Denton: Ish's Jump Shot Improving
By John Denton
October 29, 2012
ORLANDO – In a matter of four months, Orlando Magic reserve point guard Ish Smith has gone from shooting jumpers one-handed while his left arm was in a sling to drilling go-ahead shots in game-like situations.
The improved jump shot, one that was on display on Monday night during the Magic’s open practice for fans at the Amway Center, could ultimately lead to Smith winning Orlando’s backup point guard job.
Smith hit three 3-pointers, the final one off a feed from Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis to give his squad a one-point lead with 34 seconds remaining in the second half of the scrimmage. Following a summer in which he’s recovered from a separated shoulder and torn labrum and worked tirelessly to better his jump shot, Smith is hoping the improvement will lead to more playing time for him for the Magic this season.
``I absolutely believe that was one piece of the puzzle (that was missing),’’ Smith said of his jump shot. ``People could always say that his speed and ball handling were pretty good, but what was holding me back from being a really good player was that jumper. So I’ve tried to take it upon myself to continue to work and I just thank God that it’s fallen into place for me.’’
A crowd of about 3,500 fans got an up-close look at the Magic as they divided the team in half and played two 20-minute quarters. Magic fans got their first look at rookie forward Maurice Harkless, who has missed the first month of camp while recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia. The fans also got to see standout shooting guards J.J. Redick and Arron Afflalo play together – a combination that led to a baseline jumper by Afflalo off a nifty give-and-go pass from Redick.
``It’s been a few days now that we’ve done that and I’d like to (play with Afflalo) more in games because we didn’t get to do it too much in the preseason,’’ said Redick, who buried two free throws with nine-tenths of a second remaining to tie the second half of the scrimmage at 33-all.
``I think that’s going to be a lineup that we can go to this season,’’ Redick continued, referring to playing alongside of Afflalo on the wings. ``We can play (Hedo Turkoglu) at (power forward) and spread things out and play with another big. That’s going to be a good lineup for us.’’
Redick, the Magic’s most consistent and dynamic player of the preseason, was blown away by the support of the Magic fans at Monday night’s event.
``These are our true fans who continue to support us and we’re very grateful and appreciative for that,’’ Redick said. ``I’m honestly humbled by the turnout because that was a great turnout for a Monday night practice. Even with no discernible superstar on our team, they came out and supported us and I’m really grateful for that.’’
The Magic open the regular season Friday night at the Amway Center against the Denver Nuggets. Two nights later, the Magic will play the Phoenix Suns in Orlando before hitting the road for a two-game trip to Chicago and Minnesota.
As for Smith, he’s in a battle with E’Twaun Moore for the backup point guard job behind veteran Jameer Nelson. Moore gained a leg up early with some strong play while Smith was still recovering from his offseason shoulder surgery. The two guards even played together some in the final preseason game last week and again Monday night because of Moore’s ability to slide over to the shooting guard position.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t ready to commit to either one as the primary backup to Nelson just yet. But he is happy with the progress that Smith has made both with his shoulder injury and his improving jump shot.
``I’m glad to see that he’s healthy. He’s worked extremely hard to get back,’’ Vsughn said. ``We’ll see as the year goes along and he gets into a game. But I’m sure he’s working on all facets of his game and I don’t want to single out one phase.’’
Smith injured his shoulder in a collision this summer while playing pickup basketball. He said it took doctors 30 minutes to pop his shoulder back into joint. His torn labrum was ultimately repaired by Magic physician Dr. Craig Mintzer and he was left in a shoulder sling for a matter of months.
That didn’t stop Smith, who signed with the Magic midseason last year, from working on his game. He knew that he’d have to become a better shooter to ever get consistent playing time in the NBA.
``Coach Vaughn had me doing one-arm shooting. I’d have my arm stationary and I’d do one-armed shooting under the basket. I shot hundreds and thousands of them and once I got out of the sling Coach (Brett) Gunning and Coach (Laron) Profit worked on my shooting with me. So far, so good,’’ Smith said. ``I feel a whole lot more comfortable and confident in (the jump shot). My instincts are still going to be driving to the basket, but obviously this is my third year in the NBA and people know to keep me out of the paint. So I had to develop that jump shot. I have to continue to work on it until I’m a perfectionist at it. But I just feel a whole lot more comfortable with it.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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