Closing Credits: Wednesday

LeBron is the MVP, but why are people so quick to dismiss Kobe?

As you may have heard, we've settled on names for the morning and afternoon/evening link roundup posts. In keeping with the Silver Screen theme, morning posts will be called "Opening Credits," and afternoon/evening posts will be called "Closing Credits."

There's no guarantee that each day will have both an Opening Credits and a Closing Credits post. That depends on the speed of the news day and my sometimes-busy schedule. The latter should be self-explanatory; as to the former, there will be days on which the sheer volume of Lakers-related content warrants both a morning and evening post, and days when it doesn't. We'll just be playing it by ear.

Ladies and gentlemen, please stick around for the closing credits. We've got a nice, full cast tonight.

An absolute must-read: Rick Reilly spends a day with Kobe Bryant. No witty comments from me on this one, it's too good. If you read nothing else today, read this.

ESPN's MVP RoundTable presents the MVP ballots of 20 ESPN writers and analysts. Some make lots of sense; others are simply preposterous.

David Thorpe, always excellent, makes great points about Kobe Bryant:
This "low" rating (4th) is partly a result of having such a strong team around him. Kobe does not need to do more than he does, and to his credit, he no longer tries to -- most of the time. He's still the most dangerous player in crunch time, and the guy players respect the most.

(Emphasis added)

J.A. Adande with some interesting thoughts (even if they lead to the wrong conclusion):

Watching him this season has been like watching an ISO camera replay of the Kentucky Derby winner. He stayed back in the pack, then made his move (accelerating to 31 ppg in February after Andrew Bynum went down). The difference is Kobe will place, not win.

Any ideas what Kobe's been saving up for? Ric Bucher provides a hint: Kobe already has a Maurice Podoloff; what he wants is a Larry O'Brien. Does Adande really think Kobe has already made his move?

Chris Palmer has high praise for Kobe as a leader and teammate, with I'm sure we all whole-heartedly agree.

Despite the 27 points an outing and the occasional record-setting performance, Bryant has never done more to boost camaraderie. He's developed into possibly the best leader in the league and one of its best teammates: the secret reason the Lakers are so potent.

Regarding Kobe Bryant, The Sports Guy opens his mouth and shows himself a fool yet again:

Either way, it's a make-or-break spring because Kobe passes 1,200 total games next season and can't possibly remain at this level much longer. I put Wade ahead of him only because Wade could have emulated Kobe's success with the Lakers, but 2009 Kobe couldn't have carried a brutal Miami team to a No. 5 seed. 2006 Kobe could have dont it; not 2009 Kobe.

This is a joke, right? Can he be serious? 2009 Kobe couldn't do what Wade has done this year? Let's remember that Kobe did it with Smush Parker in the starting lineup -- a point guard who couldn't even get a job as a backup to the backup on a team desperately in need of point guards. Simmons shouldn't make the mistake of mistaking veteran savvy (conserving energy for the playoffs) for losing a step (old age). As Kobe showed in New York, he can unleash 2006 Kobe at a moment's notice, should he feel the need.

Hardwood Paroxysm helps announce our existence. Matt really is too kind. He's also right that the blogosphere boasts some top notch Lakers blogs. Bookmark HP, add it to your feed reader, and while you're at it, give him some props for coming up with such a brilliant name for this blog.

How bad do things look for the Jazz? Coach Jerry Sloan is overtly pessimistic, Deron Williams is openly admitting that he expects to have to do it alone, and Ross Siler and Steve Luhm are predicting Lakers in 5. Not much to inspire confidence in Jazz fans. (Make sure to check this one out, as it's got lots of quotes to whet your appetite for the first round of the playoffs.)

If only.

DIME is right, I won't be picking Orlando to take home the big prize. But I will go out on a limb and give them pretty good odds of winning the Eastern Conference. Yeah, I said it. Meanwhile, this trade proposal won't happen, but if it did... dear lord, save us all!

Kevin Ding shows how Kobe's minutes and scoring have decreased consistently over the last four years. For Lakers fans, that's a Good Thing. I would also add that it belies the claim that Kobe is, or ever was, selfish -- as his supporting cast has gotten better, he has had no problem decreasing his shot attempts, and statistics have never been a primary concern of his.

Forget predicting the first round. SportsBook.com is already calling Lakers vs. Cavaliers in the Finals.

Del Grande points out that Cleveland's slightly better record comes at the advantage of playing in a much easier conference. Because they played in the West (where "eight of the 11 winningest teams reside") and have a far superior record against the top teams in the league (including a sweep of Cleveland), Grande says the Lakers are the better team.

Ray Allen elbows Anderson Varejao in the groin, and then has the balls to call him dirty (sorry, couldn't let that one get away!). Question: Given that this is the Celtics, known for things like moving semi-clotheslines screens, taunting weaker opponents, and collecting inordinate amounts of technical fouls... is anyone the least bit surprised?

Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw: Making up snakes. And this just in: Not only do Blazers fans think Roy is cooler than Kobe, but they also think he's more original.

Jeff Miller: Boldly and humorously predicting a Lakers championship.

Tex Winter, Phil Jackson's straight-shooting assistant with high standards, looks to be retiring after this year. Tex has been "earning a basketball-related paycheck" for 63 years.

Garnett's legendary intensity has been rehashed in the media ad nauseum (literally). Finally, a new wrinkle: His knee isn't buying it. Here is the hilarious (if slightly embellished) account.

The LA Times Lakers Blog on the message the Lakers sent hand-delivered to the Jazz last night: "Well, after LA's emphatic 125-112 win, the Lakers clearly sent a message to their now first-round foes: 'We'll play you, we're better than you, we're going to beat you.' "

Bynum considers himself a post-season vi-- err, rookie, and he's extremely excited to los-- err, gain experience.

This is how tight (read: how much better) the West is, from two through eight.

This can't be easy for Jordan Farmar, but if he maintains this mindset, he can only help us in our Quest. I also suspect that we haven't heard the last of him yet, by a long shot.

Again, a favorite topic here in the early days of SS&R: Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Deron Williams. Lesson to take from this: It's good to be excited about Shannon "UPS" Brown; but instead of dismissing Farmar in favor of our new toy, Lakers fans should be praying to God Almighty that Jordan regains his earlier form.

The case for Kobe as MVP. I'll be honest with you: LeBron James is the MVP, without question. But some of these points are valid. Kobe's finger is a non-issue -- he chose not to get it fixed, so it's no longer a valid excuse. However, the tougher competition in the Western Conference, the Lakers record against the top teams (including a sweep of the Cavs), and the injury to Andrew Bynum are all worthwhile factors. Still, LeBron is MVP. Without question.


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