The question comes up weekly, daily, almost hourly whenever the Charlotte Hornets are discussed:
Will small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ever have a reliable jump shot?
Kidd-Gilchrist, a third-season pro who turned 21 last week, would just as soon talk about the great condition he’s in entering training camp or his excitement over new teammates Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams. But he knew the question was coming Monday and he was ready with an answer.
“Does it feel that different? Well, it’s going in a lot more,” Kidd-Gilchrist said with a big grin. “I believe in the process. I started in April and it feels great.”
“Process” is the buzzword in this topic. Kidd-Gilchrist used it three times during a 10-minute discussion. Assistant coach Mark Price used it a constantly during another interview at media day Monday.
Process is code for “If this were easily fixed, it would have been a long time ago.” Consider the numbers: Over his first two NBA seasons Kidd-Gilchrist attempted 18 3-point shots. He made three of those, a gruesome 16.7 percent success rate.
Now consider the look: Everything about Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot appeared awkward. He would launch the ball almost as he landed at the end of his jump. The shot had a weird side spin, like a Frisbee flying through the air.
Price, one of the great shooters in NBA history – 40.9 percent from 3-point range and 90.4 percent from the foul line – was charged with tearing apart Kidd-Gilchrist’s delivery and replacing it with something sound and reliable.
“I told everyone in management this was going to be a process,” Price said, invoking the magic word.
“I always knew this was going to be a big summer for Mike and I give him a lot of credit. We started in May and really broke some things down. He listened, he applied it and the biggest part is he stuck with it. We all know when somebody is making some changes there are tendencies to slip back.”
When Price says he rebuilt this shot from ground up, it’s a literal description. Price taught Kidd-Gilchrist how to stand in proper balance before they ever worked on his delivery point or how to impart the proper backspin to get shooter’s roll.
Kidd-Gilchrist went through high school basketball in New Jersey and a season at Kentucky ending in a national championship without this flaw ever really being addressed.
“It is a little surprising to me that he got that far without someone saying, ‘Mike, you might want to make some changes.’ ” Price said.
“Obviously Mike was such a great athlete that he could have success at other levels. But for the success Mike wants to have at this level, he’s got to improve his shooting and nobody knows that more than Mike.
“He had to hear about it on the talk shows and read about it in the newspapers. He’s had a lot of pressure as the No. 2 (overall) pick, and I’m really proud of him. He’s focused, he’s determined and he stuck with it.”
Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot was less 3-pointer/more one-liner. So he and Price worked nights and weekends during the offseason to get the repetitions necessary to address this.
“I don’t think it was hard. I wanted to do it so badly,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I punched the clock and worked.”
The results won’t start becoming public until next Wednesday when the Hornets play their first exhibition in Philadelphia. But the head coach sounds encouraged.
“I’ve never seen anybody’s shooting mechanics change more drastically, in the year or so Mark has worked with him,” Steve Clifford said Monday.
“He’s not Dell Curry, and that’s important for him to understand and us to understand. He’s played one way his whole life. Mike has always caught it and said, ‘I’ll drive it or pass it.’ Now he has more ability to shoot the ball.
“If he can get to that point where he makes some shots, he’ll have a much different career.”