The NBA work stoppage is not keeping the Sixers Evan Turner from putting in the work to improve his rookie field goal percentage of 42 percent, the lowest at any level of his career.
My whole college career and high school career I shot 50 percent, Turner said after his hour-and-a-half shooting session with the soon-to-be inducted Hall of Famer, Herb Magee. This was the first real bad year where I ever shot below 50 percent. I dont know how hard it is to shoot 50 percent in the NBA, but I felt there were a lot of shots I took that I didnt make that could have gone in with little tweaks.
I just want to shoot a great percentage and have confidence from my teammates and my coaches that I can make shots.
There were 35 players this past NBA season that shot 50 percent or better from the floor who attempted at least 500 shots. Magee, who in addition to winning 922 games coaching at the now Philadelphia University the past 44 years, runs shooting clinics for kids and believes he can help Turner achieve his goal.
He is a good shooter, actually a very good shooter, Magee stressed. We go 15 feet, we go off the dribble, we go foul line and he is very effective. His problem is when he steps back to the three-point line his guide hand is in the way, so we have been working on it from the vantage point of shooting the 15-, 16-footer the same way we shoot the 22.9 shot.
He is easy to work with because he is patient, Turner said of Magees approach. I think that is the most important thing when you are teaching somebody who is not good at a certain skill to be patient and he has been very patient with me, shown me a lot of stuff and he has a lot of confidence in his shot, too.
Turner likes Magee and Magee likes his newest pupil.
Everybody had told me what a terrific fellow he was, Magee said. He may be an even better guy than people told me. This does not work unless he is into it and if he wasnt into it we wouldnt have made it past the first day, but he is into it. Hes a smart guy, he asks good questions and he wants to get better. It is going to be successful.
Turner tested his teachers patience a little bit by showing up late Tuesday morning. Fortunately for the 22-year-old, his excuse was acceptable this time.
I dont particularly care for that, the 70-year-old Magee said of Turners tardiness. But he said he went over to Penn Charter, which is across the street, and he said to the guy Where is Herb Magee and he said, You are on the wrong street. He came over and I said from now on are you going to be on time and he said, I am always on time so that means we are going to hit it off.
I believe he will be fine, Magee continued. I also believe it will be good for him. And I think he will leave knowing exactly how he should practice when he goes to shoot.
Magee has worked with numerous NBA players from the area in the past like Jameer Nelson, who played his college ball at Saint Josephs University, and Malik Rose, who starred at Drexel University. His reputation of successfully changing a players shot is part of the reason Turner chose to work with him. His own head coach is the other reason. Doug Collins was the person who got this ball rolling.
Coach Collins brought it up and then he called my agent, Turner explained. He said I dont know if Evan has met with anybody but I kind of would like him to meet with someone. My agent (David Falk) said I think it would be great to go see Herb because he is a shooting coach, as opposed to going to someone who is a good shooter. He actually knows how to build a form.
Technically speaking the problem is really in his guide hand. We are trying to get him to shoot through the guide hand, rather than use the guide hand to shoot the ball, Magee said. When he shot the ball with one hand, we have a one-handed step back drill and he got all the way back to the three-point line and made every single shot with one hand. So it is clear that his problem is in his other hand.
Identify the problem and work on fixing it. It all sounds so simple. Part of that fixing process is building confidence. Magee thinks one way to build confidence is through repetition. For instance, he instructed the former No. 2 overall pick to shoot 10 shots from five different spots. Coach has the player chart his makes and then the where of his misses. For instance, did Turner miss right, left, short or long.
As it turns out, from mid-range Turner is far more accurate than from behind the arc.
When he did the 15-, 16-footers his percentage was fair like 37-38 out of 50, Magee explained. He said, Coach that is like 74 percent and I said we have to get it up to 90 percent. The other thing is all your shots were dead straight but two.
When he stepped back to the three-point line and shot 50 shots, he had 12-13 balls that were off target, so what we need to do is work on making his ball go straight, Magee emphasized. Thats the key. Larry Bird said years ago he loved Peja Stojakovics shot because if he happens to miss his ball goes straight. So if Larry Bird says it I am going to listen to him.
The advice of two Hall of Famers should soon have Turner living up to his desired playing position of being the Sixers shooting guard and a good one at that.
Turner and Magee plan on working together throughout the lockout, which could lend to this being a long relationship. Currently the stalemate between the NBA owners and Players Association is 19 days old.
In addition to his workout sessions, Turner is confident he can take what the shooting guru gives him and work on his own, which is instructor believes is huge. As far as the formal instruction, Magee believes less can show more results.
I asked him if he had economics in college and have you ever heard of the Law of Diminishing Returns, Magee said. He said, I didnt do so good in that class. So I said here is what it means. If we workout for three, four hours we are not going to get anywhere, so anytime we do this we will go an hour-and-a-half and we will go two, three sessions a week, tops.
Turner seemed genuinely excited about the prospects of seeing results after working with a specialist, something he has never done in the past.
There are tons of little things that you dont even think about, he said. You know how they say the fundamentals have been taken out of the game, the little things like holding your follow through and how to hold the ball right. Stuff like that is great.
No longer a rookie, Turner seems to have arrived at an easy feeling. His enthusiasm to learn this summer is not restricted to the hardwood. Like a number of NBA players, he has gone back to school. He needs 40 more credits before graduating from Ohio State University. He is currently enrolled in online classes that will give him eight credits by summers end.
I dont miss school, but I have to get it done, he said. And if the lockout is still on in the fall I am going back to school. Right now I am up late at night working on that.
No one can deny that Turner is making the most of the time the lockout has afforded him.
E-mail Dei Lynam at firstname.lastname@example.org