By Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk
Paul Pierce’s gets to the elbows and once there unleashes an old-man-at-the-YMCA game on his opponents, getting off an array of crafty shots that seem to always find the bottom of the net. He’s evolved that part of his game over the years. That game has started to slip (he turns 37 this October) but he still is an above average player and a guy who can make contested shots. The kind you have to hit in the playoffs. Which is why the Wizards picked him up.
Kobe Bryant knows he’s not going to be the same kind of player now that he was pre-injury and a few years back. He has evolved his game as he has aged and that process takes on new meaning now coming back from Achilles and knee surgeries.
Chris Ballard’s brilliant profile of Bryant at Sports Illustrated (and related pieces) is the gift that keeps on giving with great anecdotes thrown in, including how long-time Laker Kobe is studying long-time Celtic Pierce and how his game changed. (Hat tip James Herbert Eye on Basketball.)
In preparing for this season, Bryant told friends that the player he is analyzing, as an example of adjusting your game as you get older, is fellow 36-year-old Paul Pierce. This is part of his goal to become “more efficient” on the court.
Said Bryant, “I’m going to max [my last two years] out too, to do whatever I can. Leave no stone unturned, no water left in the sponge.”
There will be a lot of eyes on Kobe this season, which is why he and the Lakers are playing on opening night (that and television ratings). We all want to see just what Kobe still has in the tank, what he can do this season.
My guess is he is still going to be a good player. Maybe not the guy he was three years ago, but still a guy you have to game plan for, a guy who can make plays, and a guy who will lead this team.
His problem is there is nobody else to really fear on that roster and this Kobe (in this deep Western Conference) can’t lift this team as high as he believes he can.