Now we know Kobe Bryant has passed into senior citizenry, and not just because the eye test tells you he's only a shadow of the player he once was.
Officially now, he's become Back In My Day Man.
Crotchety Old Guy Kobe shook the metaphoric bony fist at the metaphoric kids on his lawn the other day, when he complained that today's American players aren't being taught the fundamentals the way their European brethren are. Big men want to do all this fancy stuff now, but they have no post-up moves on the low block. Not like, ahem, when he was coming up.
I guess it's a function of just how Crotchety an Old Guy I've become when I say I don't disagree with him. Especially when he talks about how AAU ball has contributed mightily to players who are more athletically gifted than ever, but who don't know how to play the game.
"AAU basketball," Kobe said. "Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. It's stupid. It doesn't teach our kids how to play the game at all ..."
I haven't seen enough AAU ball to know just how close to the mark that is. But I've seen enough to know it's likely closer to the mark than is comfortable for some.
AAU ball does serve a certain purpose: It pits potential blue chippers against players of comparable talent. In that sense, it probably does develop that talent more readily than high school ball, in which potential blue chippers very often are going up against players whose careers won't outlive high school. How much can you really tell about that 6-foot-10 kid when he's posting on a 6-3 kid, other than the fact the 6-10 kid can at least get out of his own way?
But here's where high school ball serves its purpose: It provides structure and at least a base in, yes, the fundamentals. That's because the coaching in high school is focused more on teaching the game than promoting talent, which is why the coaching on the high school level is far better.
Saw this last night at the Carroll Classic, where Homestead's blue-chip big man, Caleb Swanigan, went for 19 points against a Carroll lineup that didn't really have a post player. But Swanigan only went for 19 after becoming more active offensively in the second half; in the first half, a fiercely collapsing Carroll zone kept him in check to the tune of four points on just five shots.
It forced Swanigan to find the open man out of the double-and-triple team, something he does quite well. It's a skill, I imagine, that he's developed more in high school ball than AAU ball, where defense is a rumor and it's all about showcasing individuals. The same no doubt could be said about his post skills, which, like all young post players these days, are a work in progress because big men don't spent nearly as much time with their backs to the basket as they once did.
Whatever Swanigan will learn about that, and about adjusting to defensive schemes designed to target him, he'll learn in the winter, not the summer. And -- here's the irony -- those skills will ultimately enhance his future value far more than anything he'll get out of AAU ball, which is theoretically designed to do that.
Summer's for show, in other words. But winter, ultimately, is for dough.