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David

Mason,

I have to disagree. The problem with columns like these is that they really miss the boat on the type of player Lamar is, and what makes him invaluable. Everyone, yourself included, has an expectation that LO is supposed to be a dominant scorer, etc., because he's able to produce the way that he did last night. That line of thinking leads to the inevitable conclusion that he's somehow a letdown because he's not winning games with last second shots, not putting up eye-popping numbers on a nightly basis, that sort of thing. When he arrived in LA, he was compared to Scottie Pippen, but I'd argue that's also an incorrect comparison. (Since Kobe is generally the go-to in crunch time, by the way, it actually makes perfect sense that anyone on the Lakers would have low clutch stat values when it comes to scoring.)

Lamar is the consummate team player, and his performance is tied directly to how well his team plays. He's like a mirror. When he strings together 10 games in a row with great numbers, it's not a coincidence that the Lakers are moving the ball and playing well, too. Typically, when he's not, they aren't (and that's not just because of him). Last night, his numbers were off the charts because the team played so well together, not because he suddenly did something different than he does on any other night he's not suffering from a back injury. For all the stats you quoted, you should add some more from 82games.com -- like, for example, using their adjusted plus minus (or Roland Rating http://www.82games.com/0809/ROLRTG8.HTM), which assesses a player's impact on his team AND the other team when he's on the floor, Lamar has the 10th highest rating in the entire NBA. Not only that -- he's ranked 3rd in the entire league at +16.4 in terms of the difference when he's on the floor (the Lakers are +14.4 for the year) and off it (they're -2). That's behind only LeBron James (21.0) and Chris Paul (16.8), and ahead of Dwyane Wade, Yao Ming, Jason Kidd, and Kobe. Another stat, also from 82games.com, is one they provide for each team showing its most productive five-team units (http://www.82games.com/0809/0809LAL2.HTM) -- Lamar is, by no coincidence, listed at the top there as well.

Regarding the Finals last season, there's a very simple explanation. It was actually written about in a few places (Boston Globe, June 9, 2008, for one) both during the series and at the start of this year yet not reported widely because he downplayed it, which is that Lamar was battling crippling tendinitis in his knees through the entire Finals. He downplayed it and tried to play through it as best he could -- much as he did against Phoenix a few years back with a torn labrum and injured knee, and as he did last night with a bruised back.

It's fair to say that there are games over the course of the regular season when perhaps Lamar doesn't bring the same level of intensity that he could. But it's easy and far too simplistic to look at a player like Lamar and then check the box score, flippantly dismiss him, and call it a day. His impact on all the players who are on the floor with him is not only dramatic but statistically very well documented. Whether the Lakers should resign him or not is one thing. But he's the ultimate team player and chemistry guy, the heart and soul of the Lakers, and he delivers those qualities night in, and night out.

To me, that makes him big time in a different but just as meaningful way. And I'm fairly certain that his teammates and his coaches would agree.

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