Clippers’ Paul Pierce says Kobe struggles with smaller role


Dec 3, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) talks to Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows that when Kobe Bryant is on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers, he wants to be in control. That’s just what comes from his near unparalleled competitive nature and drive to win. Although, as he continues to struggle with health issues after missing so many games over the last two seasons, Kobe can’t expect to play so many minutes and take as many shots as he’s grown accustomed to over the course of his prolific career.

Even last season at 36 years of age when coming back from his achilles injury, Kobe still played 34.5 minutes a night and attempted 20.4 shots per game. He may have averaged 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and an impressive 5.6 assists per game, but his effort to do too much came at a price; he shot just 37.3 percent from the floor and a mere 29.3 percent from three point range.

Obviously he was coming off an extremely tough injury at the latter stages of his career, yet it was still the first time he shot below 40 percent in a season since entering the NBA.

This season might not be that different either. With the Lakers full of young talent such as D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, they don’t have many established players besides the likes of Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and now Metta World Peace to rely on. As a result, we can still expect the Black Mamba to return at the best level his beaten body will allow to try and save his Lakers.

If he shoots 37 percent from the floor again, though, it will end up being detrimental to his team. With that likely possibility in mind, Paul Pierce of the Los Angeles Clippers was prompted to make a remark about Kobe’s attitude as an ageing player.

At the Clippers media day, Pierce made the following comment to Fred Roggin of The Beast 980 (per Kurt Helin of NBCSports’ Pro Basketball Talk):

Regardless of whether or not you think Pierce’s jab at Kobe was uncalled for, it’s safe to say it’s fairly accurate. Kobe has always had the heart of a champion and he doesn’t want to limp to the end of his career. So if that means he wants to shoot 20 shots every night, he’s going to shoot 20 shots every night.

After all, until his recent battles with injuries, the five championship rings speak for themselves.

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On the other hand, Pierce has proven that he’s more than wiling to adopt a smaller role and adjust to moving away from being his team’s first option. In almost every case, that approach to the game is what 37 year old players need. Unless you’re incredibly blessed with athleticism and good health, you simply can’t maintain such a big role when you’re approaching 40. That’s why Pierce has dipped below 30 minutes per game in each of the last two seasons for the first time in his career.

Pierce’s willingness to take a reduction in minutes and work around what role his head coach wants for him will suit the Clippers perfectly this year. Whether Pierce or Wesley Johnson will start at small forward is still uncertain, but the fact that The Truth needs to be rested and maintained throughout the regular season goes without saying.

If Pierce’s role is monitored effectively by Doc Rivers (as it will be), the Clippers can fully enjoy his late game ability and clutch buckets when the playoffs begin.

Next: Who should Clippers start? Paul Pierce vs. Wesley Johnson