If anyone has watched me during NBA games at my regular seat behind the bench, I usually get the question – what are you doing? People see me observing the game and keeping notes, but they don’t know the work involved from quarter to quarter and how that translates to helping a player with their shooting during the game and moving forward into practices and the season as a whole.
For me, I’m referring and tracking numbers that are all on my list.
The list — which features everything from performance cues to three-point and free throw percentages for both teams — is a coaching tool that has taken shape over time since I started working around the professional game.
When I was in the NBA Development League as a shooting coach back in 2002, I would always spend a weekend with teams around the league to both practice with them and then evaluate game situations. Back then, getting a good seat at a D-League game was not an issue, so if I were working with a particular player I would usually sit somewhere where I could see that player shooting at certain angles. Sometimes I would sit at the scorers table and sometimes I would sit in the stands. Regardless where I was sitting however, I was always taking notes to review with the player/players the next time we worked together.
But when I finally reached the NBA with Portland in 2007, that’s really when my list really started to take shape. I was working one-on-one with guys like Patty Mills, Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy for example. There were times when during games, they would look up at me sitting behind the bench and ask me what I saw – meaning with their shooting form. At the least, I would have one point I could hit them with and drive home based on the notes on my list. That could be a performance cue (which I’ve spoken about before here). It might be “your left hand comes off of the ball early” or “keep the ball on the right side of your head”. Whatever the performance cue, I would have to know it on the spot at any given time depending on the player.
I had that list down to a science. Every player I worked with had their own sheet that was laminated in a binder with their “Do’s” — the things they were doing well. I would never track the “Don’ts” — things a player did poorly. I kept that same list in Portland and Toronto, but that was then.
What’s funny is, I really don’t need that kind of list anymore because it is second nature with me to know the performance cues with every player that I work with. It’s automatic. That’s what happens when you go from working with a handful of guys to working with half of the guys on a team on a consistent basis when it comes to shooting.
Yet what I do track on my list is shooting percentages, three-point numbers and free throw numbers for both teams, along with where each team ranks in those two categories (I don’t track and list field goal percentage but those shooting forms and selections are more difficult depending how and where they receive the ball, their release, feet, extension, etc.).
That list is two sided and on card stock so I can use for notes, performance cues and tracking numbers. After each game, those numbers/stats are then updated into a daily report and on a portable whiteboard for the team, staff and players to review on a daily basis to help create both awareness and ownership. Players take pride in their numbers. For me, this list is the same as a teaching plan. That comes from my days working as a teacher: You have an objective and then when I work with them, I’ll write down how we plan to work together to help better their habits, form and results. Just like when I taught elementary school, I had an objective for each student and now I have an objective for each player. That objective is dependent on the player and what we need to achieve – are they catching and shooting, are they not moving, are they doing cardio and getting a sweat going before we work out? Those kinds of questions will factor into the coaching plan per player.
By no means is this list the end all be all. But what is important is that you are taking notes and keeping notes and then putting them to use as they translate to your practice plan on a daily basis. Each player I work with, I have an objective for them. It’s not just about, “here is the player and go make them better”. While the bottom line is results driven, I will be honest with the player in order to get those results. A players shot can look the same and go up by 2%, but people won’t see that 2%. They’ll just see that the shot still looks the same, so when that happens it’s almost like a player can drop their percentage by 2%, but will their shot look better? Because that’s what people are going to see. The results aren’t the shot looking better. It’s about the shot going in at a higher percentage.
I do everything I can to make sure the players have all of the cards on the table so they know exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it. They can track what they are doing and I track what they are doing thanks to the list.
At the end of the day, what you track or take down as notes to put on your own list as a coach or shooting coach will depend on the player. But for some players, you may be tweaking their shot and then you might have guys that you’ve worked with since the summer where you’ve had to overhaul or really change their shot. You need to track what player is doing what and why. Which guy are you tweaking his shot? What exactly is that tweak? That tweak will go on your list, before you then start breaking that down to more specifics: is their shooting hand in the middle of the ball? Or is that tweak about lifting the ball to the side of your head? You can do a number of things to tweak a player’s shot compared to your work overhauling a shot. You will have to be aware of those differences, because then you’ll need to have a plan in place to make those adjustments and corrections.
That’s when the notes and numbers become more than just a list.
They come to life in helping make a player a straight shooter.
Read more from the Knock It Down archive (2015)
Read more from the Knock It Down archive (2016)