Bruce Kreutzer, the Charlotte Hornets’ new Shot Doc, describes his work this way:
“People say shooting is a lost art. Well, I’m in the art-restoration business.”
Kreutzer has coached basketball for 38 years, much of that time in Charlotte. He collaborated with former Hornets assistant Mark Price in a “shooting lab” program in suburban Atlanta. Now, with Price moving on to coach the Charlotte 49ers, Kreutzer has replaced him on Steve Clifford’s coaching staff.
That Clifford would devote a full-time coaching hire to one skill underscores how important 3-point shooting is in the modern NBA and how bad the Hornets were at it last season (a league-worst 31.8 percent).
Price made major progress in fixing small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot last summer. So hiring someone with the same teaching principles, who had already worked with Kidd-Gilchrist, made Kreutzer a natural candidate for the job.
Kidd-Gilchrist and Kreutzer have already established the sort of bond Kidd-Gilchrist had with Price the past two years. They work out daily this summer at Time Warner Cable Arena and Kidd-Gilchrist planned to fly to Summer League in Orlando to maintain his off-season regimen.
“I’ve worked with him in the past, so there’s a comfort level I have with him,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “He’s about always staying confident in your shot. Whether it’s a step-back or a 3, just know it’s going in. Even when I miss, I know every single free throw will go in.”
Increasing Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting range is Kreutzer’s top priority, but he’ll work with a wide range of Hornets to improve their shooting form. Clifford said fixing the Hornets’ jump-shooting would have to be both an internal and external process. The external steps were trading for Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb and drafting Frank Kaminsky. Those three newcomers are all known for their shooting range.
The internal step was devoting a full-time staff position to shooting.
“If you look at guys who improve greatly during the course of their careers, the thing they improve the most is their shooting,” Clifford said.
“Mike had made so much progress on his shooting, working with Mark, that we didn’t want him taking a step back,” Clifford said. “With Bruce, there are a couple of things: Mark told me he’d been very good and had worked with Mike in Atlanta in the past.”
Charlotte ties, Price influences
Kreutzer has deep Charlotte roots. He coached Garinger High to a state championship in 1989 and was later a college assistant with both Queens and the Charlotte 49ers. He got into specialty basketball training in the Atlanta area, eventually pairing with Price at a Suwanee sports complex.
Price said they have very similar teaching philosophies about shooting: Footwork and lower-body balance are the foundation for good shooting and you have to rid the arms of extraneous motion.
When Price first started working with him, Kidd-Gilchrist’s footwork was all wrong. Then he’d release the ball on the descent from his jump with an odd side-spin, rather than backspin.
Price brought Kidd-Gilchrist to Atlanta last summer so that he and Kreutzer could double-team the problems.
“The guys have to do the work. I just put them in the right position. Mike has done a great job,” said Kreutzer.
Price said the 64-year-old Kreutzer’s personality is well-suited to breaking down a flawed shot and slowly reassembling. He’s relentlessly positive and patient.
“Because he’s a little older, I’d say he has a great bed-side manner. Players become comfortable quickly,” Price said. “Patience has to be a virtue. You never want the guy under pressure that today has to be the day” his shot gets fixed.
In past years, Kreutzer worked as a shooting consultant for the Philadelphia 76ers and the NBA Development League. The limitation in those roles was he couldn’t be around for long enough periods to truly overhaul a flawed shot. Players’ fear of change worked against him.
“When I walked through the door, everybody scattered,” Kreutzer said of his D-League experience. “It was like, ‘Keep me away from him, I don’t want him messing with my shot.’
“There is a priority here (with the Hornets). At best (in the D-League) we were there two or three days in a market. It’s hard to have an impact that way.”
Putting in the hours
When Kreutzer coached the Atlanta Vision in the semi-pro American Basketball Association, he found it amusing how players would delude themselves about their shooting.
“Players would come over and say, ‘Coach, I’m wide open,’ ” Kreutzer recalled. “I’d say, ‘There’s a reason they leave you open. They don’t respect that you’ll make shots.’ ”
Kidd-Gilchrist is quite the opposite; he recognizes how flawed his shot was entering the NBA and he’s always around to work at making that better. Last season he was comfortable out to 18 feet from the basket. The goal is to start taking some corner 3-pointers in games.
Kreutzer sees his job not just as a technical advisor, but as someone who can build up Kidd-Gilchrist’s confidence to launch a shot wherever he’s open.
“I’m a success freak. I want him to make every shot he takes, but reality says he’s not going to do that,” Kreutzer said.
“You’re used to doing something a certain way and then you’re asked to make some adjustments to make it more fluid. There will be setbacks. He’s doing really, really well. I constantly remind him as he takes ownership of what he’s doing that builds confidence.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell