Kobe Bryant is commonly regarded by coaches and other players as one of the premier and toughest guys in the league. The list of coaches includes Brian Shaw, who won three NBA titles as a player alongside Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers and won two more as an assistant coach on Phil Jackson’s staff.
Shaw is in his first year as the Denver Nuggets head coach after serving as an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers under Frank Vogel from 2011-13. Since becoming a coach, Shaw has regularly used Bryant as an example of hard work and dedication as extra motivate to the players he coached such as Paul George.
It’s been one of my best tools,” Shaw, in his first year as head coach of the Denver Nuggets, said before Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. “When I was in Indiana, Paul George, a player that I worked closely with, grew up in Palmdale [Calif.], right outside of L.A., and obviously I knew he had watched Kobe a lot and kind of idolized him as a player.
“So I would come in and if he was trying to cut corners or just wanted to just do enough to get through a practice, I would always remind him that I had seen the best guy at that position work every day and that it was no accident that he is as good as he is and he’s accomplished everything that he’s been able to accomplish. So, what makes you think that you can take a day off or cut this corner or that corner if that guy over on the other coast is not doing that?”
George, who is now in his fourth year in the NBA, has continued to show improvement in his game as this season he is tied at fourth in the league in scoring at 24.9 points per game with James Harden, and he has the Pacers out to an impressive 8-0 start. Last season, he took a major stride as a player by taking the role of his team’s go-to guy when Danny Granger was forced to miss 20 games including the playoffs due a nagging knee injury. With Granger out, George was able to lead Indiana to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
As for Shaw as the Nuggets head coach, he does not feel pressed to tell his players about Bryant’s work ethic as the players now come to him for anecdotes about the 15-time All-Star.
Although Bryant has played over 18 years in the league, Shaw believes if anybody can return from this type of injury its his former teammate.
“I was mentioning to somebody this morning how he’s still not at the age that I was when I finished my career playing and just talking about how he always felt invincible and I would always say, ‘Hey, you know, Father Time will catch up with you at some point and ice will be your best friend at some point,'” said Shaw, who was 36 when he finished his 14th and final NBA season with the Lakers in 2002-03. “I think he’s seeing that now. But if anybody can come back and defy the odds in terms of the injury that he’s dealing with, my money would be on him to be able to do that.”
With the fact that Bryant is still out rehabbing his surgically-repaired left Achilles tendon, Shaw believes that Bryant has realized this is a major injury and as an older player he must allow his body to heal completely.
Shaw also said that Bryant in the past would have pressed to return, but knowing the severity of the injury, he now knows that this is something he must take his time in returning from.
“I think that part of it alone speaks volumes,” Shaw said. “I think he understands at this point, even when he was pushing it and trying to be back for the beginning of the season, that that particular injury is a tough one. Especially with all the wear and tear that he has on his body. So, I think it’s made him take a step back and take a deep breath and say, ‘OK, this is one that I have to actually allow to kind of fall in place and take care of itself.'”
Although Bryant has yet to set a date for his return, Shaw knows he is doing everything he can to get his body right before returning to the court.
“I know he’ll do everything in his power to strengthen up that area that’s injured and give himself every chance to come back and play at the level that he’s accustomed to playing at,” Shaw said.
Shaw also knows Bryant can be used as a timeless example for his players when feels he must encourage them to work harder to become the best that they can possible be.
Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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