What Kobe Bryant Can Learn from Paul Pierce’s Ageless Game

He may be 36 years old and coming off a season fraught with injury, but Kobe Bryant‘s superhuman credentials remain as credible as ever.

Even as his Los Angeles Lakers look to rebound from a 27-55 record, Bryant is attempting a comeback of his own after playing just six games last season.

Chances are the results will be impressive. They usually are when Bryant’s involved. 

But the anticipatory chatter is already cementing a reputation that probably didn’t need any help.

Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Ballard recently spoke with “longtime physical therapist for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers” Judy Seto, and the fallout only serves to further enhance an iconic legacy that—in the eyes of many—ranks as the true heir to Michael Jordan.

Regarding Bryant’s threshold for pain, Seto contended that, “It’s the highest that I’ve ever seen.  He channels his focus so well in terms of just the task at hand. But also when he’s had pain, he can block that out. I mean, I think a good example is when he tore his Achilles, he made those free throws. He blocked it out and focused.”

Those free throws were a reminder that for all of Bryant’s talent and titles, it may be his fortitude that truly sets him apart.

“He’s remarkable,” then-Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said at the time, per ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. “For him to hit the fouls shots is remarkable. It just didn’t end. You have a greater appreciation to what he wills himself to do.”

It was a historic moment, but there’s little doubt Bryant hopes to avoid repeating it. Going forward, he’s focusing on staying healthy and making the most of his career’s few remaining years.

So it should come as no surprise that the 16-time All-Star is doing his homework.

Ballard separately reports that, “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 PierceThis is part of his goal to become ‘more efficient’ on the court.”

The notion that Bryant has anything to learn from Pierce may sound self-evidently absurd.

Don’t get me wrong—Pierce, now a member of the Washington Wizards after just one season with the Brooklyn Nets, has left an indelible mark on the NBA.

But he’s no Kobe.

And after averaging a career-low 13.5 points last season, Pierce hardly seems like an appropriate role model for Bryant, who—during the 2012-13 campaign—tallied 27.3 points per contest. Pierce has never averaged more than 26.8 points in a season, and that was all the way back in 2005-06.

Still, one would assume Bryant knows best. He’s an unrivaled student of the game, so if he believes Pierce can teach him something, perhaps there’s something to it.

To his credit, Pierce has missed just 19 games combined over the course of the last four season. That’s a strong track record that indicates he’s taken good care of his body and subjected himself to minimal wear and tear late into his career.

It helps that he’s averaged fewer than 35 minutes per game in each of those seasons and as few as just 28 minutes per contest a season ago.

By comparison, Bryant averaged at least 38.5 minutes in both 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Though he almost certainly has the motor to sustain that kind of pace, there’s something to be said for more modest playing time—perhaps even sitting some games out. Selling Bryant on such a proposal may not be easy, but it’s probably the first thing he should take away from Pierce’s enduring health.

The Kansas product has also remained effective largely on account of methodical footwork, up-and-under moves and fall-away jumpers—the kind of savviness that obviates a need for elite athleticism and otherwise reduces the risk of collision or dangerous landings.

As NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin recently put it, “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.”

CBSSports.com’s James Herbert used similar language, writing, “The crafty Pierce has adapted about as well as anyone. He has an arsenal of little head-fakes and ball-fakes, and he knows how to get his shot off, even if he can’t create as much space as he used to.”

The common theme?

Pierce is ridiculously “crafty.”

And for that matter, so is Bryant. Even when his athleticism was still without peer, he conjured MJ with dizzying moves on the wing, from the elbow and in the post. Always a deep threat and lethal slasher, it’s been Bryant’s smooth in-between game that makes him virtually impossible to stop.

To that end, it’s probably fair to assume watching video of Pierce won’t translate into some kind of dramatic renaissance in Bryant’s game.

It’s the little things that will make the difference, nuanced tendencies that may add a few options to Bryant’s already robust bag of tricks.

Pierce’s game could be especially instructive in light of the fact that he was never quite as athletic as Bryant. In turn, his techniques reason to be of value for a one-time acrobat suddenly faced with the increasing demands of gravity.

“There are certain things that my body can’t do that I used to be able to do,” Bryant told Ballard. “And you have to be able to deal with those. First you have to be able to figure out what those are. Last year when I came back, I was trying to figure out what changed. And that’s a very hard conversation to have.”

Bryant added, “I’ll be sharper. Much sharper. Much more efficient in areas. I’ll be limited in terms of what you see me do, versus a couple years ago. But very, very methodical, very, very purposeful.”

Maybe he’ll get there with a little help from Paul Pierce.

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Report: Kobe studying Paul Pierce to help adjust his game

Kobe Bryant, like the great athletes before him, study and adapt their games to put them in the best position to be successful. Bryant is now 36, and will likely never have the springs that he once had.  In order to make himself as productive as he can be, Bryant is stealing a page from Michael Jordan, and evolving his game. According to James Herbert of Eye on Basketball, Bryant is studying Paul Pierce’s game to help himself become more efficient as he loses a step. 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.” All eyes will be on Bryant to see if he’s done, simply a pretty good player, or a guy who’ll become an efficient assassin well into his 40′s.

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Jordan Brand and Chris Paul Collaborate to Create New CP3.VIII Shoes

Chris Paul knows that a player’s shoes can make a big difference on the court, and thanks to Jordan Brand, the Los Angeles Clippers point guard will have a new model that can give him an edge this upcoming season.

On Wednesday, Jordan Brand unveiled the new Jordan CP3.VIII sneakers. Paul had a lot of say in the designing process, as he wants shoes that will help give him an edge over his opponents.

Here’s what Paul had to say on the importance of a player’s shoes, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell:

Paul’s latest signature shoe will not only be about him, as he was also able to include his family. As a way “[to pay] tribute to the patriarchs of the Paul family,” a family tree was put on the inside of the tongue of the shoe. 

Given that Paul uses his speed and quickness to perform at a high level, the shoe needed to be able to help him in those areas. The shoes are lightweight but still provide stability for the player.

The shoes will be available in two color schemes: black/infrared 23/white and cool grey/white/black. Here is a look at one of the colorways:

The Jordan CP3.VIII shoes will be sold for $130 starting on Nov. 1.

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What the Los Angeles Clippers Need from Chris Paul Next Season

Arguably the top point guard in the entire league, Chris Paul has helped transform the Los Angeles Clippers into one of the league’s elite teams. While Paul has been nothing short of awesome, Doc Rivers needs a more unique version of the elite point guard. Especially if the Clippers are to reach the franchise’s first conference finals.

Make no mistake, Paul’s talents are a major reason for the Clippers’ turnaround over the past three seasons. However, the postseason results have been disappointing. Paul needs to refine his game and adjust his tendency to dominate the ball.

Last season Doc Rivers proved to Paul that increasing the tempo and limiting his control over the ball improved the team. Mainly, because Blake Griffin was ready to help Paul carry the load offensively.

Paul’s talents are remarkable, but even the most talented players need help getting to the top. The fire that burns within Paul’s competitive soul help make him a fearless leader, but talent, chemistry and a little bit of luck are what win titles. The talent is now available but one last thing is missing; a change in philosophy.

 

Paul’s Past

Despite Paul’s immense talents he has never led his team past the second round of the playoffs. Widely regarded as one of the 10 best players in the league for years, his playoff results are underwhelming. Some of that blame can be placed on his supporting cast, but the common denominator is Paul.

According to basketball-reference.com, Paul’s playoff averages of 20.6 points, 9.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals are extraordinary. Unfortunately, the underlying theme behind those statistics revolve around his penchant for dominating the ball.

Again, his ball dominance ties in with his lack of a superior supporting cast. The main problem has always been the lack of another high-usage scorer.

The chart above tells all. David West was Paul’s highest usage sidekick until arriving in Los Angeles. West has never been mistaken for someone that can create his own shot, let alone set up his teammates for baskets.

Those not listed include 46 games of Marcus Thornton, Jarrett Jack, Jannero Pargo, Peja Stojakovic again. The picture is pretty clear, Paul needed help.

Even after joining the Clippers in 2011, not much changed. Paul finally had someone who could create offense and score 20 points per game, but needed to be fed the ball in certain areas on the floor to score. That mean a ball dominant Paul had to take control of the offense, especially in the playoffs.

Much like with the New Orleans Hornets, defenses were able to key on Paul, taking away his passing lanes and forcing the 6’0” point guard to win games nearly single-handedly. Yet again, Paul has been unable to advance out of the second round. For all of Paul’s talents, it would be nearly impossible for him to win multiple playoff series each season on his own.

 

A New Paul

The arrival of Doc Rivers provided instantaneous legitimacy for the franchise. Rivers is passionate, sensible and brutally honest. Chris Paul found this out immediately, according to Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears.

As professional athletes, you always want someone to push you and motivate you, Paul said. The first meeting I had with Doc, he pretty much told me I wasn’t anything. He told me I hadn’t done anything in this league, and he was right. You don’t always want somebody that’s going to tell you what you want to hear.

Reflecting on this quote brings clarification to the entire 2013-14 Clippers season. Rivers needed to breakdown the undesirable habits and attitudes of the players on his new roster. He needed to mold their talents into a new system that took pressure off Paul, gave Blake Griffin more offensive responsibility, kept the floor spread and featured DeAndre Jordan as the defensive anchor.

Paul seemed hesitant early, as Rivers preached tempo, speed and sharing the ball. It was not until Paul missed a month of action with a separated shoulder, that he fully appreciated what Rivers was preaching. Largely, because he was able to see the offense excel without him.

According to NBA.com, from January 4 until Paul’s return on February 9, the Clippers were second in the league in scoring and had a plus-8.1 scoring differential. Rivers’ system was dynamic and lethal, because the team was playing fast and spreading the floor around Griffin.

Every game Paul missed, the league’s best point guard had a front-row seat to Rivers’ explosive offense despite his presence on the floor. The more the team pushed tempo and shared the ball, the more difficult the offense was to defend.

Paul now completely understood his role in the offense and the transition upon his return was seamless, mentioned ESPN’s J.A. Adande.

He still has the ball in his hand a lot, Rivers said. We want him to have the ball; he’s the best player in the league with it. But we also feel like it’s harder to guard him when he gives it up and comes back, and then they can’t load up.

So how do the Clippers improve upon last season? It starts with Paul. The lessons he learned during his first season with Rivers are vital to the success the team seeks this season.

Griffin has proven that he can carry the load along with Paul. No longer will there be a need for Paul to create every shot after pounding the ball into the floor for 15 seconds, waiting for someone to come free for an assist.

The offense can flow through Griffin, forcing the defense to shift to Paul coming of rubs and screens. Griffin’s much-improved jumper now gives Paul one of the best pick-and-roll/pop partners in the league.

Most important of all, Paul has a leader on the sidelines. Someone to hold everyone else accountable so he can focus on playing basketball. Someone for the team’s heart and soul to believe in. A man that Paul respects.

Finally, Paul needs to do a little less, so everyone else can do a bit more. A more balanced offense and a commitment to defense will be the key to this season. His old tendencies are sure to re-emerge, but it is time for Paul to trust the others around him and stick to Rivers’ system.

The talent and structure Paul needs is now firmly in place. He just needs to take advantage of it.

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Paul George Braves Through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Paul George is one tough guy.

The Indiana Pacers star recently took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, despite his hatred for being cold. Many people run away immediately after getting soaked in order to try to warm up, but considering it has been less than a month since George suffered a gruesome leg injury, he had no choice but to sit in the chair and freeze.

George posted the following hashtags to go with the video: #DidISayIHateBeingCold, #iTriedToRunAway and #OhICantRun

Kudos to George for braving his way through the challenge. He nominated Pacers season-ticket holders Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

[Paul George]

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5 Young NBA Stars Who Could Fill Paul George’s Void Next Season

Paul George‘s brief stint with Team USA was cut short long before he could contribute to the club’s FIBA World Cup competition in Spain.

Even more tragically, he’ll likely miss the NBA season ahead. A freak fast-break play translated into a disturbing leg break, replete with bone penetrating skin.

“I plan on making a full recovery,” George recently told reporters. “It will make me stronger.”

He added, “I would love to play this year. I know there’s a possibility that I won’t be back this year, I’m aware of that.”

The setback couldn’t have come at a worse time for the rising star, especially as his Indiana Pacers attempt to improve upon their recent postseason performances with a legitimate title push. George has established himself as a brilliant all-around two-way player, even garnering some MVP consideration during the early stages of the 2013-14 campaign.

In December of last season, ESPN Stats and Info’s Sunny Saini noted, “The NBA MVP award has been given to the player on a team that finished with the best record 58 percent of the time since 1990 and in four of the past five seasons. If George continues to lead the Pacers to a No. 1 seed, he could become the first Pacers player to win the NBA MVP award.”

The IndyStar’s Candace Buckner later ranked George as the league’s fourth-best player in February, writing, “The next big player in the NBA is no doubt Paul George.”

With George sidelined, who replaces him as the next big thing in the interim? 

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Team USA wore special shooting shirts in honor of injured Paul George

United We Stand.

      
 

 

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Paul George still hopeful of returning this season

Pacers’ Paul George remains hopeful of return to court next season after ‘freak accident’

      
 

 

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Paul George still hopeful of returning this season

Pacers’ Paul George remains hopeful of return to court next season after ‘freak accident’

      
 

 

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Paul George: ‘I would love to play this year’

Paul George knows he could miss the entire season but is trying to maintain optimism.

      
 

 

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