Kyle Korver Wants To Sign With Winning Team, Hopes To Play Five More Years
By Stephen Brotherston
A professional basketball player heading into his mid-thirties as a free agent is supposed to be on the downside of his career. However, those who have a special skill that isn’t reliant on uber-athleticism are the exception to the rule and three-point shooting specialist Kyle Korver has only gotten better in his thirties.
At 32 years old, Korver is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He is on pace for the most starts in his career. He’s attempting the second-most three-pointers at 5.7 per game and hitting them at 45.6 percent, the second-highest rate in his career and he has made at least one three-point shot in 65 consecutive games (as of Wednesday night in Toronto). Only Reggie Miller (68), Dennis Scott (78), Michael Adams (79) and Dana Barros (89) have recorded longer consecutive three-point shooting streaks in the NBA.
“To be perfectly honest, when we got him a lot of people didn’t think we could use him in the role that we use him in,” Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew said. “I have started him quite a bit, where his whole career has been coming off the bench, but he has shown his durability in being able to start and come off the bench. I don’t see him slowing down. As long as he can put that right arm in there, I think he is going to be out there.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Korver has brought a lot more to Atlanta than just a deadly three-point threat. A true veteran, Korver has contributed in a variety of ways both on and off the court and has earned the respect of his teammates and his coach.
“[Korver] is definitely a threat every time he is on the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball, but guys underestimate his ability to play defense,” Jeff Teague said. “He is a great team defender and he plays hard every night.
“He played for some great coaches prior to playing for us, so some of things he learned from those guys, he brings to this team. One good thing about Coach Drew is he listens to everyone, so if Kyle makes a suggestion, he listens to him. [Korver] has been on winning teams and he knows what it takes to win.”
In his 10th NBA season, Korver is on his fourth NBA team and has learned a thing or two about how to be successful without the raw athleticism that gets many young players into the league. Learning how to take care of your body and preparing for the long grind of the NBA season is a must to survive this long.
“You keep on getting experience. You keep on getting smarter. You learn the little tricks of the trade,” Korver said. “I don’t depend on jumping over people and running by everyone. I stay in great shape and always keep on moving, but I don’t have to necessarily hit a certain speed all the time. I feel the best I have felt in several years. One of things you learn how to do is take care of yourself and that is something I pay a lot of attention to.”
After playing the last two seasons under Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, perhaps Teague’s observations about Korver’s team defense shouldn’t come as a surprise. The three-point specialist has been getting pointers about how to stay in the league from other sources for a long time as well. As the second-round draft pick the Nets sold to the 76ers in 2003, the rookie Korver was an unexpected three-point shooting contest finalist at All-Star weekend and that experience was something to be remembered.
“I talk to a lot of guys like Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller and I remember talking to Ray Allen in my rookie year after the three-point contest,” Korver said. “We are taking a shuttle back to the hotel and he’s like, ‘Our game doesn’t depend on [those] things’ because we were watching the slam dunk contest after us and he said flat out, ‘Our game doesn’t depend on that, we are going to be able to keep playing long after them, probably as long as we take care of ourselves.’ [Allen] is one of the best examples of guys that have taken care of their bodies, every single day putting in the work. You look at him and Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, these guys just keep playing longer and longer and a lot of it is that.”
Korver justifiably believes he still has four or five good years left and like many veterans in their thirties, he wants to spend them with a winning franchise. Based on what he has accomplished this season, Korver has a lot to offer.
“I think I have still got, lord willing and no injuries, four or five good years, but you never know, we’ll see,” Korver said. “At this stage of my career, to be on a bad team, I just don’t want any part of that. It is good to be here. It is always good to be in the playoffs. The playoffs are a whole other world. It is a different game. It is where you make the memories. I want to play in a good culture on a good team.”
Atlanta only has three players under guaranteed contracts next season and Korver is not one of them, but the veteran likes the style of play and how Coach Drew has been using him in the offense, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he ended up back in Atlanta. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the Hawks, however, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he is helping to effectively stretch defenses in his fifth NBA city next season either. Korver has the proven skills and experience needed by every serious playoff contender; he will be a free agent in demand this July.