Last month, Shams Charania spoke about Kyle Korver’s role with the Nets. Charania had a bit of surprising take. The 6’7” wingman wasn’t in Brooklyn just to improve the 3-point performance of players like him.
“I’m told the priority for him will be to work with other shooters on this team: the Joe Harris’s of the world, Nic Claxton, big men on this team who can learn a lot from Kyle Korver when it comes to free throw shooting and overall shooting. Just another guy like they brought in Amar’e Stoudemire on Steve Nash’s staff and I think they’re making it a priority to bring in former players with high basketball acumen for this coaching staff.”
Claxton? Indeed, the 22-year-old shot less than 50 percent from the line last season. And although he showed some deep shooting progress when with the G League two years ago, it didn’t translate to the NBA, where’s he taken only 12 three’s, making two, one each year.
And, according to Alex Schiffer, that process has already been underway since early August, even before Charania reported Korver’s hire as a player development assistant coach. Claxton told Schiffer it began in a gym tucked into a corner of Appalachian South Carolina. the near 7-footer’s hometown of Greenville.
Korver drove two hours to meet Claxton and begin his tutelage.
Korver arrived at 7 a.m. and the two got after it. From free throws to 3s, Korver, one of the game’s great shooters, worked on a flaw that has followed Claxton since he declared for the NBA Draft out of Georgia; finding consistency in his jump shot. He couldn’t have found a better teacher in Korver, the Nets’ newest player development coach.
“Everything that he does is easy for me to understand,” said Claxton, whose education under Korver has continued in San Diego, where the Nets have started training camp. “Of course his body of work, what he did, speaks for itself. But everything is relatable. He knows how to get through.”
Body of work, indeed.
Korver, of course, is one of the NBA’s all-time best 3-point shooters. He finished his career shooting 42.9 percent from deep and 2,450 three’s. Korver ranks 10th all-time in shooting percentage, one spot up from Steve Nash, and fourth in three’s made. He also holds the NBA record for highest 3-point shooting percent in a regular season (53.6 percent in 2009-10), and most seasons leading the league in 3-point percentage (four).
But as Claxton and Nash told Schiffer — the Nets don’t make assistant coaches available to the media — it’s not just about his talent as a shooter. It’s about his talent as a teacher.
“It really doesn’t matter how good of a shooter he was,” Nash said. “He’s a teacher, a natural teacher. I think he has a great methodology with the way he teaches and instructs. Kind of a deep learning and real purpose with why he teaches the way he does.”
Korver didn’t start teaching with his Nets hire. He’d been helping teammates for years and there’s data on how much of a help he’s been.
“It’s cool that I can go on there and teach people how to shoot, but I want to do more,” his longtime teammate and friend Anthony Tolliver recalled Korver saying. “I want to teach more and go deeper.”
Some of Korver’s former teammates say it’s not a coincidence that their best 3-point shooting seasons came after playing with him. This past season, Jeff Green shot a career-high 41 percent from 3 for the Nets. But Korver’s fingerprints had been on his shot for three years prior when they were together in Cleveland. While with the Cavaliers, Korver showed Green certain spots on the floor where he needed more arc on his shot to consistently score. Corner 3s with a flatter arc were less likely to go in than from other spots.
Together, they developed their own measuring system to determine whether Green had enough arc on his shot to sink it. Green still references it.
His former teammate and now a Brooklyn Net, Paul Millsap, told Schiffer that Korver has an ideal pedagogical style
“He knows what he’s really good at, he sticks to what he’s good at, he finds ways out of that to make other guys better,” Millsap told Schiffer.
Korver has a 20-point checklist he used in both shooting and teaching, something he shared with USA Today back in 2015.
It starts with a wide stance and ends with square shoulders. As he went on with his career, he combined certain checkpoints on occasion and took care of two things at once.
Korver also shot a weighted ball in pregame warmups as a way to activate his fingertips and not let him get away with poor technique. It’s why LeBron James marveled at his mechanics and Korver’s ability to always have his feet set when the ball was coming to him.
How’d the Nets recruit him? There was an Atlanta connection. Korver played five years for the Hawks where the Nets two assistant GMs, Jeff Carter and Andy Birdsong, worked in the front office.
Claxton didn’t share a lot of what Korver has worked on, describing it as “Just a lot of small mechanics that add up to being a great shooter.”
And what about Harris who’s had the highest 3-point percentage in the NBA i over last three years? Can he learn anything from Korver?
He told media Wednesday that he’s picking stuff up … “just being a more of an efficient mover into my shots. … I didn’t really think that much of it, but especially now as I’m getting older, just being a more efficient mover to the shots will help.”
Korver, of course, has a tiny bit of history with the Nets. Back in 2003 when the Nets had just finished up their second Finals appearance, they took the Creighton product with the 51st pick of the Draft. Their roster, led by Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson, was full and so they sold his rights to the 76ers (and Billy King) for $125,000, money that was used to fund the team’s summer league entry fee, resurfacing the parking lot at their East Rutherford, NJ, training facility and buy a high-end copier (which to be fair also collated.)
Korver, when speaking at his alma mater’s commencement ceremony in 2019, touched on the fax machine story to make a point to Creighton grads.
“The 51st pick, to the New Jersey Nets,” Korver began, recounting the day he was drafted. “I found out shortly afterwards that I had been traded to Philly. I’m not sure if traded is the right word.
“I was more or less sold for an undisclosed amount of money. I later found out (the Nets) used that money to pay for the entry fee for their summer league team, and with the leftover money, they bought a copy machine.”
“But it’s OK,” he continued. “Because a couple of years ago, that copy machine broke. And I’m still playing.”
Now, he’s retired and the hope is that he’ll be as big a bargain as a coach as he was a mislaid Draft pick.
- New Nets assistant Kyle Korver ‘knows how to get through’ to get players to take their best shots - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic