Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/15/12

Enjoy the following sentence, because this will probably be the only time you ever see it written: Kobe Bryant is no Raja Bell. Bryant may have five NBA championship rings and a trophy case full of various Most Valuable Player awards, but the 2012 edition of the future Hall of Fame shooting guard is well below Bell circa 2006 on the defensive end. In everything else, Bryant puts to shame the 36-year-old guard currently embroiled in a buyout dispute with the Utah Jazz, but in this one area, Bryant now does not stack up to Bell then. This matters because the word “Showtime” has kept coming up in the last three days, as the Lakers attempt to deflect criticism of their decision to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. By throwing around the nickname for the most exciting era in Los Angeles basketball history, the Lakers momentarily silence even the most passionate Jacksonphiles. After all, no one can argue with memories of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, no matter how imperfect the comparison may be. To be fair, “Showtime” might be the closest thing to D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less,” in that both mean that teams run a lot. Aside from a great cardiovascular workout, however, there are substantial differences between the 1980s Lakers, D’Antoni’s successful Suns squads and the Lakers’ current iteration. D’Antoni himself made that abundantly clear earlier this week. “This is a completely different team,” D’Antoni said Tuesday in a radio interview. “This team will be more skilled, bigger, a little older, much more experienced and our object will be to find the best shot within the 24-second period. We’ll push the tempo a little bit. I think the model will be something like ‘Showtime,’ but that’s hard to reach.” The reasons it will be hard to reach begin with a starting backcourt whose average age is 36 years old, but unless Jim Buss magically makes Bryant and Steve Nash 10 years younger, that number is only going to go up. The bigger reason might have more to do with Bryant, Bell and Michael Cooper. For all that is made of Showtime’s run-and-gun style, the up-tempo offense began on the defensive end. Ball-stoppers like Cooper and Byron Scott were as important to starting the fastbreaks as Worthy was to finishing them — although not as important as Johnson or Abdul-Jabbar because, honestly, let’s not get carried away. Similarly, the Suns were an infuriating foil for the Lakers from 2005 to 2008 because they had the closest thing alive to a “Kobe stopper” with Bell was in their backcourt. The key to D’Antoni’s success in L.A. therefore might not be Nash getting healthy enough to direct the offense or even Dwight Howard returning to his dominant defensive form. Both of those things probably would have happened even if Mike Brown had not been fired. The key may be Bryant and Metta World Peace re-committing themselves defensively, where they were once All-NBA-caliber defenders. They have lost their edge with time and age, but on late-game possessions they occasionally flash their old skills. D’Antoni will need both of them, as well as Pau Gasol, to at least keep the floodgates from opening onto Howard. The symbiotic relationship between good defense and good offense is well established in football, with its focus on time of possession and field position. But it is just as prominent, if not more so, in basketball, where good defense leads to easy baskets, which stifle the opponent’s fastbreak opportunities. Showtime was near the pinnacle of those two ends of the court working in harmony. “That was the best, probably, it’s ever been done,” D’Antoni said. The defense-oriented, fastbreak-intense Celtics of the Bill Russell era may tend to disagree, but from a strictly offensive perspective, D’Antoni may be correct. Nobody executed in transition like Johnson, although if anyone can come close it is Nash, even at 38. Before the Lakers get to that point, though, they will need to get Nash the ball. Howard will of course be a major factor, but they will need more than one player out of five clamping down on defense. If Showtime’s second act is to start with a bang, it must begin with a clang — of an opponent’s missed shot ricocheting off the rim. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

San Diego Padres unveil awesome new uniforms

Report: Mark Richt being recruited to run for Georgia governor

Cowboys won’t put Tony Romo on IR because of playoff hopes

What the Selection Committee taught us: Week 13

Majority of FIFA sponsors demanding independent review on reforms

Zack Greinke expected to choose between Dodgers, Giants by end of week


Reports: David Price, Red Sox agree to seven-year, $217 million contract

LSU officials’ media leaks about Les Miles blew up in their faces

Sam Bradford returns to practice, but does it matter for broken Eagles?

Cam Newton won’t be ‘lured in’ by talk of undefeated season

Report: Miami job is Mark Richt’s 'if he wants it'

WATCH: Cowboys’ security guard being investigated for choking Panthers fan

Orioles set to acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners

Seven storylines for Week 14 of the college football season

Colin Kaepernick jerseys on sale at 49ers’ team store

Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz named Big Ten Coach Of The Year

Mid-American Conference Championship preview

Lakers trying to decide which Kobe Bryant jersey number to retire

Matthew Dellavedova is becoming a better passer

Ryan Kesler says the Ducks are 'too good not to be in the playoffs'

Tiger Woods’ career inches closer to an end after gloomy injury update

WATCH: LSU releases video to honor Leonard Fournette

Report: Jim Hackett’s tenure as Michigan’s interim AD is ending

Josh Norman pretends to be a movie character each game

Ex-Giants OL Chris Snee 'wanted to see the Jets lose all the time'

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Seven storylines for Week 14 of the college football season

MAC Championship preview

Tiger Woods’ career inches closer to an end after gloomy injury update

QUIZ: Name every NCAA football national champion since 1950

Browns lose to Ravens as only the Browns know how

NCAA figures out how to invite 5-7 teams to bowls

Ranking top Heisman Trophy candidates

Have the New Orleans Saints given up?

This weekend in NFL stupid, ft. Rex Ryan

Missouri won’t accept a bowl bid at 5-7

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker