Tag Archives: Lamar Odom

Energy Is A Talent

Watching the Lakers lose to the Mavs was quite a trip.  In my mind, the Lakers were the favorite to win the whole thing — the only team with a superstar on the perimeter, and multiple quality big men.

My theory made perfect sense.

Until the games started.

Watching the Lakers big men be so inconsistent reminded me of a conversation I had during last year’s playoffs, with my friend JZ.  JZ is a wise old hoopserver.  In fact, he’s a member of the Jedi Council of Hoopserving Masters.

Around this time last year, I told JZ that I just couldn’t understand why some players were as inconsistent as they were.  I can’t think of a different profession where someone who performs at a superstar level sometimes, an average level sometimes, and below average the rest of the time is still regarded as useful.  Yet, in basketball, it happens frequently.  We simply accept such players as “inconsistent.”  It was flabbergasting to me, I told him, that such “inconsistent” players get paid millions of dollars and do not even exert 100% effort every time they play.

JZ explained that energy is a talent.  I think it’s an excellent hoopservation, and would only add two points of clarification:

1.  “Energy,” for purposes of this discussion, includes the thing we call “focus.”  The inability to devote the same effort to every game includes “energy,” which refers to the physical component, and “focus,” which refers to the mental component.

2.  When someone like, say, Lamar Odom, or Andrew Bynum, or Pau Gasol, looks like a superstar on Friday and a scrub on Sunday, it’s not because he isn’t trying, or stayed out too late on the Sunset Strip on Saturday night.  It’s just that energy isn’t one of the talents that made him a professional basketball player, so, even though he is exerting 100% effort on Sunday, it is 100% of a different energy level than he had on Friday.  In other words, the players who have the talent of high energy wake up every day with a high energy level, and when they exert 100% effort, it is 100% of an energy level that hardly changes.  The players who do not have the talent of energy do not wake up with the same energy level every day, and when they exert 100% effort, it is 100% of a different energy level on different days.  People who resent these players for not trying their hardest every game are missing the point.

Put a few guys on the same team who do not have the talent of high energy, and you’ll wind up with a team that looks like it has a personality disorder.  Like, for example, the Lakers.  The Lakers won two championships in a row, and looked, at times, like a juggernaut on their way to a third.  But, when their superstar (Kobe) started to slip just a little bit, and one of their other high-energy players (Artest) lost a half a step, then, all of a sudden, the team was heavily dependent on its low-energy guys.

It can work, if a few of those guys are playing at a high level each game, but it’s a risky venture.  There are lots of ways to try to win in the NBA, but talent usually wins out.  And energy is a talent.



  • Champ

    I find the concept of energy being considered a talent an interesing one. How does one distinguish between those with varying energy levels and those who simply don’t give 100% on a daily basis though? Is the assumption that all professional athletes give 100% of their energy every day? More than half the players in the league barely play defense so how could those players be giving 100%? On another note, maybe the Lakers didn’t win the series because Kobe isn’t as good as everyone says he is. If Lebron were in his place, they certainly wouldn’t have lost.

  • ZackNovakJr.

    I think your point that energy/focus has a mental component is a crucial one. Unlike height or athleticism which are god-given talents, energy is primarily a learned skill. Some can learn it on their own, but others need coaching. Teaching players how to consistently focus is a coach’s most important job. The Lakers loss to the Mavs because of a lack of focus is therefore an indictment of Phil Jackson. One could argue that Gasol, Odom, Bynum, etc. are uncoachable, but I’d disagree. Almost all players are coachable, the coach just has to figure out how to reach each one or get rid of the ones that are truly obstinate. However, few truly obstinate individuals ever make it to highest level of their field. Gasol, Odom, and Bynum are all coachable. Phil Jackson just failed. Good thing for the Lakers that they will probably have a new coach next year.

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One of the first postings on this site was about the hoopservation that, whenever you debate which player is better between two players, you do not wind up talking about each guy’s skill or athleticism, but, instead, you wind up debating which of the two players has better teammates. Separately, there have been multiple postings about the Cavs, contending that LeBron’s teammates are better than they’re generally given credit for.

Recently, the Kobe v. LeBron conversation has started to bubble back up a little bit.  I guess it was inevitable; LeBron won his second MVP, Kobe has been showing signs of wear and tear, and the playoffs are heating up.  The consensus seems to be that there’s nothing left to discuss, LeBron is much better than Kobe.

I’m not going to argue that Kobe is better — not right now, at least — but I must say that it’s still remarkable to hear how much more credit LeBron gets for doing not-all-that-much-more than Kobe.  Listen to people talk about the two of them, and you’d think that Kobe was surrounded by guys on the Dream Team, while LeBron was surrounded by guys on an expansion team.

For example, on the Sports Reporters this morning, the guys were saying that the Cavs will not continue winning unless LeBron gets some help.  Um, Mo Williams had 20 points on 8-14 shooting yesterday.  That’s not helpful?  The Cavs held the Celtics to 44% shooting.  Unless LeBron was guarding all five dudes on the floor, that means that someone was playing some defense.

But this isn’t about the Cavs.  The point, for now, is that Kobe is not surrounded by a Dream Team.  Unless he goes Ko-ballistic, these guys ain’t beating nobody who’s left in the playoffs.

Let’s break it down for a minute:

Gasol is excellent.  Teams can win titles with him as the second-best player on the roster.  But don’t let the beard and the long hair confuse you — this isn’t Bill Walton we’re talking about.  When Gasol was the best player on the Grizzlies, the Grizzlies were, well, the Grizzlies.  They weren’t a contender to win much of anything.

Bynum is dangerous when healthy, but he isn’t always healthy.  And he isn’t healthy now.  Today, he was only good for 8 points and 0 – yes, 0 – blocks against an undersized Jazz team.  Don’t let the limp confuse you – this isn’t Willis Reed we’re talking about. (Have I used that joke already?)

Artest is solid, and relatively consistent, but he’s lost a step since his days as a dominant defender, and he was never a consistent offensive threat.  He’s good enough to start on a championship team if he has the right pieces around him, but I wouldn’t say that he consistently gives his team a dominant advantage over the guy he’s matched up with.

Then there’s Derek Fisher.  Years ago, he was a quality starter.  Now he’s a liability.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he’s the worst starter playing on any of the remaining playoff teams.

Which brings us to the Lakers’ bench.  Odom is very talented, but, realistically, is not significantly better than Jamal Crawford, Anderson Varejao, Tony Parker, or a few of the other bench players whose teams are still playing.  Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Luke Walton have their moments, but, if those are the guys that supposedly make Kobe’s supporting cast significantly better than LeBron’s, well, I ain’t buyin’ it.

To be sure, if everyone on the Lakers is healthy, they are an excellent, well-balanced team.  But they are old, and, now that Bynum is hurt, their top guys are not even all healthy.  It’s still an excellent team, but a guy who calls himself the “Chosen One,” and who has a couple of All-Stars of his own for teammates should be able to take this squad down… if he deserves all of the hype, that is.

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