In the pantheon of classic confrontations, tomorrow's meeting between Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant ranks far below the epic battles of Achilles-Hector, Kennedy-Nixon and Magic-Bird...
In the pantheon of classic confrontations, tomorrow’s meeting between Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant ranks far below the epic battles of Achilles-Hector, Kennedy-Nixon and Magic-Bird.
And to listen to the Sonics guard explain his rocky relationship with the Los Angeles Lakers star, you might think their basketball feud is the creation of a zealous marketing department seeking to sell tickets, advertisers hoping to boost TV ratings and media members looking for a salacious quote.
“I don’t put any more (credence on playing Bryant) than what I did tonight,” Allen said after Saturday’s 98-84 defeat to Boston. “I don’t know what his mentality is coming in, and I think that’s pretty much the whole story.
“What he feels. What he thinks and what he says that gives … anybody something to write about. On my part, it wasn’t really nothing to be said or to talk about. I will come in Tuesday and just try to get this win because I don’t like losing back-to-back games.”
Allen believes his Sonics, who possess a 17-4 record, have matured beyond individual battles.
“I can’t say that I’ve thought about it because things have been going so well, what we’re doing as a team and who we’ve been playing,” he said. “The other day when we played San Antonio, I didn’t think about (Tim Duncan). I didn’t think about Dirk (Nowitzki) the other night. I haven’t thought about guys who can score a lot of points because I’m so confident in what we’re doing as a team.”
Still, there is something about Bryant, a lightning rod for controversy, that brings out the best in Allen.
Since arriving in Seattle in a trade last year, Allen has played his most memorable games against the Lakers. In his Sonics debut on Feb. 23, 2003, Allen scored 26 points, grabbed a career-high tying 13 rebounds and doled out nine assists in a 106-101 defeat, while Bryant scored 41.
In a Jan. 2, 2004 game, in which Gary Payton returned to KeyArena for the first time in an opposing uniform, Allen stole the show with 35 points to top Bryant’s 32 in a 111-109 Sonics victory.
Bryant has also enjoyed the sight of the Sonics. He set a NBA record of 12 three-pointers on Jan. 7, 2003 against Seattle.
They were All-Star teammates last year and appear headed toward the midseason classic once again as the highest-scoring guards in the Western Conference. Bryant is second in the NBA with a 26.9 scoring average, and Allen is seventh at 23.8.
Still, much of the hype surrounding tomorrow’s 7 p.m. game at KeyArena has little to do with basketball and more to do with the he-said, he-said offcourt melodrama between the guards.
“He feels like he needs to show the league … that he is better without Shaq, that he can win without Shaq,” Allen said. “That he can still average 30 points and he can still carry the load on this team. The point production is not so much what people will look at, because (Tracy) McGrady did it in Orlando and Allen (Iverson) did it in Philly. But can you win championships? Can he make everybody better?
“He has the talent. But is his attitude going to sometimes allow him to take the backseat and let Lamar Odom shine and let Caron Butler have his nights and bring those big guys along? If Kobe doesn’t see he needs 2-1/2 good players to be a legitimate playoff contender or win a championship in about a year or two he will be calling out to (Lakers owner) Jerry Buss that we need some help in here, or trade me. We’ll all be saying we told you so when he says that.”
When asked about Allen’s comments before their second exhibition on Oct. 25, Bryant said: “Don’t even put me and dude in the same breath.”
The second preseason showdown, a 117-91 Lakers win, never materialized because Allen sat out with a stiff lower back. Still, Bryant added fuel to the fire when he was overheard during the game telling Allen: “I’ll see you again.”
Which brings the soap-opera affair to tomorrow’s game.
“He made it more than what it was, trying to get back into the papers and telling papers what he said and what he did and he doesn’t like me,” Allen said. “All he had to do was get in contact with me and we could have hashed that out.
“Now it’s a situation where we see each other four times a year and it’s a rivalry. I always say may the best man, best team win.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org