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Youth is not always the NBA's best policy

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Expert
5th March, 2019
4

Getting old can be hard at the best of times, but it’s even worse when you’re an athlete.

All around the sporting world, it seems that younger is better, even if the numbers don’t back it up.

Coaches, presidents and CEOs love having youth on their side.

It means breeding new heroes, selling more jerseys and creating an evolving narrative.

But youth over experience doesn’t equate to wins.

The Sacramento Kings are one of the most exciting franchises in the NBA and are pushing to break a 13-year playoff drought on the back of their young, talented roster.

In recent times, they haven’t been able to find time for big man Kosta Koufos, the Greek national representative who is one of the few players on the roster with playoff experience.

Until the recent signing of Corey Brewer, on back-to-back ten-day contracts, Koufos was the most experienced Kings player by a long margin.

The 30-year-old begrudgingly admitted that he simply had to suck it up.

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“For me, it’s just being professional when my number gets called upon,” Koufos said.

“I’ve shown in this league that I can play big minutes and put up big numbers.

“At the same time, its bigger than that – we want to win games. We have the playoffs on the horizon and that’s the number one focus.”

Kostas Koufos

Chris Paul #3 of the Houston Rockets drives to the basket against Kosta Koufos (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The 214cm power forward said being a good teammate was crucial when a side was making a tilt at post-season action.

“I’m just working in the background, keeping my body in shape,” he said.

“(It’s about) helping the younger guys out. The younger guys are playing phenomenal.”

In a hint that Koufos would continue to search for opportunities next season and beyond, the Ohio State product said his body was in good shape.

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“My body? It feels like its 21. I feel young,” he said.

Prior to the game against the Knicks on Monday night (US time), Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said Koufos “knew his role”.

In other words, he’s valuable to the organisation as a leader and in practice, but they are going with the younger guys right now.

And that’s a reasonable stance to take. Koufos is not the run-and-gun player the Kings are looking for.

But on Friday night, when the Kings were playing a ‘must win’ match against Pacific rivals the LA Clippers, he should have been out there.

Younger is not always better.

Just ask Corey Brewer.

The NBA journeyman’s career was on the rocks before he signed a ten-day contract with the Kings, which led to another one before Sacramento used its option to retain him for the remainder of the season.

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Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguodala, left, knocks the ball away from Sacramento Kings' Corey Brewer

Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala, left, knocks the ball away from Sacramento Kings’ Corey Brewer (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Brewer, 32, has been a revelation since arriving in the Californian capital.

He’s added much-needed spark in defence and has breathed life into a locker room full of young professionals eager to make their mark.

“It’s been great to come into the team and teach the young guys a few things. It’s important to keep level, no matter if you win or lose,” Brewer said before Monday night’s match.

Coach Joerger said of Brewer: “On the court, it’s very positive, he fits our style.

“Getting up and down the floor, he’s always been a guy that can get out on the break, make an open shot from three, space the floor, gives us length defensively and different looks on some guys.”

Those thoughts were echoed by young gun De’Aron Fox, who said, “He’s been good for us. When he gets on the court, you know what he’s going to bring.”

Youth is great and helps keep fan interest alive, but you can’t beat a little bit of experience when it comes to winning matches.

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Matt Nicholls is an Australian journalist currently touring the US West Coast.