Will Kobe be a Grinch on Christmas? - NBC Sports

Will Kobe be a Grinch on Christmas?
Lakers needs to shoot less and utilize the weapons around him: Howard, Gasol, Nash
Getty Images Contributor
Kobe Bryant shoots against the Charlotte Bobcats on Dec. 18.
December 24, 2012, 6:12 pm

One of the livelier debates around the NBA continues to surround Kobe Bryant's worth to the Lakers.

Obviously the man is one of the all-time greats. But the populace continues to be split between the pro-Kobe faction that feels he should take as many shots as he wants - and that group had to be ecstatic when he put up 41 field-goal attempts in Saturday's OT win at Golden State - and the anti-Kobe bloc that feels he is an out-of-control chucker.

On Christmas Day, that argument figures to crystallize.

The Lakers will host the New York Knicks, a team that routed them in New York back on December 13, 116-107 (it wasn't that close). But Tuesday's game will be the first time Steve Nash - returning from a minor leg fracture that kept him out of the lineup this season until Saturday's game against the Warriors - will be playing against one of the league's marquee teams. Golden State is an excellent club on the rise, to be sure. But the Knicks, at least this season, are championship caliber.

The key to that, of course, is Kobe. If he insists on unbridled freedom to shoot, he might just shoot the Lakers out of the game, and for that matter, out of the remainder of the season. But if he recognizes that the time is right to employ all of the Lakers' weapons and spread the offense out - especially when it comes to the two talented bigs - the Lakers can become less of an enigma and more of a juggernaut.

The debate will continue after this Lakers-Knicks fracas on Christmas Day. But the best gift of all will be if the pro-Kobe and anti-Kobe folks witness a successful compromise result they can both live with.

Tebow finally goes bonehead off field
It's a bit of a stretch to talk about moral high ground when it comes to the relatively unimportant topic of NFL public relations. In the case of Tim Tebow, let's just call it pretty image politics.

Reports are out quoting multiple sources as saying Tebow told New York Jets coaches that he didn't want to be used in any Wildcat plays in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers, presumably because he was miffed that the team passed him over and elevated Greg McElroy to starting quarterback in place of Mark Sanchez.

If this is indeed true, it's probably the first major PR gaffe Tebow has committed in his otherwise determined and consistent effort to project an angelic image.

The Jets are in chaos. Most of the civilized world recognized it would be a mistake to bring Tebow onto that team when the Jets had committed to Sanchez and needed desperately to buttress the former USC star's confidence. Instead, the Jets did it anyway, then cluelessly wondered aloud, "What's all the hubbub?"

But if Tebow did refuse to contribute to the Jets in Wildcat formation, he miscalculated. That's now a story. He could have left the team at the end of the year as a sympathetic figure and moved on, probably to Jacksonville. Instead, he's less of one. He allowed himself to be dragged down into the Jets' muck rather than rising gracefully from it and walking away.

Here's yet another complicated NFL situation Tebow failed to read.

History won't be kind to Bush and Clemens
Not too many people would put Reggie Bush and Roger Clemens in the same sentence. But here we go.

Because of his incredibly selfish actions, Bush managed to get USC slapped with severe NCAA sanctions. As a result, any memories of Bush have been scrubbed from the university. It's as if he never went there.

Sometimes I wonder: In 20 years, will there be a push for forgiveness? Will Bush be invited back and honored at some halftime? The answer to each is no. And that's because I can't imagine any groundswell of public opinion to do that. I don't sense any affection for the guy. In fact, in 20 years, he'll be more forgotten around USC than he is now.

I feel the same way about Roger Clemens and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There seems to be a belief that Clemens absolutely won't be inducted on first ballot because of his alleged use of PEDs, but maybe down the road the voters will soften. Can't see it. As time goes by, I believe just the opposite will happen. Clemens will be a faded memory, and the players that came after him will get more support for the Hall.

Time does indeed heal all wounds. But in the case of Bush and Clemens, the wounds were inflicted upon USC and Major League Baseball, not those athletes themselves. They'll be fine someday, and there will be little trace left of those two stars.

Russell Wilson, godsend
If you ever question how important the quarterback position is in the NFL, just consider Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks.

Instead, Wilson has been a phenomenon, and that has energized the entire Seahawks' team. Believe me, if Matt Flynn had been given the starting job and was only adequate, fans wouldn't be raving about the Seattle defense. They'd be wondering why the defense has no life. And that would have been because the offense couldn't move the ball and the defense was disheartened and fatigued.

Take a look at the Arizona Cardinals. To borrow a time-worn but still effective phrase from "On the Waterfront": They could have been a contender. Instead, their quarterback situation became so atrocious that the sense of despair spread throughout the team.

Carroll was perceived as a failed NFL coach because of lackluster stints with the Jets and Patriots. He took over at USC and did a wondrous job. Now he's in Seattle, being hailed as a turnaround specialist.

But if it weren't for one player - the quarterback - the fortunes of the Seattle Seahawks, and the perception of Carroll, might be completely different.

  • A game of pepper
    Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, in appealing his four-game suspension over performance-enhancing drugs, claims his urine sample was contaminated because the first cup it was in leaked and the seal on the second cup that it was put into had already been broken. I think I speak for thousands of others when I say that stories like this one are not the reason I got into sports journalism.
  • Sixers coach Doug Collins said he will buy Big Macs for 18,000 fans to make amends because he didn't run up the score on an opponent to trigger a promotion. He should send Andrew Bynum out to get them. He isn't busy.
  • Lance Armstrong is being sued for more than $1.5 million by a British newspaper over a 2006 libel settlement the cyclist received. Maybe he can offer to work it off by delivering papers on his bike.
  • Michael Vick recently declared that he's a starter, not a backup. I believe he still can be an effective starter. All he has to do is dig up a copy of "Madden 2006."
  • Police in Fort Worth, Tx., recently had to use pepper spray to break up a riot that broke out among people waiting in line at a mall for the new Air Jordans. If there is one indisputable law enforcement tenet, it's this: You can't stop Air Jordan shoppers. You can only hope to contain them.
  • In retrospect, when Mark Sanchez posed for GQ Magazine in 2009, there are now two ways of looking at it: One, he shouldn't have done it until he actually had achieved something in the NFL; or two, he wasn't going to achieve anything in the NFL, so he might as well have done it.

Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/MichaelVentre44


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