Bauman: Knicks secret weapon is shooting coach Dave Hopla

Should every team have a shooting coach?

Yes, every team should probably have a shooting coach… But it’s not that simple. Shooting takes focus, effort, discipline and time. In order to become a better shooter, one needs to be willing to work through initial shortcomings to reach the higher plateau of success that comes with doing things properly.

“A lot of people say ‘Oh, it doesn’t feel right.’” Hopla told iHoops. “It’s like a new pair of shoes. You don’t throw your shoes in the garbage. You keep working them.”

Not every player is willing /cares enough to put in the work perfect their shot. Not every player is going to listen to somebody who might not have played basketball at the highest level, but who, like Hopla, understands the nuances of how to shoot a basketball better than most NBA athletes. As shooting coaches continue to become more popular around the league, the most important aspect of the test is the relationship the shooting coach develops with the players.

According to former Knicks superstar and current MSG color commentator Walt “Clyde” Frazier, it’s tough to teach players at the NBA level.

“To me at this level it’s very difficult to teach,” said Frazier. “To me, the main thing about shooting is confidence; you have to believe. Then, knowing your range. A lot of guys are not 3-point shooters, but they try. If they moved in a little bit they’d be successful.”

In other words, players can be stubborn or fixed in their ways. Interestingly enough, Frazier had a problem as a shooter before he entered the NBA.

“My problem in college was getting my shot off quick enough,” said Frazier. “My shot was too slow getting it off. Having a shooting coach can help to see your faults. Maybe you’re not squaring up to the basket or shooting across your body or releasing the ball on the way up rather than at the height of your shot, so all of those things are important. Coach told me I had to work on my shot to get it quicker. I’d come out, play one-on-one with the guys and try to get the shot off. If I didn’t [get it off] I’d use a head fake to give me time to get the shot off slowly. If you didn’t jump I’d shoot it and if you jumped I’d jump into you [like Durant]. That would give me that split second I needed to get the shot off and was my improvisation for my having a slow shot.”

Before this season, the Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin was primarily known as a posterizing force. This past offseason Griffin hired a shooting coach, which helped to demonstrate that Griffin knew – knows – that he must round out his game to become the best, most effective player he can become. The power forward’s shooting this season has shown marked improvement from his first two years in the league; he’s making 2.3-of-5.2 attempts from the 16-to-23 foot range, according to Hoopdata.com. Griffin averaged 3.5 shots from 16-to-23 feet before this season, but the confidence he has in his new form, thanks to countless correctly executed repetitions in the gym, have led to less hesitation and more certainty in his shot.

“He says that when he shoots the basketball now, he thinks ‘it’s going to go in,’ and that he doesn’t ‘second-guess’ anymore,” according to an LA Times article that came out today.

As the league progresses forward, with the court opening up thanks to prolific drivers who cannot be hand-checked and who command constant attention, there will always be spots for guys who can spot up and consistently hit shots.

According to Thompson, there should always be a guy who’s helping these players to succeed behind the scenes.

“Every team should have a shooting coach,” said Thompson. “That’s one of the specialized things. I think every team should have a big man coach and every team should have a shooting coach and it’s good to only have one guy that does it because I don’t want to tell a guy one thing on his shot because it may be different than the expert. I just tell them ‘Go talk to Dave about your shot.’ He’ll tell them exactly what they’re doing wrong and how to correct it.”

It will happen, “In time,” as Walt Clyde Frazier advised yesterday.

Though if every shooting coach could shoot and teach like Hopla, it’d likely happen a bit quicker.

“The fact that he can do it,” said Copeland. “If you’ve ever seen one of his clinics, he’s proven he knows how to shoot the ball. He’s not telling you like he’s a guy who’s just talking about it. He really knows how to do it and he can go out there and beat you in shooting and I think as players we respect that.”

Jeremy Bauman is a 2011 Indiana University alum who is an aspiring scout and shooting coach. After covering last June’s NBA finals for this site, he’ll be blogging for SheridanHoops.com weekdays during the 2012-13 basketball season. Follow him on Twitter.

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