Triple Threat Weekly: The Fading Stars of the League

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

In this week’s edition of the Triple Threat, Tyler Michels and Jim Armstrong address the all-stars who play out the twilight of their respective careers. We drill into who’s hung on too long, who’s game has held up the against father time and which player will soon be assuming coaching duties.

Candidates: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion

Who’s game has translated the best in his twilight years?

Tyler

Tim Duncan: No one’s game has faded into the twilight years as well as Duncan. As a matter of fact, Duncan remains a top five center in the NBA at age 38. He’s been to back-to-back NBA Finals (2013, 2014), winning it all in 2014, and is still having another top level season. The former Demon Deacon is averaging 15 PPG and 10 RPG in 30 minutes. I could realistically see Timmy D playing another few seasons, but for some weird reason, I think this may be his last. The Spurs are on the cusp of not making the playoffs (currently sit in 7th in the ultra-competitive West) because they’ve been unable to stay healthy all season. A lot will probably depend on what happens in April and May, but if this is Duncan’s last season, it’s been one hell of a ride.

Jim

Paul Pierce: Doc Rivers said it several seasons ago, Paul Pierce has the best old man’s game in the league. He has never relied on supreme athleticism or quickness to gain an advantage. As long as he gets to his spot, at 6’7″ he can shoot over smaller guards and forwards, while using his bulk (235 lbs.) to operate around the elbows. As Washington’s starting 3, Pierce has helped propel the Wiz to the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference and enter the conversation as a legitimate championship contender. Pierce’s per 36 minute totals of 16.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.7 APG aren’t too far off from his career 36 minute averages of 21.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.8 APG. Not bad for a wing in his age 37 season.

Who has damaged their legacy by playing too long past their prime?

Kobe Bryant's frustration has become imminent with this current Lakers team.

Kobe’s last few seasons have been filled with nothing but frustration. Has he hung on too long?
(Photo courtesy of the LA Times)

Tyler

Kobe Bryant: This might seem like a crazy pick, but I’m going with Kobe for this one. Don’t get me wrong, Kobe can still play. However, the biggest mistake Bryant ever made was the decision to sign that massive contract extension in 2013 (2-year, $48.5 million). With the extension, Kobe stayed at the top of the league’s pay scale, with everyone knowing his game would not. It also hurt the Lakers chances of signing star free agents, or assembling their roster to be strong enough to compete for another championship.

With injuries mounting, in typical “Black Mamba” fashion, the “Black Mamba” did not relent. If Bryant had retired in 2012, he would’ve left the game battered with injuries, but fresh in our minds as one of the top five players to ever play. Now, as he plays with a terrible Lakers squad, it’s likely he retires at the end of this season a diminished version of himself. Exiting the game as a loser instead of the winner he should always be remembered for is the biggest tragedy of all.

Jim

Kevin Garnett: I don’t disagree with the Kobe selection but KG has become an afterthought in the league. At least Kobe still puts up 25 and 10 (just not as frequently as 3 years ago), although with his rotator cuff injury he may miss significant time for the 3rd consecutive season. Who would have thought that KG would be just another guy filling a role on a fringe playoff team? 8 years ago, heck even 3 years ago he wouldn’t have been juked this badly by any big man, as he was by DeMarcus Cousins a few days ago. While KG has played admirably hard for the Nets these last two years, it’s a far cry from even two seasons ago (2012-2013 Celtics) when he was the (only) featured guy on the low block for the Celtics, in what would be his 15th and final all-star appearance. Tough to see a legend go out so meekly on such a forgettable team.

Which one of these players could you see becoming a coach once their career is over?

Tyler

Steve Nash: If I had to pick one guy from this list to be roaming the sidelines of an NBA team in the next few years, I would pick Steve Nash. Being the only point guard on our list, and one of the best at that, Nash was always a guy who seemed like a “coach on the court.” I could certainly picture Nash leading an NBA team, and his personality would probably be a good fit to command an NBA locker room.

With that said, it is difficult for me, at 23 years old, to imagine an NBA without the Kobe Bryant’s and Kevin Garnett’s of the league. It will be sad to see any of these players retire, which left me wondering, who is going to hold on the longest?

Jim

Tim Duncan: Tim Duncan’s game has withstood three different eras of basketball (late 90’s back ’em low block basketball, early 2000’s hand-check, guard dominated basketball & free flowing, floor spacing offenses of the current day). His game is era-agnostic and tape of his low block moves will be on display for decades and decades. Wouldn’t the most logical move for Duncan be to move into coaching? After the conclusion of this season, I would not be shocked if he joined Pop’s staff as an assistant coach. There’s not a better head coach in the business to serve as an understudy.

About Jim Armstrong

Jim is a life-long sports fan and split his childhood between the ‘burbs of Chicago and central NJ, while throwing in a summer living outside of Boston into the mix. This explains his passion for the 90′s Bulls, late 90′s/early 00′s Knicks and late 00′s Celtics (he will explain in a future post). Jim never played a minute of college basketball or football but did complete a Tough Mudder recently and continues to play in basketball leagues year-round. If this doesn’t make him an expert, then I don’t know what does. Jim crunches numbers for a living and enjoys applying these analytical skills to his sports obsessions. In his free time, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, fishing and writing.

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