Nov. 18, 2006-- Thank you, Kobe Bryant, for sparking some debate between my readers.

About one in every five messages I received from the first McTen had something to do with Jellybean Jr.

Kyle from Utah opened his email with, "Kobe IS a ballhog," while Mike in Canada skipped the hello and greeted me with "Kobe's never been a ballhog."

Colin Powell once said, "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand."

So, rather than divide my readers over the Kobe query, I will annoint him the biggest enigma in the game. If you accept that, then there is no way to pigeon hole him as either heroic or hated.

He's just Kobe.

And now, these are the 10 things I learned last week ...

1. LeBron and Jeff Hornacek have something in common

At the Knicks-Cavs game on Monday, I hoped to see LeBron James put a show on for the New York crowd. Maybe we'd see him drop 40. What I ended up seeing from LeBron was his new free throw routine. He gets the ball, dribbles a few times, exhales, and then kisses each wrist before taking his foul shot. He looks like Nomar Garciaparra biting at his batting gloves before getting into the box to take another cut.

It is just another ritual to add to the storied list of NBA free throw routine from J-Kidd blowing a kiss, to Hornacek wiping his cheek, to the most perplexing of them all; Nick Van Exel taking a jumper about three feet behind the foul line instead of lining up from 15-feet out.

***McExtra: Also at the Garden on Monday, the scoreboard with about three minutes to go before the half read Damon Jones: 24 pts, LeBron James: 3 pts. It was shocking. Jones couldnít miss. I finally knew what the fans felt like that saw Willie Burton drop 54 on the Heat in 1994, Tony Delk net 53 on the Kings in 2001 or Damon Stoudamire rip the Hornets for 54 in 2005. Itís like seeing a supporting actor steal a movie from the star. Thatís what Jones was like in the first half. It was half-maddening, half-amazing. I wanted to see LBJ take some shots, but Jones was automatic.

2. Michael Reddís 57 points just didnít do it for me

I think Kobe spoiled me. I feel like the kid whose Driverís Ed. instructor taught him in a Benz and then when it was time for him to get his license, his whip became his parentsí Buick. 57 in a loss barely makes me raise an eyebrow. Kobe had 81 in a come-from-behind win. Redd missed the chance at 60 and the W with an errant 3-pointer down the stretch.

(Editor's note: Hey, kid, for this Bucks fan, it was the same old story.)

3. K-Mart in the news

And itís not for adding a cerulean green shower curtain to its Martha Stewart collection. The Kingsí Kevin Martin is this seasonís breakout player. The third-year guard, with a jumper that looks like a Chris Dudley foul shot and a haircut that looks like it belongs on an extra in Kid and Playís House Party, is tearing up the opposition this year. Martinís 23.8 points per game is 13 points more than he averaged last season and despite an unorthodox shooting form, is hitting 55 percent of his field goal attempts. Meanwhile, Denverís K-Mart, Kenyon Martin, will miss the rest of the season on Wednesday when he needed right knee surgery after recovering from a left knee operation last season.

***McExtra: I had Kevin Martin listed as my No. 11 story last week and couldnít fit him in, and sure enough, my readers let me know about it. J-Red in Florida made the case for Martin, dubbing his shot a ďfunky hip-pull-up-j.Ē Thatís about right.

4. No. 7 in your Raptors scorebook, No. 1 in our hearts Ö And in our Draft

Andrea Bargnani may be the most under-hyped No. 1 pick in NBA history. There hasnít been a peep about him. He isnít even mentioned in our Rookie Rankings. Through seven games the 7-footer from Italy is averaging 4.7 points in 10.3 minutes. The last No. 1 pick to start off his career in similar fashion was Kwame Brown, who averaged 4.9 points over his first seven games with the Wizards in 2001. While Bargnani is far from being considered a bust, it is curious that he has gone through the early part of the season without the scrutiny usually attached to the NBAís top selection.

5. Peja is still nasty

Peja Stojakovic scored the Hornetsí first 20 points on Wednesday en route to a career-high 42. The first 20! That tells me two things; Stojakovic was severely undervalued by Sacramento and Indiana because there are only about five players in the league that can get you 20 straight points, and secondly, and possibly most important, Chris Paulís passing ways have rubbed off on the rest of the hive because in order for a guy to score 20 points in a row he needs teammates to pass to him and recognize the hot hand.

6. The Lakersí starting center is on par with Shaq

A combination of rapid development by Andrew Bynum and steady aging by Shaquille OíNeal has led to the Lakers looking pretty smart for choosing to keep Kobe over Shaq. Bynum is plugging up the middle and producing 10.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 62 percent from the floor while Diesel has put up 14 points and 7.5 boards in the three games he has played. While Shaq has 50 pounds on the young pup and treated him like a kid brother when they went head to head last season, L.A. still has to be pleased with their situation at the 5.

***McExtra: Bynum is a dead-ringer for former SNL star Tracy Morgan. Whenever I see him interviewed I half expect him to grab the mic, look into the camera and say, ďIím Brian Fellows!Ē

7. Jazz in tune

Apart from my colleague Maurice Brooks, and a state full of fans who proudly wear purple to sporting events out West, you can't tell me there were many people that thought the Utah Jazz would start off winning eight of their nine eight games. How do they do it? Well, a Jerry Sloan team is usually known for cherishing every possession and picking a defense apart by using the shotclock, screening the ball, and making the extra pass. This Sloan team, however, is second in the league in scoring at 105.6 points per game through Thursday. Carlos Boozer is doing an impression of another Duke forward, Elton Brand, who had a breakout season a year ago. Not to mention, Mehmet Okur is shooting over 40 percent from three and ripping 8.8 boards per game and in a two game stretch against Boston and Milwaukee this week Deron Williams had 53 points, 29 assists, eight rebounds and six steals. Chris in New York wrote me to point out that Utah fans should beware of Andrei Kirilenko's "Griffey-esque injuries," but even without AK-47, this squad is deep and ready to be an elite team this season.

8. Swat you very much, Part II

Last week I turned my attention toward Joel Przybilla's blocked-shot acumen, but the guy I should have been sweating is Emeka Okafor. The third-year center who didn't get a chance to back up his Rookie of the Year season due to a leg injury, is back on the court and making up for lost time. He already has blocked shot totals of six, seven and five in a game this season. In the one game he only got two rejections, he made up for it in the stat sheet with 28 points, 18 rebounds, three assists and two steals. He blocked a Tim Duncan dunk last week when it looked as if the ball was halfway through the rim. He is a beast and with Raymond Felton growing at the point, do yourself a favor and watch the Bobcats.

9. Who knew?

James Naismith, the inventor of the great game of basketball and the man responsible for my career and the livelihood of many others, came up with the sport based on a childhood game called "Duck on a Rock." The news was revealed this week after some documents were found in an old box of his by Hellen Carpenter, Naismith's granddaughter. If I went into my grandparents to find a link to history similar to Carpenter's the best I could hope for would pictures of my brothers feeding ducks at a pond and an old pet rock that belonged to my mother. Not quite the same time capsule. Darn.

10. Amare watch

After Amare Stoudemire dropped his first double-double since the 2005 Western Conference Finals last Saturday, it was understandable that some of my readers were ready to pump STAT up and crown him as "the future" once again. Don't get me wrong, 25 points and 14 rebounds is very impressive for a guy who's knees have been through more tests than a Floyd Landis urine sample over the last year, but I'm not ready to accept he is the Amare of old yet. Give him some time. Let him progress at his own pace. Burdening him with expectations too quick is what caused his truncated comeback last season. And, don't forget, his big line was against Memphis which is sputtering along at 1-7 this season. Give it time.

Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Get at me.