Twenty-three-year-old Malik Monk emerged from the locker room in a hot pink tracksuit. Practice finished a little more than an hour ago, but he walked back onto the court flashing the famous Malik Monk smile. Monk had just wrapped up a post-practice pickup game, he and Talen Horton-Tucker against Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. He and Talen lost to the vets on a travel discrepancy that was cleared up by the Lakers’ assistant coach, Phil Handy. Malik trusts Handy.
“Phil Handy being on my a**,” as Malik puts it, is key to his consistency from three. He says sometimes he gets a little too relaxed. He knows he’s a shooter so there are times he’ll get a bit overconfident in his abilities, but then Phil Handy’s right there to remind him to lock into his form.
“I get comfortable because I can shoot so good, so sometimes I relax and throw it up and fall out and not shoot the normal shot that I usually shoot,” he says, “Phil will let me know ASAP.”
Malik’s comfort zone is around the arc. Sometimes, there will be two or three defenders on him, sometimes the clock will be seconds from the buzzer, and Malik will hit the shot. He’ll hit it with ease too.
The University of Kentucky alum frequently enters this mode where he heats up and his shots pop off. The mode is actually so frequent that his Lakers teammates gave him the nickname “Microwave.” He confirms he’s been this way his whole life. The mode dates back to his time on the court at the park in “The Woodz” of Lepanto, Arkansas. “I’ve been like that my whole life, hit one shot and then I heat up and go crazy sometimes,” he explained.
“You low key blackout,” Monk expressed.
But it’s actually just the opposite, he is completely aware. “You’re not conscious, you’re not conscious. You feel it,” Monk described, “You’re so in the zone.”
The zone is a heightened sense of awareness, it’s the optimal performance for an athlete. Despite thousands of screaming fans or the pressure of a ticking shot clock, their focus and concentration can’t be interrupted.
When Monk enters Microwave mode, he is actually intensely aware of the present moment; the way the ball feels in his hand, his position to the hoop, the angle of his elbow, the time he has to release the basketball before his defender can block the shot. His body is completely connected to his mind. This is Monk Mindfulness.
Monk Mindfulness is how Malik is ranked in the 90th percentile for catch-and-shoot jumpers, how he’s shooting 46% from the field this year, and 37% from the arc. “You’ve gotta’ be out there and be in the moment, especially with the Lakers man,” he says. “The lights are the brightest they can be. It’s crazy, an amazing feeling.”
But where Monk’s clutch shooting comes from not feeling the pressure, that doesn’t lessen how appreciative he is for the opportunity to play in Los Angeles, and how much he enjoys being a member of this team.
“Everybody is just engaged. There’s not one person that’s sad or down, everyone’s energy is up. Because everyone’s been here before,” he explained. “There are only three/four people, me, Austin, Talo, and K-Nunn, that have single years in the league and everybody else has multiple. So, everybody knows what’s going on and they just keep the spirits up.”
The Lakers have “the big things” and he conveyed that he and his other teammates can bring the small things. It’s important to him that he continues to focus on the small details and execute them on the floor night after night. He aims to be “locked in from the first horn to the last horn.”
Monk is concentrating on how to become a “more complete player.” “I’m going to be way more consistent on the defensive end,” he declared.
Malik is another new face to an almost entirely rebuilt Lakers team, but Monk’s Mindfulness has Lakers fans' attention.
While injuries have fed inconsistency and the guys have had a tough time finding their groove early on this season, this is just the beginning, and the young player maintains that this team has “the big and small things.” They’ve got the pieces; they’ve got the mindset and they’re just working on the formula.
“We don’t even know how good we can be,” the knockdown shooter declared.
Like Monk, the Lakers’ focus is on the present moment, the rest will come.
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