Open shots were seldom plentiful for the Charlotte Bobcats last season. Their numerous 24-second violations demonstrated that painfully.
So when a good shot is there, take it – doesn’t matter if you make it, particularly in the preseason. That was the message the coaching staff sent small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after the team’s first exhibition Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks.
Kidd-Gilchrist shot 1-of-6 from the field in an 87-85 loss. Hawks small forward Kyle Korver – never confused for a shut-down defender – blocked two of Kidd-Gilchrist’s attempts. The coaches can live with his five misses. It was the two open jumpers he passed up that needed correcting.
“He actually turned down a couple of shots that I think he should make,” coach Steve Clifford said after practice Thursday.
It’s no secret Kidd-Gilchrist has a mechanically flawed jump shot. Assistant coach Mark Price, one of the best shooters in NBA history, worked with him all summer on footwork and delivery. But when the Hawks left him open on the baseline, doubling down on new center Al Jefferson in the post, Kidd-Gilchrist hesitated, then passed.
“I turned down a couple of shots last game that I should have shot. I’m working off Al Jefferson in the post and my point guard, also. That’s it, really,” Kidd-Gilchrist described.
“I’ve been a so-called driver all my lifetime, I guess. I just want to prove I have an outside shot, too. It’s just a matter of taking that jumper and not caring. Just playing. Last game I wasn’t doing that.”
Much of the attraction in signing Jefferson was forcing defenses to double him, opening shot opportunities along the perimeter. Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t show up in the NBA with a perimeter game. He took nine 3-pointers in 78 games his rookie season, making two.
“I felt good all practice leading up to the first game. (Then) he hesitated a little in the first game,” Price said. “We want him to take his open shots – what I call his ‘in-rhythm shots.’
“He had a couple of those opportunities he turned down. I told him that at halftime and he said, ‘I’m thinking about it too much.’ That’s the biggest thing we don’t want him doing – (over-)thinking. Play the game and take your shots when they’re open.”
Kidd-Gilchrist’s drive game is far more advanced because he’s so strong and a solid dribbler. Clifford advised him to explode more directly toward the basket – use his power – rather than try to fool NBA defenders with fancy change-of-direction.
“His best thing, to me is catch and just attack. One or two dribbles to the basket,’’ Clifford said. “There are very few guys in this league who play around with the ball and really get there – a Chris Paul, but there aren’t many guys who can do that. His best plays that I’ve seen are catch-boom-one/two dribbles to the rim.”