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News » Jason Kapono gets shot with 76ers

Jason Kapono gets shot with 76ers

Jason Kapono gets shot with 76ers Shooting isn't a secret recipe.

The 76ers' best shooter, recently acquired Jason Kapono, will share his ingredients with anyone - feet at shoulder width, elbow in, hips squared to the rim - because, more than anyone, Kapono knows the separation point isn't knowing what to do, it's having done it hundreds of times a day for nearly two decades.

The Sixers haven't had a guy like Kapono - a legitimate three-point threat - since they traded smooth-shooting Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz in December 2007.

Since that trade, the Sixers have been the NBA's worst three-point-shooting team.

Finding an outside shooter became paramount on the Sixers' to-do list. Finally, in June, they traded bruising power forward Reggie Evans to the Toronto Raptors for Kapono, who, at 45.4 percent, is tied with Steve Kerr for the highest career three-point percentage in NBA history.

The 28-year-old Kapono will make open shots, which is not as common as you'd think in today's NBA : It's a niche market.

Going back to his youth in Southern California, Kapono could always shoot; he grew up shooting. But it's the slight improvements - the tweaks here, the footwork there - that have aided him, first in high school, then at UCLA, and finally in the NBA .

Raising the shot From his freshman year at Artesia (Calif.) High School until his fourth year in the NBA , Kapono worked out with Neil Olshey, then an assistant coach at Artesia, now the assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Jason was this pudgy kid from the suburbs who could really shoot the ball," Olshey recalled. "I remember telling his parents, 'Wouldn't it be so great if he could someday go play at Princeton?' They laughed and said, 'He wants to play in the NBA .' "

Said Kapono: "I was a fat kid, playing baseball, skateboarding. . . . Neil thought I was going to be a GPA guy, one of those guys who's there to boost the overall GPA."

When he entered Artesia - a California prep Basketball powerhouse - Kapono's release point was too low, making it too easily blocked.

Kapono attributes this youthful flaw to imitating guys like Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, and Michael Cooper. Despite not having the physical maturity, he found a way to reach the basket from those same distances: He pushed the ball from below his chin.

Olshey, immediately noticing this, set about correcting it.

"The first thing we tweaked was we raised his shot pocket," Olshey said. "He shot the ball from down by his chest and we recognized that because he doesn't have great elevation, he was going to struggle to get his shot off."

If you watch Kapono this season, you'll notice his release is well above his eyes.

Footwork For Kapono, much of the work is done before even catching the Basketball. There's a rhythm inside each shooter's head, and it's his job to catch on the correct beat, using fundamental footwork, the same way every time.

When Kapono jumped to the college level, to UCLA's top-10 program, the athleticism of his opponents increased; the amount of open, squared-to-the basket opportunities decreased.

To score, Kapono would need to shoot on the move: curling off screens, squaring in an instant, staying low as the pass came.

"The important thing was speeding up everything he did," Olshey said of the jump to UCLA. "It was also looking at where he was getting his shots: At the college level, we became even more focused on his footwork and his preparation before the shot."

When he catches the ball, Kapono almost always uses a 1-2 stop instead of a two-foot jump stop, using his inside foot as his pivot foot. Kapono said this decreases the likelihood of traveling if, upon squaring to the basket, he is forced to pump fake and take a dribble.

"Neil and I have talked about the 1-2 stop being a tad bit quicker with better balance," Kapono said.

"Jason is able to shoot the ball on the move, and coming off screens, because his footwork is so good," Olshey said. "And that comes from tens of thousands of repetitions."

Quicker still One of Kapono's most memorable introductions to the NBA came when Darius Miles blocked his three-point attempt: Miles closed space like a cornerback, but with the wingspan of a center.

"I was like, 'All right, I do have shots, I still have the same shots I had in college, but these guys can get to me quicker,' " the six-year NBA veteran explained. "I was like, 'Well, it's not me, I'm doing the same things, it's these athletes.' I knew I had to be able to get my shot off even quicker."

Where in his already finely tuned jump shot would Kapono squeeze an extra split second of time?

"How fast can I get the ball into my shot pocket, and out?" Kapono said. "That was where I found it: Taking less time after I caught the ball."

Kapono describes it like a chain of events: First, already having your feet, on balance, underneath you. Next, catching the ball wherever it is thrown and efficiently getting it into the shooting pocket. Finally, getting it from the shooting pocket, up, and released.

"It's quick to get it here," Kapono demonstrated, catching an imaginary ball and bringing it into shooting position.

"But if you take your time from here to here," he continued, bringing it from shooting position to release position, "you're not going to get it."

In summary "There are plenty of guys that, standing wide open in a gym, can make shots at the same clip Jason does," Olshey said. "But he's as comfortable making shots on the move, and quickly, as he is standing still.

"You can try to re-create the same mechanics, but it doesn't matter. You can learn all the keys on a piano, but it doesn't mean you can make music."

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 26, 2009


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