Steve Kerr on LeBron, Kobe, the Knicks and why he didn’t trade Amare

Steve Kerr appeared on the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons and had some interesting things to say. Feel free to head over to ESPN and spend an hour with Bill and Steve or read the highlights below:

On Ron Artest’s game-winning put-back in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals…

I wake up at night still thinking about that rebound — I mean, why didn’t it just hit the rim, and taken a normal bounce. I’ve thought about the game constantly, but as far as how that would have impacted my job, I haven’t looked at it that way.

On Ron Artest…

He was fantastic in the last couple of games of the Finals. I just think that Artest is one of the strangest players in the league because in a normal environment, in a normal game, sometimes he doesn’t look that great. He doesn’t make shots, he takes bad shots, he makes weird decisions, but when the game becomes kind of a street fight, especially like Game 7 of the Finals, there’s nobody you’d rather have. He’s just so strong and physical. And like that play he made against us in Game 6 — or Game 5 I guess it was — he just seems to have a knack for coming up with the loose ball, the rebound, whatever it is. He’s a crafty player, he really is.

On whether or not Amare Stoudemire is worth $100 million…

I was on the same page with Robert [Sarver, the owner of the Suns], with our management. We talked about it all year long. We really wanted him back, but if the price was too much though, then it didn’t make sense. And the main reason was because of the injuries. He’s had four knee surgeries, including a microfracture. You’ve seen what’s happened over the last few years with guys like Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O’Neal — the guys who come out of high school and play huge minutes right away. Their clock ticks a lot faster and they get to 29, 30, and they really start to slow down. I think you’ve even seen it a little bit with KG and Kobe last year although both guys really turned it on in the playoffs. But because of that, with Amare, I think he’s got a few really good years left in him. You know, years four, five and six though, if he can’t go and can’t produce, now you’re really tied up and locked down with a bad contract and that can be a major problem.

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John Lucas: “There’s never been a better player fundamentally than Kobe.”

Mark Jackson mentioned Lucas’s comments about Kobe during last night’s broadcast and said he didn’t disagree.

Lucas goes on to compare Kobe to Michael Jordan, but we seem to be forgetting the elephant in the room…

Tim “The Big Fundamental” Duncan.

There is no doubt in my mind that Duncan is most fundamental player I’ve ever seen play. (Hence his nickname.) His post up game is polished, he doesn’t force anything, he is solid in all aspects of the game and he’s a tremendous defender. There is no doubt that Kobe is a great player, but he gets out of position sometimes defensively and he’s a streaky shooter because his shot is flat. Tim Duncan is the most fundamental player to ever play the game.


Barstool Debate: Does Kobe Bryant compare to Michael Jordan?

Skill-wise, Kobe Bryant is (probably) the best player in the NBA, and since he’s won a few championships and plays shooting guard, the comparisons to His Airness are inevitable.

But has Kobe done enough in his career to deserve to be compared to MJ? John Paulsen and Anthony Stalter discuss this very topic in this week’s Barstool Debate.

John: I don’t know that there is anyone that truly compares to Jordan, even Kobe. They do have several similarities. Both are phenomenal all-around athletes. They’re both fierce competitors. But there’s something that sets Jordan apart. MJ won six rings and was the main guy for all of those championships. Kobe was Shaq’s sidekick during the Lakers’ three-peat, and while he was (and is) a great player, he was not the main reason that L.A. won those titles. He certainly made a big contribution, much in the same way Scottie Pippen contributed to the Bulls’ championships, but without Shaq, those Laker teams weren’t going anywhere. However, if Kobe and his Lakers can win a title this year, it will help his case. I think he needs to win two or three more rings as the lead guy in order for us to have a real debate about who is the better player.

Anthony: I don’t know if it’s fair to compare the two with Kobe still being an active player. Quite frankly, right now there is no comparison. MJ has four more league MVP awards, three more NBA Finals MVP awards, four more All-Star appearances and over 10,000 more points. It’s probably safe to assume Kobe will at least match MJ’s All-Star Game appearances, but it’s so hard to compare everything else considering Kobe’s full body of work isn’t completed yet. And while it’s true Kobe did have Shaq, it wasn’t like Jordan was playing with Teddy Ruxpin and the Hamburglar during the Bulls’ championship runs. Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and BJ Armstrong formed a formidable team, plus Jordan eventually played with one of the best rebounders in NBA history when Dennis Rodman played in Chicago from 1995-1998. This might be another discussion in itself, but were MJ’s championship Bulls teams better than Kobe’s championship Laker squads?

John: You’re not getting off that easy, Stalter. You want to wait until Kobe is done playing before comparing the two players? What fun is that? It’s not like this is a 24 year-old we’re talking about. Kobe turns 30 this August and has played in the league for 12 years. Certainly, we must have some idea how he’ll compare with MJ when he finally hangs ‘em up. You’re right about the All-Star appearances – Kobe will probably get at least three or four more. If he plays for five more seasons, he’s likely to approach MJ’s point total as well. But he’s going to have a tough time catching Jordan in MVP awards and championships, and that might have more to do with Kobe’s personality than his sheer talent. Jordan had a reputation for being a hard ass, but his teammates wanted to go to war with him, and I don’t think there are too many Laker fans that would seriously argue that Kobe is a good teammate. For all the talk about L.A.’s magical season, I’ve seen the same ol’ Kobe in the 2008 Finals – barking at teammates, poisonous body language and condescending facial expressions. This is what sets Jordan apart – he didn’t show up his teammates (nearly as much).

Anthony: Damn it JP, you caught me. I was trying to sneak out of this one with my dignity since you’ve schooled me on previous NBA debates! I think if we’re comparing sheer numbers and achievements, we do have to wait until Kobe is done playing. But if we’re taking less of an analytical approach to the debate, then yes, Kobe has a long way to go to get on Jordan’s level. There’s a fine line between the two player’s styles of play. In some respects, one could view Jordan as being a selfish player with the amount of shots he took. But Jordan was rarely, if ever, accused of being a me-first guy. The same cannot be said for Kobe. So what does Kobe have to do then to get on Jordan’s level then? Win, but win the way Jordan did by becoming a team player? What defines a team player? As a non-Kobe supporter, what would he have to do to earn your respect as a fan and therefore, even mention him in the same breath as Jordan?

John: One thing that really jumps out at me when comparing these two players is their FG%. Jordan shot a career 49.7% from the field while Kobe shoots 45.3%. If not for MJ’s last few seasons, he would have finished over 50%, which is astounding for a guard. I don’t think anyone can criticize Jordan for being selfish when he is hitting half of his shots. Moreover, Kobe’s numbers will likely go down a bit as he gets older. He has always been a little suspect in his shot selection, and I don’t think anyone would say that about Jordan. But back to Kobe’s legacy… his numbers will ultimately compare, but Kobe has to be “The Man” on two or three more championship teams before a real comparison can be made. Winning one will be a big load off his shoulders, but it won’t be enough to erase four years of selfishness, perceived or not. For Kobe to be considered “The Greatest,” he has to stop with all the faces/barking at his teammates, quit complaining so much to the refs, and win a few more championships. The Lakers are young and talented, and are poised for a great run, but it’s up to Kobe to lead them to the Promised Land.

Anthony: I wonder which player had/has it tougher in terms of winning championships. As you noted, the Lakers are a solid young team, but the Western Conference is brutally tough and it’s so hard to repeat in the salary cap era. By no means am I saying Jordan and the Bulls had it easier, but was the league as competitive as it was in the mid-90’s as it is now? Who knows, maybe this is the last chance Kobe has to win a championship. After all, it took Kobe and the Lakers five years to get back to the NBA Finals. Nothing is guaranteed.

John: Well, the Lakers just lost Game 4 at home, so it looks like a title in 2008 is a long shot. Kobe still has a lot of work to do if he wants to pass up MJ. With the return of a healthy Andrew Bynum, I think the Lakers will be the favorite to win the 2009 NBA title.

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