Kobe still has work to do

Make that – a lot of work to do. There’s no debating that Kobe Bryant has been on a scoring tear, averaging 43.7 ppg in the month of January. More importantly, the Lakers are 8-4 in those 12 games, and are now three games above .500. But we need to take it easy on the Jordan comparisons. Sure, the guy can score like a madman and there’s no doubt that he’s a phenomenal athlete. But we already knew that. Jordan was able to win NBA Championships with Scottie Pippen as his sidekick. Kobe won his as Shaq’s sidekick. If Kobe is able to lead the Lakers to one or two more titles, then we can start comparing him to Jordan.

There are a lot of haters out there. I’m not sure there has been an NBA player that has polarized the fan base like he has. Personally, I don’t particularly like the man. Living in Southern California, I suffer from Koberexposure. The titles with Shaq, his Colorado rape trial and his decision to go it alone two years ago made Bryant one of my least favorite players. He’s a lot like Darth Vader – you just love to root against him.

I am, however, amazed by the man’s game. His athleticism can only be matched by a young man in Cleveland and the two will probably spend the next several years vying for the title of best perimeter player in the league. I respect his ability to put the ball in the hole. The tear he has been on lately is phenomenal, highlighted by that 81-point effort against Toronto. But I wonder if he’ll ever reach the Finals again. To do so, he’s going to need to bring some talent in around him, and I’m not sure there are a lot of All-Star caliber players that want to go to war with Kobe Bryant.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Holmgren + humility = Super Bowl victory?

In a September post, I wrote about Mike Holmgren and the manner in which he left the Green Bay Packers.

In 1998, when Mike Holmgren demanded a head coaching job that also included complete control over all personnel decisions, it was obvious that he was going to have to find that job at a franchise other than the Green Bay Packers. The team was on the heels of two consecutive Super Bowl appearances and GM Ron Wolf was regarded as one of the best of the business and was deservedly given much of the credit. It was clear that the Packers weren’t going to fire him to appease Holmgren’s misguided career aspirations – back-to-back Super Bowl appearances weren’t enough? Many thought that Holmgren would land in San Francisco, a franchise that was familiar with the coach’s work and was at the time somewhat unhappy with their coach, Steve Mariucci, a Holmgren disciple. Oddly enough, the two teams faced each other in the playoffs that year and the futures of both coaches may have been altered by a blown call in that game. During San Francisco’s final drive (with the Packers leading 27-23), Jerry Rice fumbled after a catch. The Packers recovered, but the referee watching the play called Rice “down by contact” and the 49ers kept possession. The drive ultimately resulted in a last second touchdown pass from Steve Young to a then up-and-coming Terrell Owens, which gave San Francisco the win, 30-27. Had that fumble call gone the other way, Mariucci would have likely been fired for losing a first round playoff game at home and Holmgren would have been the favorite to take his place. The win bought Mariucci some time in San Francisco and forced Holmgren to look for complete control elsewhere. He ultimately signed with Seattle, where he has had mixed success in seven seasons and has recently had to relinquish his GM duties. Oh, the irony!

Fast forward four months and Holmgren is on the verge of winning his second title. While many Packer fans have mixed feelings about his recent success (or are blatantly rooting against him), I for one would like to see him win. I’ve always been a fan of his coaching style – he’s offensive minded, but knows enough about defense to keep his defensive coordinator honest. He’s very demanding and not always that popular with his players. He scripts the first set of plays and his teams are usually lethal the first time they have the ball.

But the biggest reason I’m rooting for Seattle this weekend is that Holmgren has had this success with the Seahawks only after giving up his GM responsibilities. I have to think, looking back, that he must regret (to some degree) leaving a great Green Bay team, only to be mired in mediocrity for several years in Seattle. He has to wonder what kind of success he would have had in Green Bay over that same span. His own ego drove him out of Wisconsin and he had to swallow that ego in order to coach a team to his third Super Bowl. I’d like to see that humility pay off.

The official Steelers/Seahawks smack talk thread

Man, I hope Seattle wins. Jerome Bettis overexposure, annoying Steeler fans and Troy Polamalu’s hair make it impossible for me to root for Pittsburgh. Who do you think will win and why? Let’s try to keep it civil, people.

Couch Potato Alert

The Duke/BC and Pitt/UConn games highlight a big week in college hoops. TNT has a good NBA doubleheader on Thursday, giving the nation a rare opportunity to see Golden State play after a LeBron vs. Wade matchup in the first game. (All times ET.)

College Hoops
Mon, 7:00pm: Louisville @ (4) Villanova – ESPN (HD)
Tues, 7:00pm: (6) Illinois @ Wisconsin – ESPN (HD)
Tues, 7:30pm: (9) Pittsburgh @ (1) UConn – ESPN Full Court
Tues, 8:00pm: (7) Florida @ Mississippi – ESPN2 (HD)
Wed, 7:00pm: Notre Dame @ (11) West Virginia – ESPN (HD)
Wed, 9:00pm: (2) Duke @ (14) Boston College – ESPN (HD)
Wed, 9:00pm: (8) Texas @ Missouri – ESPN2 (HD)
Thurs, 7:00pm: (25) North Carolina @ (19) Maryland – ESPN (HD)
Thurs, 7:00pm: (15) George Washington @ Xavier – ESPN2 (HD)

Mon, 7:30pm: LA Clippers @ Miami – local
Tues, 7:00pm: Phoenix @ Philadelphia – local
Wed, 8:00pm: Dallas @ Memphis – local
Thurs, 8:00pm: Cleveland @ Miami – TNT (HD)
Thurs, 10:30pm: San Antonio @ Golden State – TNT (HD)

Favre ‘leaning’ towards retiring

In a Sunday Conversation on ESPN, Brett Favre told Chris Mortensen that, although he hasn’t fully made up his mind, he’s leaning towards retirement.

“I wish I knew where I stood,” Favre told Chris Mortensen in an interview that aired as ESPN’s Sunday Conversation. “If I had to pick right now and make a decision, I would say I’m not coming back.”

Favre told Mortensen he would like more time to decide whether to return for another NFL season. But he understands the Packers need to know soon to properly prepare for the NFL draft and other offseason personnel matters. “I’d like to wait till training camp,” Favre said with a laugh. “But I know I have to make the decision in the next month for their sake.”

“I still know I can play, I still love to play, but there’s still much more to it. I never thought I’d give out mentally before I gave out physically,” he said.

It isn’t like Favre to sit down for an interview before making up his mind. It looks like he’ll be giving the Packers an answer soon, so that they can properly prepare for free agency and the NFL draft. Green Bay has the #5 pick and, depending on how they feel about last year’s #1 pick, Aaron Rogers, they may have an opportunity to select Matt Leinart, Vince Young or Jay Cutler (Vanderbilt), whose stock is rising in workouts.

The guy can still play. With a good offseason, there is enough talent in Green Bay to contend next season, so I’d like to see Favre return for one more season. But if he’s not sure he wants to play, then he should hang ’em up.

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