Up until last season, Kobe Bryant had widely been considered one of the most durable players in the NBA.
For the majority of his first 17 seasons in the league, Bryant played at least 65 games each season and averaged nearly 37 minutes per game. The shooting guard showed very few signs of a physical decline despite his heavy workload, that is until he hit a serious bump in the road last year. A combination of a torn Achilles tendon and a fractured bone in his left knee forced him to miss 76 of 82 games over a disastrous 2013-14 regular season for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant has recovered from those injuries now, but it comes as no surprise that he has realized he will need to re-invent his game a bit as he returns to the court at age 36 this season. Gone are the days where Bryant’s body can handle 38 minutes and 20-plus shot attempts a night. Instead, as he shows the first signs of physical mortality in his career, he recognizes he is going to have to adapt to his new limitations.
So who exactly is Bryant looking to for ideas on adjusting his play as he ages? SI’s Chris Ballard fills us in:
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.”
Celtics fans know that Pierce is a good choice for Bryant to emulate. Despite dealing with limited athleticism over the past few seasons of his career, Pierce hasn’t experienced much of a drop off on the offensive end of the floor. He’s shooting less, but he’s still hitting a high percentage of his three-point attempts while serving as a reliable scoring option in his limited opportunities.
There is one place Bryant should look for some Pierce guidance. Pierce’s Facebook page, where the old man shows off his offseason workout regime.