Ron Harper has perspective. He was on the Bulls during their heyday for three titles. He was on the Lakers for the first two titles of the Kobe/Shaq era. Through it all he was like a coach on the floor.
And he told FanHouse Jordan remains the best, but don’t think the gap is very wide.
“I tell people that they are two great, great players, and Michael remains the best of all time, but Kobe now is right there next to him. He’s standing right next to him. He’s the closest thing we’ve ever had to Jordan. There is no one else even in the ballpark,” Harper told FanHouse Tuesday from his home in New Jersey. “Kobe is hands down the best player in the game today.”
“Michael still gets the edge because of when he played, and who he played against, but don’t take anything away from Kobe,” Harper said. “Michael played when the rules allowed all the grabbing, holding and bumping that isn’t allowed now on the perimeter. He also played against [Clyde] Drexler, [Joe] Dumars and guys like that every night. But after saying that, Kobe still would have been a star in that time.”
Harper goes on to make an interesting note about team play — the Bulls had it, the Lakers have it now. That is not just the triangle and Phil Jackson, it is a management buying into the system, it is players being willing to accept roles to win.
Look at the teams in the finals this year — the Lakers and Celtics played more like a unit than any others. They had continuity of players and system. Management went and got players to fit the system, and once in the culture players outside it bend to its will. You see the same thing in Phoenix right now. Orlando has a system. It’s not a coincidence they are the four left standing at the end.
This is not a slap at modern players — there were plenty of teams and guys out for themselves in the 70s, 80s and beyond. The point is that teams win.
Of course, it really helps when Kobe or MJ are on those teams.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.