Kyle Korver Q&A: Cavaliers veteran sniper on the secrets of staying sharp in Year 15
Before a standout performance at Madison Square Garden, Korver talked to CBS Sports
NEW YORK -- Kyle Korver is a freak of nature. At 36 years old, in his 15th season in the NBA, he is more efficient than ever, averaging 10.9 points in 20.4 minutes with a true shooting percentage of 70.9 percent. On a per-minute basis, Korver has never scored more prolifically -- not even in his as a member of the 60-win Atlanta Hawks in 2014-15.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers have been topsy-turvy, Korver has been a bright spot. It is to the point that Cavs blog Fear The Sword published a story entitled, "Kyle Korver shouldn't have to be playing this well." Like in his Hawks heyday, Korver has been sprinting around screens, making plays and perpetually putting pressure on the defense, rather than simply standing on the perimeter to space the floor. Inside the 3-point line, he is shooting 71.4 percent.
"That's been more of a team philosophy," Korver said. "I think we've been preaching player movement and ball movement more, and we're still figuring out how to try to do that as a team. I think we still have a lot of areas to get better at. But, you know, I kind of feel like that's what I can add to this group, especially right now when we're still feeling a lot of things out, just try to create energy and create movement."
The trajectory of Korver's career is unconventional, but it is understandable when you know how serious he is about staying sharp. Thousands of words have been written (mostly by Charles Bethea of the New Yorker) about the misogi -- the jiu-jitsu concept that turned into a boundary-pushing summertime ritual for Korver and a group of friends that includes P3 Sports Science mastermind Marcus Elliott -- and how it changed his perspective on what is possible and what true adversity feels like.
Before catching fire for 19 fourth-quarter points in Cleveland's 104-101 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday, a performance that led LeBron James to declare him "one of the greatest 3-point shooters this league has ever seen," Korver talked to CBS Sports at shootaround about the secrets to extending his career and thriving. The following Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.
CBS: We didwhere you said you like to keep your world small. Is that harder when you're on a team that attracts a media circus and, if you lose a few games, everyone is asking what's wrong?
Kyle Korver: If you listen to it, it's challenging. I try to minimize all the things that influence my thinking. I don't spend a lot of time on the internet reading about our team. When things are challenging, I think part of the message that we've been talking about on our team is just look yourself in the mirror and see what you can do better. Let's not worry about everybody else's problems, let's not worry about what someone else is doing right or wrong. If we all focus on what we can do better, that's really what's going to pull our team out of this little phase that we're going through. When you focus on not as much, on the smaller things, on the details, on yourself, then you don't get worried about anything else.
CBS: Is that one of the things you can tell younger guys or you wish you could tell your younger self?
KK: I think it's one fo those things that you have to kind of learn for yourself. A lot of things in life, you can be told the right way to do it, but you've kind of got to learn by your own mistakes. It's just human nature. I think the earlier you can get that, the more it's gonna help your career. Because there definitely is a lot of noise. I mean, there's a lot of speculation. Even from when I was a rookie, in 15 years, social media, all the different outlets, all the different writers, all the different voices -- there's just so much more now than when I was younger.
CBS: Was there ever a point where you didn't think you'd make it this far?
KK: The goal was always to get to double-digits. You know? Man, when you're younger, you're like, 'Man if I could play double-digits in the NBA, it would be amazing.' I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to be able to keep doing this. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier, though: I try not to think about too much of that right now and just focus on today. It's been a pattern over my career and it's probably a good reason why I'm still playing.
CBS: What are the other secrets to not only making it this far, but thriving? Other guys' bodies break down or maybe just get tired of it.
KK: I think it all kind of boils down to your body, really. If your body still feels good, you should just be a better player, right? You have more experiences, you've worked longer on your craft. It's really all about your body. I think you can ask any old guy, older guy. You ask LeBron what the key is for him -- he is just a maniac as far as taking care of himself. I think any of the older guys you can poll throughout the NBA, they're super-regimented. Because as long as that body lasts, your mind should be better, your shot should be better. But the reality is at some point your body does break down, you do get older, so it's just, how do you prolong that as long as possible?
CBS: Do you consider yourself a semi-professional sports scientist now? You've been working with P3 for so long. Are you more into that side of things than you ever thought you'd be?
KK: Probably. A lot of what we focus in on and become passionate about is from our own experiences in life and things that happen to us. And I think for me, going through some injuries in the earlier parts of my career and having to understand my body and how it works and why it was hurting and how I can help it not hurt, understanding those things earlier in my career has really helped me. I think you spend a lot of time in that mindset, it carries over into other parts of your life as well. I really break down my body and how I feel and how I'm moving and how I can move better, but then that carries over into how I'm shooting and my shooting mechanics and trying to analyze my shot not just based on feel and rhythm. It's like math. It's science. It's trying to figure out how I can shoot the best shot possible, the best ball possible. I've spent a lot of times thinking about these things over the years.
CBS: A lot of times if you ask players certain questions, they'll say it's really much simpler than you think, it's about rhythm. You're telling me it's a lot more complicated than the average fan would ever know.
KK: I think the NBA in general has evolved that way. I think it was just kind of a feel thing and a bigger-man-wins thing for a long time. Like, the bigger, stronger team usually wins. There's still a whole lot of truth to that. [Laughs] There's still a whole lot of truth to that. But I think the NBA has gotten a lot smarter. Analytics, math, science has gone into a lot of different areas of the NBA. It's starting to go into player development as well. I think it's just starting to kind of look at that through these lenses as well. It's just going to help the game be more efficient and better and smarter.
CBS: Are you ever surprised at how much the game has changed? At one point you were one of only maybe three guys who was allowed to take a 3 on a fast break. Now everyone does it.
KK: We talk about it all the time. Especially guys who have played double-digit years. The game has changed so much, I feel like I've been playing in two eras. It's really interesting. When I first came into the NBA, as a shooter, it's like, 'We've gotta get you an easy one first, we gotta get you a layup, we gotta get you a two-point shot, we gotta get you to the free throw line.' And there's still, again, like earlier, there's some truth to that. But I think just the mindset of how we play and how we practice, the shooting, the 3-point line, it's just really, really evolved. It's changed everything. This has definitely been the right era for me.
CBS: Do you have any interest in maybe being a shooting coach or working at P3 when you retire?
KK: I think there's definitely options. Those are definitely things I think about. I don't really know what I want to do. I have a hard time imagining a life without basketball. I feel like you spent so much time and I've learned so much, it feels like the right thing to do in life is to try to pass that on to the next generation. It feels like the right thing. You don't just learn something and then say, 'OK I'm done with that era.' Maybe some people want to do that, but I feel like it's the right thing to try to keep everything going. But I don't know what that looks like. I hope it has some role in my life going forward, whether it's just helping my kids, you know, but I think basketball has a role.
CBS: Was there a misogi last summer?
KK: There was, but I didn't do it. It was too close to the season. They went to the Wells Fargo bank in L.A. and they climbed the stairwell, took the elevator down, climbed the stairwell, took the elevator down -- they tried to climb the height of Mount Everest in a day. But it was like a week and a half before training camp and I was really working on basketball and I didn't want to be shut down for a week.
CBS: You wanted to do this a couple summers ago, right?
KK: That's been an idea for a couple of years, but we couldn't get into the bank two summers ago. They wouldn't, I don't know, you know how it is today -- you had to have permission. Anyway, they didn't make it, though. They had to go 40 flights -- they went 16 ½ hours, they only made 33 flights. They would have probably kept going, but the bank closed its doors, kicked 'em out. Marcus wasn't too excited about it.
[When Korver's comments were relayed to Elliott via text message, he replied by saying he might have been saved by the bell on that one, calling it a "soul-sucking event."]
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