- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2008

You cannot win with Europeans if Kobe Bryant is 7-for-22 shooting in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

You cannot win with Europeans if Bryant is 6-for-19 shooting in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

And you cannot win with Europeans if Bryant is a combined 20-for-49 shooting in the first two games of the NBA Finals.

So, to distill it down, in the four games the Lakers lost to the Celtics, Bryant was 33-for-90 shooting, which was the fault of the soft and unenergetic Europeans.

Or so went much of the postgame analysis.

Now it is absolutely, unequivocally true that you can win with Europeans in the world basketball championships, as the softies of Spain did in 2006.

Spain defeated Greece 70-47 in the final. This came about after the softies of Greece defeated the United States 101-96 in the semifinals.

And the MVP of the event was Pau Gasol, who averaged 21.3 points and 9.4 rebounds.

It just so happens that Gasol is one of Bryant’s teammates who did not provide enough help because of his passivity, although he did average 14.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and shot 53.2 percent in the six games against the Celtics.

Those are not exactly incriminating numbers for someone who averaged only 10.3 shots in the series, while Bryant averaged 21.8 shots.

It is not as if Bryant and the Lakers ever truly tried to establish Gasol as a viable weapon on offense. If a player is averaging only 10.3 shots, no one should be surprised if the player struggles on offense on occasion. Establishing a shooting rhythm can be a problematic endeavor on only 10.3 shots.

Of course, the Lakers’ European problem was not limited to Gasol. Vladimir Radmanovic, who is from Yugoslavia, shot a dismal 39 percent in the series, as compared with Bryant’s robust 40.5 percent.

And Sasha Vujacic, who also is from Yugoslavia, was equally inept shooting the ball at 39.1 percent. To be fair, Vujacic did score 20 points in the Game 3 victory of the Lakers.

As you can see, the Europeans undermined Bryant, and that is not to forget the indifference of Lamar Odom, who was born in Italy and learned to play basketball on the mean streets of Milan.

It is reasonable to suggest that you cannot win with Bill Walton’s son either. Luke Walton scored a grand total of 15 points in the six games.

If the Lakers could not win because of the Europeans - and that point has become gospel in certain quarters now - what does that say for the other 28 teams in the NBA?

The other 28 teams - with the possible exception of the Spurs - would have considered an appearance in the NBA Finals a rousing success.

Crazy as it all is, Bryant and the Europeans were good enough to eliminate the Nuggets, Jazz and Spurs in the playoffs, even though you cannot win with Europeans.

It is funny what it takes to win in the NBA. The Spurs have shown you can win with a Frenchman (Tony Parker), an Argentinean (Manu Ginobili) and an ex-swimmer from the mean streets of the U.S. Virgin Islands (Tim Duncan).

The Spurs also showed you can win with a product of the Naval Academy (David Robinson), and let’s not get into the improbability of that.

A generation ago, you could not win with a high-scoring shooting guard who dominated the ball. Speaking of Michael Jordan, I do not remember anyone saying you could not win with an Australian at center (Luc Longley), a Croatian waiter (Toni Kukoc) and two players from small colleges (Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman).

The reason behind the unexpected fall of the Lakers was fairly obvious. The lead player of the Lakers - the NBA’s MVP, by the way - was inadequate.

End of discussion.

End of story.

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