be able to contend with. Though Los Angeles runs a lot, they’re not an incredibly athletic or transition-oriented team. They instead go through quick half-court possessions: according to 82games.com, 70% of their shots come in the first 15 seconds of the shot clock and just 8% with three seconds or less, as opposed to 64% and 12% for Brooklyn. If the Nets can play this game at their pace and limit clean looks from long distance, they should be able to take down the Not-Kobes tonight.
Unless, of course, Kobe somehow does the impossible and returns.
Tipoff in Brooklyn at 7 P.M.