Red Flags for Aging NBA Stars
Staying effective in today's NBA is a tricky and demanding undertaking for an NBA veteran in his mid-to-late 30s or older.
We're in the middle portion of the 2012-13 regular season, and several aging stars are undergoing difficulties they didn't encounter earlier in their careers.
Not every veteran can be as brilliant as Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant. Injuries, ineffective defense and new roles can all serve to derail an old warhorse.
A pair of Boston Celtics stars have some red flags that could be problematic come playoff time. On the other side of the country, a standout point guard is failing an important test.
What are some of the key red flags surrounding some of the NBA's veteran stars?
*Stars featured in this article are in their mid-30s (at least 34) or older.
Jason Terry, Boston Celtics G
NBA Experience: 13 years
Red Flag: Worst scoring and shooting since he played for Atlanta Hawks
Not since his pre-Dallas Mavericks days has Jason Terry posted these kind of numbers.
The Boston Celtics newcomer's production isn't awful. It's just not Terry-like. He's barely notching double digits in points (10.6), and he's on pace to register a career-low in assists (2.4).
He's still a half-step behind the rest of the Celtics returnees, and he has yet to find his shot. The Jet's field-goal percentage (43 percent) and three-point percentage (36 percent) are his worst marks since his final season with the Atlanta Hawks (2003-04).
To stay relevant in the NBA, Terry needs to pick up his production in support of Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. If not, he and the Celtics will flounder this spring.
Jason Kidd, New York Knicks G
NBA Experience: 18 years
Red Flag: Inconsistency without Raymond Felton
Since Raymond Felton fractured his pinkie on Christmas, New York Knicks guard Jason Kidd has seen an uptick in usage and has been tasked with more facilitating and shooting.
Initially, he did great, but he proceeded to demonstrate inconsistency and ineffective passing. More fouls, a couple of scoreless games and a five-turnover outing are on his recent resume. The longer he's out on the floor, the more his below-average athleticism is exposed.
But it's not just a matter of playing time. Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York explains that it's more than just a workload issue:
...The issue with Kidd is beyond minutes. At 39 years old, he's simply not the same player at point guard. He can't get deep in the paint and keep his dribble alive long enough to create plays. He doesn't have that extra step anymore.
Kidd fit perfectly as a shooting guard and supplementary passer alongside Felton, but as a primary point guard, he's prone to breakdowns these days. His role as a guard has become narrower at this stage in his career.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics F/C
NBA Experience: 17 years
Red Flag: Frequent Substitution
Future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Garnett is still playing nearly 30 minutes per game, but his minutes are being broken up more than usual.
This isn't so much of a red flag for Garnett as it is for the Boston Celtics, who must figure out a way to properly utilize him in the postseason.
The NBA playoffs are long and grueling, even if you only play a couple rounds, but Doc Rivers can't afford to send in the subs every six minutes Garnett is on the floor.
For the near future, it's a red flag for the Celtics. Looking ahead to next year, it's a red flag for the Big Ticket.
Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers G
NBA Experience: 16 years
Red Flag: Key Contributor to Lakers' Defensive Struggles
There are a couple different red flags surrounding Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, including health and a downturn in offensive production. The most concerning one from a competitiveness standpoint is his defense (which is indirectly affected by his shin injury).
Nash has never been an outstanding defender despite ample effort. He's even worse now in L.A., and the Lakers' chemistry and personnel issues compound the issue. Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Dan Favale explains Nash's defensive futility:
On the heels of an extensive shin injury, however, much of that same lateral quickness now fails him. And thus, he has looked like a deer in headlights on the defensive end. Some of his struggles were masked in the early going by poor performances from point men such as Raymond Felton and Damian Lillard. For the most part, though, opposing point guards have had their way offensively.
L.A. opponents tallied 111.8 points per game during a six-game losing streak in which Nash had at least 30 minutes per contest. That's no coincidence.
Due to their fluctuating roster, there is less room for error in perimeter defense. Unfortunately, Nash has been burned numerous times and made things tricky for his comrades.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs G
NBA Experience: 10 years (seven pro years prior to NBA)
Red Flag: Will injuries bog down the end of his career?
Add to Manu Ginobili's list of injuries a hamstring strain that he suffered against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The San Antonio Spurs guard isn't discouraged, and he's looking forward to coming back in two weeks or less:
Just finished with the MRI. Grade 1 strained left hamstring. 10/14 days out. Will be back shortly. Thanks 4 ur support!!— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) January 14, 2013
Hamstring injuries aren't usually a big deal, and Ginobili should have no problem recovering swiftly. The red flag is that Ginobili has a rough injury history, along with several current ailments, and his future is sketchy. Is this hamstring injury part of a series of injuries that effectively stifle the conclusion of his career?
Ray Allen, Miami Heat G
NBA Experience: 16 years
Red Flag: Shabby plus/minus margin
The Miami Heat have had a bumpy January thus far, and Ray Allen hasn't consistently pulled the team in a positive direction during the wins or the losses. He's the fourth-highest scorer on the club, but that's not an indication of his overall value.
Despite losing a few close ones to start the new year, the Miami Heat have a net plus/minus margin of plus-41 collectively in January over the first seven games. Allen? He's at plus-four.
This is the latest evidence that shows Allen is barely worth keeping around for his shooting skills. His relatively one-dimensional nature on offense limits his potential usage on every possession, while his perimeter defense isn't scary at all.
Allen seemed like a great idea for the Heat to pick up, and it was worth the gamble due to his reasonable salary. Sadly, he hasn't done enough to really stand out and keep the team at a championship level.
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