Veteran point guard Kevin Ollie isn’t part of the Thunder’s nine-man rotation but played on the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers team that played Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Ollie answers questions on Kobe compared to nine years ago and a young Thunder team that’s tied 2-2 with the defending champions heading into Game 5 tonight in the Staples Center.
→Q: What are the differences between Kobe Bryant now and the Kobe who the Sixers faced nine years ago?
A: "He was definitely a little more explosive back then. The years pile up. But he’s still a great player. He’s smart now, having been around Phil (Jackson), understanding the triangle offense better, understanding where he can get the ball. They don’t have Shaq like they had then where they could just pound the ball down in to Shaq. Kobe’s game has evolved. Being in the Finals all those years, it definitely wears on you. But he’s strong mentally, still an elite player in this league.”
→Kobe has been hit and miss in this series. Does that surprise you?
"He picks and chooses his spots. I think he was trying to get his teammates involved more the last game when he didn’t shoot that first quarter. He’s just letting the game dictate what he does. The old Kobe, when he first got in the league, he was gung ho. But he learned (that) to win championships, you have to get everybody involved. They’ll still put him in position to do what he does best. Our challenge is stop him. It’s a chess match between the two coaches. We’ve done a phenomenal job on him. Hopefully, we can keep it up.”
→What’s the key to winning the series?
"A playoff series doesn’t start until a team wins on the road.