Corey Kispert’s key to offseason improvement: taking pickup seriously


The offseason is a pivotal time period for NBA players. It’s their only chance to step away from the rigorous day-in and day-out schedule of the regular season and focus on self-improvement. For second-year wing Corey Kispert, there were three main areas of focus: flexibility, consistency from deep, and defense.

There’s a natural understanding of how a player can improve their flexibility and shooting consistency. For flexibility, it’s about how you warm up, how you take care of your body, and how much time you spend stretching. For shooting consistency, it’s as simple as getting shots up every day and mimicking game situations. But how does one actually improve their individual defense in the offseason? It’s hard to walk onto an empty court and “practice” defense by yourself.

Kispert wasn’t shy about how he was able to improve defensively over the summer.

“Taking pickup seriously,” said Kispert. “Getting a chance to guard guys that are quicker, faster, shiftier than you, and then taking that end of the floor personally. For me, I got really lucky. I was in a situation where I played pickup against a lot of really good players this summer.”

But what does taking pickup more seriously actually mean?

“A lot of what pickup is for a lot of guys in the summer is just a chance to get out and work on their cardio,” Kispert said. “It’s dribble and giggle a little bit. For me, it wasn’t that. It was an opportunity to get reps, get better, and guard players who are quicker, faster, and stronger than me. Doing all those things and really taking plays where I get scored on personally, making it a mission to be one of the best defenders on the floor was kind of my goal, rather than just getting shots up or anything like that.”

The decision for Kispert to start taking pickup more seriously came when he was trying to think of ways to improve his defensive impact for the Wizards.

“I just thought about ways I could get better on defense over the summer, and that was kind of an easy fix – that was an easy choice,” Kispert said. “There were times last year where we’d be close at the end of the game and coach would be subbing me out on defense and then putting me back in on offense. In order to be a good defender in the NBA, that can’t happen. I wanted to be able to do anything I could to fix that.”

Everyone that has played pickup before, regardless of the level, knows that sometimes people get annoyed with the guy that takes it seriously. Kispert doesn’t care.

“Yeah, that’s their problem, not mine,” Kispert said. “They have to figure that out.”

“If you take it more seriously and you start winning games then all of a sudden you’re on the floor more often, you’re having more fun, and guys are kind of forced to follow,” Kispert said.

When asked about some of his more memorable pickup moments, Kispert said that spending most of his summer in Arizona put him on the court with a number of Phoenix Suns players – as well as other stars based on the West Coast.

One of the best parts of playing pickup hoops is that the benefits go far beyond what happens between the lines.

“If you lose a game, you’re on the sideline and all you’re doing is talking basketball,” Kispert said. “And guys are willing to answer your questions. So just being an open book and being a sponge and soaking everything in is really important to your development.”

D.C. fans won’t have to wait long to see how Kispert’s mentality during off-season pickup games helped him develop. The season is right around the corner with preseason games in Japan starting on Friday, September 30, and the regular season kicking off on Wednesday, October 19 in Indiana.