Monday, June 2

Anatomy of a Feud

The Kobe Bryant-Ray Allen subplot to the Finals is beginning to get a bit of attention from the national media, but still not as much as I might have expected, given the lengthy delay between the conference finals and the championship series. For those who are unaware of the conflict, here’s a brief synopsis.

During an exhibition game between the Sonics and Lakers, Ray Allen receives an elbow from Kobe Bryant and the two exchange words.

After an exhibition game against the Blazers, Allen questions Kobe Bryant’s leadership skills to reporters, especially in light of the recently departed Shaquille O’Neal. “He feels like he needs to show this league and the people in this country that he is better without Shaq,” Allen says. “He can win championships without Shaq. So offensively, he's going to jump out and say, 'I can average 30 points. I can still carry the load on this team.' If Kobe doesn't see he needs two and a half good players to be a legitimate playoff contender or win a championship, in about a year or two he'll be calling out to Jerry Buss that 'We need some help in here,' or 'Trade me.’ And we'll all be saying, 'I told you so,' when he says that."

Allen concludes by stating, “He has the talent [to lead a team], he can do it. But is his attitude going to allow him to take a back seat and let Lamar Odom shine and let Caron Butler have his nights and bring those big guys along with him?”

Obviously, Allen was proven right, as this past summer Bryant demanded a trade or some immediate help.

OCTOBER 20, 2004
Bryant allegedly phones Allen and tells him “I’m gonna bust your ass.” Bryant is referring to an upcoming exhibition game between the Sonics and Lakers. Allen denies the phone call ever took place. Bryant does as well, and also adds, “Don’t even put me and dude [Allen] in the same place.”

The two would continue to battle on-court while Allen was with the Sonics (including this memorable block by Bryant on an Allen dunk and this other brilliant Bryant game), but obviously the “feud” moved to the back burner when Allen was dealt to the Celtics this past summer.

In total, the two have tangled ten times since their tete a tete in October 2004. In those ten games, Allen’s team is 6-4, but Kobe clearly wins the individual game with 29.4 ppg to Allen’s 22. Ray does get bonus points for playing fewer minutes and for tallying more rebounds, but no matter how you look at it, Bryant has bested Allen in the individual matchup.

It’s tough to say, though, how much of the greatness attributed to Bryant lately is due to his play and how much is due to his surroundings. Bryant has been tremendous this season, but this is still the same man who received catcalls from the balcony of NBA fandom for much of the past few seasons. It makes you wonder, is it Bryant who has changed, or our perception of him?

Likewise, the perception of Allen has changed, and in one season he has gone from a feared offensive weapon to an aging gunslinger. When Allen first came to Seattle, I expected a one-dimensional shooter, basically a younger and slightly more athletic version of Dale Ellis. I was surprised to see, however, a uniquely skilled offensive player who was capable of getting 25-5-5 on just about any night. In addition, he showed us his cold-blooded nature in the 2005 playoffs by putting up lights-out numbers for three rounds.

With double ankle surgery this past spring and the presence of two strong offensive players alongside him, Allen saw his numbers drop dramatically this year, and his playoff woes are well documented. As does Bryant – as does any athlete – Ray Allen has pride, but unlike Kobe, Allen’s pride is muted. In all the time I’ve watched him play, I’ve never seen Allen thump his chest or stare down an opponent in a menacing fashion. Ray Allen would never petulantly refuse to take a shot for an entire half because it simply would never occur to him. Perhaps it’s just not his nature.

Whether or not Allen can find enough magic elixir in his bag of tricks to put up some 25-point games this Finals remains to be seen, but I have a feeling that the now-simmering feud will add some fuel to his engine. The question remains: Are the wounds to his pride deep enough to stimulate the great offensive player still inhabiting that body?

For those of us counting on a Laker loss, it’s the best we can hope for.

(Information was gathered from The Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, and Seattle PI).


Eric Reynolds said...

I seem to recall Ray getting some good games against Kobe in the midst of that feud. And Ray was pretty much dead on in his comments. But Kobe's still going to kill the Celts in the Finals.

Anonymous said...

With Ray Allen being a mediocre defender who's on the downside of his career, it's doubtful that he'll frequently guard Kobe Bryant during the 2008 NBA Finals; instead, Paul Pierce and James Posey should receive the defensive assignment versus Bryant, while Allen will probably go head-to-head against Vladimir Radmanovic -- who, ironically, is also a former Sonic -- which'll definitely be an interesting matchup.

Anonymous said...

In Ray's first game against the Lakers in a Seattle uniform, he had 26 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. In the rematch a couple weeks later, he had 29-10-10. The following year, he had another triple-double against the Lakers (18-10-10).

Anonymous said...

I wanted to include those numbers in the comparison, but the so-called feud didn't actually begin until the pre-season of the year AFTER Allen was traded to the Sonics (you'll recall that the Allen-Payton trade took place at mid-season). I didn't think it was right to use stats from before they shared some nasty words as part of the comparison.

As AK's point - he's right, Kobe and Ray likely will never face each other in the true sense. Still, I'm guessing Ray has a little extra motivation to win this series, not to mention this may be his (or Pierce's, or Garnett's) only shot at a ring.

Freckleking's said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ray is out-classed by Kobe. The more he tries to compete with Kobe, the more humiliate he will get. He should be "muted" during the series because anything he tries on Kobe, it's only motivate Kobe more and nobody wants to do that.
Get real Ray!

Derrick said...

I'm not sure about any recent developments, but I thought they squashed their beef. They played in an All-Star game after all the brouhaha one year, and they put it to rest, at least outwardly, with both guys smiling and laughing with each other as they played on the same team (Bryan even throwing mock jabs at Allen or something like that).

Anonymous said...

If Ray Allen's teams are 6-4 against the Lakers then it doesn't matter who had the better numbers. Basketball is a team sport so that means Ray Allen has done better than Kobe.

Anonymous said...

Larry said it perfectly. Allen's teams have won more games, therefore Allen is the winner so far in this matchup.

The 6-4 record is especially impressive when you consider just how bad some of Allen's teams were during that time. I mean, Danny Fortson was their starting center, for god's sake.

Anonymous said...

Kobe's bank account is full of profit; if he is telling the future, he is a prophet.

Not that prophets don't make lots of profit (see Swaggart, Jimmy).

nova said...

its funny that u say no matter how u look at it kobe gets the best of ray right after saying ray won 6 out of the 10 matchups cuz i dont know if u realize but wins are one way of "looking at it "....also ray was on the lowly sonics for most of those matchups.....oh and by the way the celts have womped up on the lakers twice this yr.....u know those hugely favored lakers

cmoney said...

This is a pretty random bump, but someone linked me to this and I feel this should be mentioned.

Bucks Diary had a great post about Ray and Kobe match ups:

The truth is, Ray has destroyed Kobe in these matchups, just like he did in the Finals (Ray has a great argument for Finals MVP). Sure, Kobe scored more when they went face to face, but he did so in a very inefficient fashion, and that's just not how you win ball games.

Ray never plays outside himself, never forces, and as a result doesn't get caught up in this feud stuff like Kobe does, as he continues to chuck contested 20footers.

Kobe had an incredible season, but "bad" Kobe reared its ugly head. He had an awful Finals.

Anonymous said...

i think it's time to put the feud to rest...Celts won against the favorable Lakers with the so-called "deep bench"...i'll point out too that Ray easily could've been Finals MVP as he was the most consistent in the Finals series...but Pierce deserved it too...Kobe maybe putting up 30+ pts/game but it wouldn't matter if his teammates are not producing..

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Ray having a triple double against Kobe and winning.. don't remember the exact date but it did happen...

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