Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had never heard of Mark Price, one of the Charlotte Bobcats’ new assistant coaches.
But young players often watch Hardwood Classics, an NBA-produced show that features some of the great games of all time. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan appears on Hardwood Classics as often as the basketball teams at North Carolina and Duke appear on network TV. When Jordan played for Chicago he did some of his best work against Price’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s Jordan up there above the rim. Closer to the ground is Price, a 6-foot (almost) point guard. Price was a deft passer (an average of 6.7 assists during his career) with one of the truest shots in NBA history.
Price, 49, played 12 seasons. He made first-team all-NBA in 1993 and four times played in the NBA all-star game.
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But he retired in 1998. Kidd-Gilchrist was born in 1993.
“I’m getting texts from players saying, ‘Coach, I saw you do this,’ ‘Coach, I saw you do that,’ Price says Wednesday from a courtside chair at Kimmel Arena after the Bobcats practice. “Fame is fleeting, we all know that. Guys will say, ‘Hey you were fast.’ I know I don’t look like much now. People look at me and say, ‘He played in the NBA?’”
In pickup games, Price looked like the guy you’d volunteer to guard.
If he can pass his shooting wisdom on to the Bobcats, he’ll look like an exceptional hire.
Last season Charlotte shot 42.5 percent, last in the NBA. Price shot 47.2 percent for his career.
Last season Charlotte shot 75 percent from the line, 18th in the NBA. Price shot 90.4 percent for his career.
Last season, Charlotte shot 33.5 percent from the three-point line, 27th in the 30-team league. Price shot 40.2 percent for his career.
“You can impart some of it,” Price says. “I’ve worked with a lot of guys and helped a lot of guys. And every guy is a little bit different. I think you can help guys be good shooters. I don’t know that you can help guys be great shooters.”
You become a great shooter not simply with great form, exceptional balance and a quick release.
Says Price: “I remember one reporter said, ‘OK, so you miss six shots in a row, what are you thinking?’ I said I’m thinking of making my next six. He said, ‘Yeah?’ Yeah. That’s the mentality I had to have. I believe in the way I shoot the ball so I had the confidence that even if I missed a few shots the next shot was going in.”
Price’s father coached basketball. When the elder Price was an assistant with the Phoenix Suns, Price would go to games consumed by what he saw.
“It was funny,” he says. “My mom would say most 10-year-olds are antsy and run around and don’t pay attention to the game. She said I would sit and really watch everything that went on and go home and try to emulate guys.”
A basket was attached to the top of the garage and Price would shoot until the ball was lost in the evening sky.
Were you the best shooter in the NBA?
“Well, in my own mind, yeah,” he says.
He looks uncomfortable so I add: “Price says modestly.”
“There were a lot of good shooters back then but I think if you don’t believe you’re the best you’ll never be the best,” he says. “I would have put my marksmanship against anybody. Seemed like there were really good shooters, more back then than even today.”
Who was the competition? Price names Larry Bird and Dell Curry. Curry, who like price is 49, is a Bobcats’ TV commentator.
If you’re the best shooter in the NBA, you’re probably the best shooter in the world.
“I guess I hadn’t really thought about it much in those terms,” says Price.
Price worked with Boston’s Rajon Rondo, who had no shot when he came out of Kentucky. Rondo shot 41.8 percent as a rookie and 49.2 percent his second season. Price works extensively with Kidd-Gilchrist, a second-year player also out of Kentucky.
“It’s more technique oriented with them,” says Price. “They have some flaws in the technique of their shot so I’m trying to help them get to a better place.”
The off-season is when Price performs major surgery. Training camp is more outpatient. Shots are amended, not destroyed, confidence enhanced, not shattered.
Says Kidd-Gilchrist as he walks to the team’s bus: “We work every night and every day. I trust him. He trusts me.”
Price also works with point guard Kemba Walker. He says Walker’s technique “is pretty good. With him, its footwork, balance, being prepared to shoot the ball. I guess I can relate to Kemba because his game reminds me a little bit of the way I played. I feel like I can really help him see some things he hasn’t seen before.”
When the Bobcats have shooting contests, who wins?
“Probably Ben Gordon,” says Price. “Ben’s a really good shooter.”
Could you or Curry handle him?
“Well, Ben’s in a groove right now,” says Price.
Price doesn’t want to say it, but he has to.
“In our prime?” Price asks. “That’s another thing.”