Kobe Bryant missed 76 games last season and the Los Angeles Lakers struggled to a 27-55 record, the franchise’s worst mark in the five-time champion’s 18-year NBA career.
As he returns from knee and Achilles injuries, Bryant is looking for ways to remain effective in all areas of the game during the final stages of his career. According to Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated, Bryant is studying former Boston Celtics rival Paul Pierce.
“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,” Ballard writes.
“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.'”
Bryant is used to being one of the most agile players, but recent injuries and 1,245 regular-season games have taken away a lot of his speed and quickness.
Pierce has never been the most athletic player on the court, so he relies on his basketball smarts, head fakes and a quick first step to create his own shot. Pierce also uses his strength well in the post, which allows him to back down smaller defenders and get to the foul line. His footwork — an underrated part of a small forward’s game — also is tremendous. When you take all of that into account, Pierce really is the perfect player for Bryant to emulate going into the 2014-15 season.
Bryant showed no signs of slowing down before last season. He averaged 27.8 points per game and shot 86 percent from the foul line during the 2012-13 campaign (78 games).
If he can adopt some of Pierce’s methods into his own game, Bryant should perform at an All-Star level this season.