By: Louis Prejean
Entering the NBA as a promising, young rookie feels like centuries ago for some veterans players today. From Kevin Garnett to Kobe Bryant, veteran NBA players in today’s game must adjust their style of play from when they first started out.
Not all players with over ten years of NBA experience adapt to age the same way. Some players suffer injuries as they grow older, thus forcing them to retire. Others thrive under the fundamentals of basketball, such as Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.
A lot of factors come into play as veteran players try to find a way to remain successful in an ever-changing NBA. Whether it be health or a different system with players they are not use to playing with, there are veterans today understanding how to prosper and for others, well not so much.
Veterans Finding Success
Analysts and fans rightfully believe a NBA player over the age of 35 will not be productive in today’s NBA. However, there are some veteran players that have found ways to sustain relevancy and success as their bodies go through wear-and-tear.
Take Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki for example of these such players. Duncan is at the age of 39 and in recent years everyone is talking retirement for him, except for Tim Duncan. The longtime power forward and franchise corner piece for the San Antonio Spurs has been in the NBA for 18 years now. He has won five NBA championships and one has recent as two years ago at the age of 37. Since turning 35, Tim Duncan has mad ethe NBA All-Star game twice and shows no sign of dropping his efficiency on the basketball court. His career-high for Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 27.1 back in 2003-2004 and last season he posted a PER of 22.6. The league average PER is 15. All of this talk about Tim Duncan retiring because of his age getting to him is ludicrous because Duncan is still producing at a high rate for the San Antonio Spurs.
Another example is Dirk Nowitzki for the Dallas Mavericks. At age 37, Dirk Nowitzki has had a Hall of Fame 17-year career in the NBA. Since turning 35 two seasons ago Nowitzki has made the All-Star game twice and only missed seven games out of a possible 164 games. Dirk Nowitzki is also producing when he is on the court in a major way, like Tim Duncan. Nowitzki is averaging 19.5 points and 6 rebounds in under 30 minutes per game in the last two years. The Mavericks are also still winning with Dirk Nowitzki at 37 years-old and he has been the main catalyst for the consistent Dallas Mavericks.
Both of these players can credit their success to taking care of their health and a stable organization around them. The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks have the best coaches in the NBA that know how to manage the minutes of veterans to place be in a position to produce, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan have.
Veterans Losing Their Ways
Not all once-great NBA veterans can remain dominant forces in the league. Whether it be a change in the franchise of which these players have been a part of or changes in the players themselves, some veterans cannot be as productive as a Tim Duncan or Dirk Nowitzki.
Kobe Bryant is the main example here of a Hall of Fame NBA veteran who has reached the time to call it. Bryant is coming off a careerworst shooting night against the Golden State Warriors, only shooting 1-14 from the field. He has been riddled with injuries the past two seasons and since returning to action, Bryant has not looked like an efficient NBA players. His PER this season is 10.2 and Bryant is shooting 31% from the field and a miserable 19% from the three point line. The Los Angeles Lakers have not been the same winning franchise that many of come accostomed to. Bryant is in his 20th season as a NBA professional and this might be his last. Health problems and instability within the Lakers organization have really doomed Kobe Bryant as he looks to move on from his playing days.
Another NBA veteran fading into the background is Kevin Garnett, as he has become more of a mentor for the young players on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sad to see such great talents that have been successful in the NBA end their careers on losing terms.
It has been an honor to watch these players throughout the years and it is interesting to see how their careers have played out. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki will certianly end on high notes, but the careers of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are respected as the lights go down on these tenured veterans.