Kobe is slowing down. It’s obvious. He’ll be 33 next season and he’s not as explosive as he once was. It is a credit to Kobe that his numbers — shooting percentage, PER, points per game, whatever ones you want — don’t really show the decline. You only see it in that he took 3.5 shots at the rim per game last season, down from 5.1 a game three years ago. Although part of that is last season Phil Jackson cut down his minutes per game to the lowest since his sophomore campaign (but still almost 34 a game).
His knees are low on cartilage. His fingers bend at weird angles. How much longer can he go, performing at a reasonably high level?
About three-to-five years, his father Joe (a Sparks coach in the WNBA) told Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Times.
You can’t put it on age. All players have injuries, even young players have injuries. You learn to deal with pain and you learn how to understand your body. You also understand your game. When you’re a student of the game, a lot of players rely on their athleticism. Once you get older and their athleticism is not there, then you don’t know how to play. But Kobe knows how to play and understands the ABC’s of the game. He understands the scouting report and how players are going to play and he understands his teammates. When you understand the game, it goes back to playing chess. You know how to move the pieces and you know how to move the ball…
All players have injuries. It’s part of it and how he can manage it. He’s been doing a good job with that. Nobody is going to run and jump [like] when they were 18 or 19. It’s impossible for people to think that. As long as he’s enjoying the game and keeps the two seven-footers [Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum], I still think he has three, four or five more years to play at a high level…
The issue is going to be when the media talks, he can’t get 30 [points] anymore, but he’s averaging 25 [points] and five [assists]. The expectations they’ll put on him or say he can’t do anymore, that’s going to be the biggest challenge, dealing with it. The important thing is as long as he’s enjoying the game and enjoying the challenge and still in the race to vie for a championship. That’s motivation enough. If you’re with a team that has no shot at making the playoffs, then mentally you’re going to be down and the energy level isn’t going to be up or you’re going to want to be traded. As long as he’s enjoying the game and it’s a challenge for him, I think he’ll continue to play.
As for what Kobe thinks of new Lakers coach Mike Brown… Kobe’s dad isn’t talking either. But in the end, Brown is the coach and if Kobe wants another ring he has to be on board and everybody has to row the same way or it’s not happening. Kobe knows that, too.