"The goal of a shooter is to make the same shot every time"
POSTED: Feb 9, 2015 11:31 AM ET
UPDATED: Feb 9, 2015 12:29 PM ET
Foot Locker 3-Point Contest: Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver will showcase his long-range shooting in the 2015 Foot Locker 3-Point Contest.
ATLANTA — Elton Brand earns a decent dollar for being a backup front-line player, which he does well for the Hawks. But in truth, and this is certainly no disrespect to Brand, one of his most important duties might be shagging practice shots for Kyle Korver.
Swish, swish, swish. Brand was a very good rebounder at the height of his 15-year career, but those skills are rarely necessary when Korver's in a groove and taking aim. There's usually only one sound dominating the practice gym, and it's not clank.
Swish, swish, swish. In these drills, Korver is very meticulous, almost to the point of being psychotic, as most great shooters are when it comes to refining their craft. Korver will take practice shots from all angles around the 3-point arc, rather than concentrate from one or two sweet spots. Therefore, Brand's body is constantly on a swivel, and he has jokingly worried about developing vertigo.
Swish, swish, swish. Korver is a perfectionist, and must make 10 straight free throws and three jumpers from around the top of the key. If he misses -- OK, yeah, it does happen -- he'll start over. Which means extended work for Brand. At the end of these drills, it's hard to tell who's more whipped.
"You know, it's kind of an honor," said Brand, "to see someone so good put in so much work and me being a part of it."
Jeff Teague finds Kyle Korver who drains the 3-pointer from deep.
Korver is shooting 3s this season better than the vast majority of players are shooting 2s. No, seriously: Korver's at 53 percent beyond the arc; only a dozen NBA players are currently hitting that or better inside the arc. When the ball finds Korver, and he's open, the anticipation inside Philips Arena rises like the voice of the choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Fans, the Hawks bench, they all release the same sound -- wooooo! -- because he has become near-automatic.
"When he's wide open and he misses," said teammate Al Horford, "we're like, what?"
There are three reasons why 2014-15 is so special, so different than Korver's previous 11 seasons. One: The Hawks, if you haven't heard, are feeling like August in Atlanta, scorching teams everywhere and surprisingly leading the East very comfortably. Two: Korver, averaging 13 points a game, is doing this a month from turning 34, an age when the muscle memory of most players becomes senile. Three: Korver is on pace to string together a very unique 50-50-90 -- that's 50 percent from inside and outside the arc, and 90 from the free throw line in a single season -- which would put him in the exclusive company of exactly ... well, nobody.
And this follows the last two seasons when Korver set the NBA record with at least one three-pointer in 127 straight games. If he isn't the best long-distant shooter in the game right now, that title will be decided All-Star Saturday at the three-point contest when he stares down among others Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and that duel could be epic.
Korver competed in the contest in 2004 (when he finished third) and '05 (runner-up) but since declined invites in favor of spending the weekend with his young family. But he's on a roll this year, and so why not? Almost everything is falling, literally, his way.
"Playing in this system, on this team, this is the kind of basketball I've always loved watching," Korver said. "I think I'm a good fit for this system and I'm just trying to take advantage of it. I've put a lot of time and work into it. I've always tried to set my standards high on a daily basis."
Korver gives much credit for his improved shooting to a Santa Monica sports science lab named P3 that pinpointed crucial muscles in his body that were either being neglected or were weakened. Now, before each game, Korver goes through a checklist of plyometric drills using bands to strengthen his core and legs, the necessary lift-off mechanisms that aid his jumper.
3DTV: Shooter's Paradise
Atlanta Hawk Kyle Korver joins Dennis Scott to discuss and demonstrate his shooting style.
"I've never been a basketball prodigy. I've always had to work, earn my way," he said. "And that's the way I want it to be. A lot of thing have come together, being healthy, the best my body's felt since college. That doesn't happen often when you're 33. The maintenance of taking care of my self, getting massage, treatment, is almost as important as the shot itself."
The trips to Southern California were therapeutic in another sense. They took Korver back to his roots. Korver was born and partly raised just outside Compton. Yes, you read it right. His father Kevin was a pastor at a multicultural and multi-racial church for 13 years and the Korvers were one of the few white families who lived in the neighborhood. One year, 26 people were killed in drive-by shootings. That forced Kevin Korver to create a safe haven for his kids and others in the neighborhood with the church playground, a protective bubble which had a hoop. It was the basketball incubator for Kyle and his three brothers: Kirk, Kaleb and Klayton, who all played college ball. They were often schooled by their mother Laine, who once scored 74 points in a high school game, and father, a natural shooter himself.
"We loved it," Kevin Korver said of those Compton playground days. "It was fantastic and wonderful and a good place for our sons to live."
When the family moved to Iowa, it was toughest on Kyle, who was then 12. Imagine this: A white kid was annoyed that, for the first time in his life, he lacked Latino and black friends. The father said: "It was a strange shift in environment, to say the least. He struggled with being in an almost all-white environment and the cold winters."
Kyle also needed lots of fundamental work on his basketball game, remembers his father, and didn't develop his trademark shot until his junior year. Even then, Korver wasn't a major recruit, and only until his AAU team made a splash at a Las Vegas tournament in his senior year did he get a look from Creighton. From there, he was taken in the second round by the Nets (and instantly traded to the Sixers) and gradually became a 3-point threat with the Jazz and Bulls before coming to the Hawks.
GameTime: Nuances Of The 3-Pointer
GameTime breaks down the 3-point shooting success of Kyle Korver and others.
"I think what has also helped Kyle is that he's become a student of shooting," said Kevin Korver. "He's very mindful of what he needs to do to make shots. When Kyle was at Creighton he became heavily into the arts, and the love of the arts stayed with him. He and Allen Iverson would draw pictures on the team flights. His passion for the arts made him very observational and sharpened his attention to detail."
Kevin Korver said Kyle is aware of every little detail when it comes to shooting. Any slight change in mechanics can mean the difference between the ball splashing or catching iron.
"When the ball leaves his hand, we can tell right then whether he hits it or not," said Kevin Korver. "We don't even need to wait for the result. We can tell if he's slightly injured, which can change a lot. If you're not healthy, there are things you can't do."
He remembers his son becoming frustrated as a freshman when Creighton played a game at the Metrodome in Minnesota. The wind shear inside the Dome played tricks on the ball's flight path and rotation and Kyle went 1-for-10. Even though his misses were due to factors he couldn't control, Korver was a wreck anyway.
"He wants to make every shot," said the father. "And he thinks he can."
On a typical game-day, Korver will practice a routine in the morning, then another about 90 minutes before the tip, and might squeeze in a few minutes at halftime.
"He wants to make every shot. And he thinks he can."
– Kevin Korver on his son
He said: "It's a daylong process. I don't shoot shots just to shoot shots. I'm always working in a rhythm, working on mechanics. I've got a checklist of the things I need to do with my form, my legs, my arms, all of my mechanics. I never casually shoot shots, ever. I shoot the same way every time. I shoot the same shots that I'd shoot during the game.
"I'm not a guy who shoots 500 times a day. I want to find my shot and I want to make it perfect several times a day. The goal of a shooter is to make the same shot every time."
He could be a replacement on the East squad if Dwyane Wade, sitting with a sore hamstring, decides not to play. In any event, Korver will have company in Brooklyn this weekend at the 3-point contest; Curry and Thompson and Marco Belinelli, among others, also have their meticulous routines and their habits and will look to settle a hotly-contested debate.
"I don't know if the best shooter in the game will emerge from this," Korver said. "It's just one night. But for sure, this is the best collection, the best group that's been in the 3-point contest since I've been in the NBA."
No matter how that contest is decided, Korver will quickly tell you it isn't the most important part of his professional life right now. He may never have a better shot at a championship than now. Everything is falling right for the Hawks: Their health, their record, and the ball when it leaves the soft hands of Korver.
The Hawks are constantly questioned for their lack of a designated go-to player in tight games and that, so goes the theory, will cause their exit in the postseason.
But ask yourself: If the ball finds Korver and he's behind the arc, is there any surer shot right now in basketball?
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.