The specific work of Larry Sanders

According to Breaking Bad’s Skyler White, “the devil is in the details.” But for an NBA player coping with a lockout off-season, it seems more fitting to say development rests in the details. In terms of work being done by a player during the off-season, a video I saw this past week struck me as kind of amazing.

Don’t interpret that wrong. I wouldn’t, for even a second, claim that the vast, vast majority of NBA players don’t work incredibly hard in the off-season. And I’m talking about work being done simply to maintain their respective statuses. If a guy is slacking, someone else is going to take his spot. It’s too competitive a field to rest on prior laurels and, for all the heat they take, NBA players, and their handlers, are well aware of this. For the guys who really want to be good? They are doing a whole different level of work. Kudos to them.

But figuring out just what sort of work needs to be done must be tricky. It’s easy to set really broad goals. A common goal amongst NBAers who share with the media their off-season goals is becoming a better shooter (Also, thanks to Twitter, we know “grinding” is an important part of most off-season regimens. It goes hand and hand with rising apparently.), or adding a three-point shot. That’s all well and good, but becoming a better shooter is so incredibly vague. Before that happens, a player must recognize why they are not already a better shooter.

It’s kind of like, if you had a problem with migraines and wanted to get rid of them, you wouldn’t just decide you weren’t going to have migraines anymore and work at it. You’d have to head to the doctor and spend some time figuring out just why you were getting migraines. You’d have to isolate some variables and eliminate whatever it is that you determined ended up causing them.

Everything is a process. So hearing generic claims from players never means much to me, though I imagine in private with their trainers or selected coaches they are working on isolating those variables that are holding them back. But last night, I came across a player that had pulled back the curtain just a touch and was discussing one of the variables that it appeared was holding him back.

It looks like Larry Sanders has isolated a variable.

What’s best about Sanders work is that this flaw was so recognizable I saw it months ago and assumed it would never go away. To hear him acknowledging it and working on it? That might just be the sign of a guy who really wants to be somebody in the league. Or it could be him just revealing what most players who are working hard in the off-season do. Either way, it’s a very enjoyable thing to see.

If you’re going to watch any 15 seconds of this video (hat tip to Hoopsworld by the way), watch from 1:00 to 1:15. Notice that Sanders talks about his release point and how it’s starting to come on the way up. That might not sound like a big deal, but it struck a chord with me. Look at what I tweeted while watching Larry warm up before a game in late March:

It looks like Larry Sanders might release his shot on his way down. Anyone else notice that?

One thing has always been clear to me about Sanders: He has excellent form on his jump shot. But something was holding him back last season. For whatever reason, he couldn’t develop much consistency on it. Sanders shot 31% on his 16-23 foot jumpers last season. That’s not good enough if he’s going to take those shots. Drew Gooden shot 41% on his 16-23 foot jumpers. That’s good enough. Gooden has terrible form, but he’s got so many reps on that shot he’s incredibly comfortable with it. It looks like Sanders is working on getting his form down and getting reps in. Sanders may not rise above 40% from fairly deep next season, but I’d be surprised if, whenever the season starts, he’s not vastly improved.

Work breeds results. I love seeing summer league highlights as much as the next guy (okay I probably don’t, that next guy, man, he really loves him some summer league highlights. I’m always like, damn Next Guy, you’re always talking about summer league highlights. And he’s always like, yeah bro, didn’t you see Mike Beasley and Matt Barnes get real on these cats out here?!), but I really love to see guys working on specifics.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog He really likes Breaking Bad. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. One of these days being a fan on Facebook will pay off. I’m fairly certain.

Categories: The Off Season

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