Kyle Korver not slowing down after 15 seasons

Kyle Korver is shooting 43.7 percent from 3-point range this season, good for sixth in the NBA. David Richard/USA TODAY Sports

When Kyle Korver steps onto the floor Friday at the Wells Fargo Center -- an arena that's on its third name since the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Korver on draft night in 2003 -- he'll be closer in age to Philadelphia's general manager (Bryan Colangelo, 52) than its starting point guard (Ben Simmons, 21).

Yet in many ways, the oldest player on the Cleveland Cavaliers has been better than ever in his 15th season in the NBA.

"I don't think I ever would have imagined having this career," Korver told ESPN earlier this season. "I think part of the reason why I'm still playing is I just get lost in the daily grind, and the daily process, and I give it my, you know, total attention every day. "

Korver's mantra is no secret. LeBron James, who was selected 50 picks ahead of Korver in 2003, has taken note.

"It's every day with him," James said. "Practice court, film sessions, he's a true professional, so it's not surprising he's still playing at this level at 37. Listen, I hated going against him as an opponent because of his movement, the way he kind of dictated defense by himself just because of his energy and his movement. Ever since we've got him, I've loved every part of it because it just helps our offense out."

Korver's offense -- he's averaging 9.3 points on 45.7 percent shooting from the floor and 43.7 percent from 3-point range this season -- is by at least one measure better than any other shooting guard to play at this age.

Hall of Famer Reggie Miller shot only 44.1 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from 3 in the season in which he was 37. Ray Allen, a former teammate of James' who was also recently elected to the Hall of Fame, shot 44.9 percent overall and 41.9 percent from 3.

Even the great Kobe Bryant, who was 37 during the 2015-16 season as a lead option for the Los Angeles Lakers, averaged 17.6 points but shot just 35.8 percent from the field and 28.5 percent from 3.

Korver's 2.3 made 3-pointers per game this season are also more than any of those players hit at 37.

For a player whose skill set was lowly regarded coming into the league -- after the then-New Jersey Nets selected him 51st overall, they immediately traded him to Philadelphia for cash to fund their summer league team -- he's made himself a coveted asset in the league.

This past summer, prior to signing a three-year, $22 million contract with the Cavs, Korver was courted by Philadelphia, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told ESPN. But Korver chose to come back to the only team he made the NBA Finals with.

In a way, it was the situation he always was searching for.

"I remember with my younger years, looking at the Suns," Korver said, reminiscing about the Steve Nash-led squads famed for their "seven seconds or less" offense. "'Man, if I was on that team, I would set records!'"

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue worked to make sure Korver could feel the same way in Cleveland.

"I talked to him," Lue said of an offseason call to Korver, just weeks after he missed a crucial 3 in Game 3 of the Finals, contributing to the Golden State Warriors taking a 3-0 lead -- and eventually the championship. "Just told him we want him back and he's a big part of what we did. He said, 'Yeah, I'm going to talk to a couple guys, a couple teams, but I'm coming back.' So it's just good to have him back. He's playing at a high level to be 37 years old, still shooting the basketball, poses a threat on the floor, you have to guard him when he's out there. It's good."

It's so good that Korver -- who averaged 17.7 points as a starter when Lue gave him a late-season nod over JR Smith -- could end up being Lue's starting 2-guard when the playoffs begin later this month and the Cavs try to make their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.

"Playoffs is a little different," Lue said. "You get a couple days in between. So it's really not that strenuous on his body. So we've just got to see. He's done it in the past. Just got to see."

Korver's run in the starting unit was cut short when his younger brother, Kirk, died unexpectedly at the age of 27 in March. Korver missed seven games, first to be with his family, then to rehabilitate a sore right foot that has bothered him for months. His absence, combined with Lue's time away from the team to take care of his own health problems, led to Korver returning to his familiar bench role when he played his first game back with the team on Tuesday in a win over Toronto.

"We know how tough it has been on him the past few weeks, and to be on the court gives you a way to get away from everything," James said.

With Korver entering the twilight of his career, he's been playing his best when everything is on the line. Korver is averaging 4.2 points per game in the fourth quarter this season -- picking up the nickname "Mr. Fourth Korver" in the process -- accounting for the third-highest fourth-quarter scoring average of his career.

He credits a commitment to the sports science company P3, in Santa Barbara, California, as the reason he's maximized his physical potential relatively late in life for an athlete.

"They show you a video of you making certain movements, and when I did the vertical testing, and I saw how my left knee almost hit my right knee, and I, like, I literally almost threw up in my mouth. I was like, 'That's how I jump, every single time?' And then you go back and you think about all your shots. ..." Korver said, recalling the uncomfortable realization of the price he was paying for all those swishes.

He worked to correct his body so that every time he jumped and landed, the form his legs took matched the discipline he showed with his arms when he loaded and fired off a picture-perfect shot.

"All the times you've jumped, I'm just like, 'Wow! OK, that's something I have to fix,'" Korver said. "I mean, once it was just looking at it, it was just like, it looked terrible, but [also] it made sense that that's what was hurting me. And so I just kind of got lost in that world and trying to figure [it] out."

Korver applied the same discipline to his diet that he did to his plyometrics, committing to a vegan diet that worked so well for him that he got Cavs player development coach Dan Geriot to practice the same regimen. In the course of two months, Geriot went from a double-extra large to a large in Cavs practice gear.

As much of a source of motivation that Korver has been to his teammates, he's also provided some welcome comic relief. The way he yells at himself when he misses an open look causes teammates to hide their snickers on the bench.

"I probably need to hold my emotions in check a little more, but that's just part of my wiring too," Korver said.

He is inextricably part of the Cavs' motherboard at this point, a plug-in they cannot play without.

"His leadership is by example, and he shows it every day," James said. "If you can't pick up from the way he shows it every day, then you shouldn't be around."