LAS VEGAS – Where to begin? With the hitch just before the release or with the release point itself, on the way down, after the peak of the jump? With the slight body twist so his shoulders are not square to the basket? With the bad footwork and, therefore, bad balance? With the wrist and elbow that jut in awkward angles?
He is a starting small forward in the NBA, a year removed from being the No. 2 pick in the draft, a major piece of what the Bobcats hope is finally the foundation of the future… and looking for ways to not shoot a jumper. Nine 3-pointers attempted last season, two makes.
Enter Mark Price, one of the great shooters in league history during a 12-year career at point guard and hired as a Charlotte assistant by new coach Steve Clifford with a heavy emphasis on taking a jackhammer to Kidd-Gilchrist’s perimeter game and working with Kemba Walker on the pick and roll. Which is why this is also a very good place to begin, far from North Carolina and far from the regular season.
Price has been on the staff only a couple weeks, and Summer League at UNLV is no actual gauge on what MKG will look like when his form leaves the body shop after many months, but this is the first benchmark on the time together following hours of workouts. This is also encouraging.
“I’m trying to shoot it now,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “That’s a big step.”
Because he was always trying to not shoot it before.
“Yeah,” he said. “I think it’s a big step for me to shoot the 3. My mid-range, too. I’ll shoot the mid-range a lot, too.”
Kidd-Gilchrist plays with a passion, attacks the rim in transition and with slashing moves in the halfcourt and has the potential to become a standout defender, but there is no reason for opponents to respect his jumper. They can play way off, worrying only about the moves to the basket, and he won’t come close to reaching his potential that way.
“Everybody can become a better shooter,” Price said. “He’s definitely got some flaws in his technique right now. We just start working on certain things and try to keep moving in the right direction. Most people kind of look at his elbow and the things that go on with that.
“It’s a lot more than just the elbow and things like that. It’s the footwork, balance, a lot of different things. We’re starting with the feet and trying to get him more squared-up to the basket. Actually, we’ve made some progress in practice, but then it becomes a transferring-it-to-the game kind of thing. He’s young, too. It’s going to take some time.”
And the mental aspect. It’s that, too.
“I think confidence,” Price said. “Everybody knows that’s what he needs to work on. He knows that. Everybody else knows that. I think just getting it to a confidence level to help him. Believe it or not, I have seen some improvement there already. I think he believes in what we’re trying to do. Everybody would like it to happen quicker, but stuff like that doesn’t happen overnight.”