Don't write off NBA's greybeards

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives toward the Nuggets basket during Game 1 of their NBA Western...

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives toward the Nuggets basket during Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., April 29, 2012. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:13 AM ET

In the world of professional sports it's easy to write off a team as soon as they begin to look old.

Been there, done that and now it's on to the next thing.

Yeah, you were great in your prime, but you're not there now -- so we're moving on. Let's go find the next great team.

That kind of talk was even more prevalent this season in the NBA because of the condensed schedule. The thinking was the older teams in the league would be hurt by the flurry of games -- the result of a two-month lockout -- in such a short time span and simply give in.

What we all tend to forget is these good teams are good because the individuals, aging as they are, that make them what they are, have the kind of drive the rest of us mere mortals just dream about.

Where the weekend warrior may say "I'm too old for this," the professional athlete who has been at the very top does everything he possibly can to stay there.

The Lakers and the Celtics are two prime examples of this.

The Lakers as a unit aren't necessarily that old but the guy who drives that engine, one Kobe Bryant, is no spring chicken. Even at the age of 33, he's got a lot of miles on his NBA odometer. Sixteen seasons in the NBA takes its toll and on Bryant it was the pounding his knees took that has aged him the most.

In a revealing piece penned by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, Bryant tells the author how he ended the 2011 season wondering how he would ever play again.

The pain from an arthritic knee -- that was basically bone on bone -- was so debilitating he wasn't sure another season would be possible.

But special athletes such as Bryant don't become special by allowing a roadblock like that stop them.

Bryant, and obviously he has the means financially, took the drastic step of venturing into new medical science to get back on the beam.

His decision to try blood-platelet therapy in Germany has given him his career back. He can walk and play pain-free again and the Lakers, a team many wrote off earlier in the year, are back in the hunt for another title because of it.

Bryant has 31 and 38 points in the first two games of the playoff series with Denver, both L.A. wins -- and told Wojnarowski even before the season he was having trouble with the way people were just assuming the Lakers' contender window had closed.

"I never really understood the talk at the beginning of the year," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. "I look at Andrew (Bynum) -- his talent, his work ethic -- and I look at Pau (Gasol), and I'm looking at a Big Three. And I'm asking myself: 'Am I missing something? Am I missing something here?' "

And if people were falling off the Lakers bandwagon at the beginning of the year, they were throwing themselves off the Celtics bandwagon.

The Celtics' big three -- Kevin Garnett (soon to be 36), Paul Pierce (34) and Ray Allen (36) -- are legitimately old by NBA standards. And despite Pierce's tweet after a stunning 36-point, 14-rebound effort in 44 minutes -- "I'm too old for this" he wrote -- the evidence would tend to suggest otherwise.

Throw the Spurs in the equation as well. A team that relies on the likes of Tim Duncan (36), Manu Ginobili (34) -- and has seen fit to bring in even more aged help in the form of 34-year-old Stephen Jackson -- and still won the Western Conference and you start to ask yourself if we all haven't been a little too hasty in making up our minds about these elder statesmen.

Yes, Oklahoma City and Miami are both younger and more athletic than any of the three teams mentioned above, but there is something to be said for experience -- at least there should be.

CAN'T STOP 'EM ALL

The Mavericks' Shawn Marion is doing a solid job on the Oklahoma City Thunder's leading scoring Kevin Durant. The league's all-star game MVP is contributing with 25 and 26 points in the first two games of the series, but is shooting just 15-for-42 in the series. Credit Marion, the one-time Raptor who is doing his normal lock-down job on the opponent's best scorer.

The problem is the Mavs only have one Marion. And while he may be limiting Durant, the other Thunder superstar is scoring more with fewer attempts than Durant.

Russell Westbrook is shooting better than 50% for the series and has outscored Durant -- although marginally -- in each of the first two games.

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle admits going into Game 3 that the focus is going to be on coming up with a way to stop Westbrook.

Short of moving Marion off Durant and onto Westbrook, there may not be another answer.

"We have done a decent job about keeping him out of the paint, but he's stroking it," Carlisle told reporters. "We are going to have to go back to the drawing board and cook something else up."


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