WASHINGTON, D.C. - When asked about rookie Jan Vesely earlier in the week, Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders praised his feel for the game, but said he still needs to work on some of the fundamentals. One such fundamental is his shooting. Vesely shot just 33.3 percent from three-point range and a ghastly 43.8 percent from the free-throw line in Euroleague play last year, and those numbers weren't any better (28.2 percent and 54.3 percent, respectively) in league play.
It's his big weakness, and everyone knows it.
So how are the Wizards trying to fix this weakness? They've brought in a shooting coach to work with Vesely during training camp.
His name is Jay Wolf, and he's a former physical education teacher in Marinette, Wisconsin. He also is the man who runs the Jay Wolf Star Shooter Program, which features camps, instructional videos and a number of special products, including something called a shooting strap designed to break the habit of putting the off hand into the shot. Here's a video on how that thing works.
One person sold on the shooting strap is none other than Flip Saunders. One of the testimonials on Wolf's website is from none other than Saunders himself. Wolf quotes Saunders saying he's never seen someone in his years of coaching teach shooting better than him.
OK, so that's nice. But what is Wolf actually doing to help Vesely's shot? I asked Vesely, and he said he's "trying to work on some things" to improve some "technical" things with his shot. When I asked him to elaborate, he evaded the question.
"I don't want to say anything," he said with a smile. "Team secret."
Flip Saunders elaborated a little bit when I asked him.
"His shot, when you look at it, is not that bad. He's just got to get the action of getting his legs going at the same time instead of trying to shoot too much with his arms."
That's about all anyone is saying about the work Wolf is doing for now. Wolf was working very carefully with Vesely on his free-throw motion after practice, with Vesely going very slowly and not worrying about whether the shots go in. He missed many, of course, and even air-balled some, but it's the kind of misses you get when you're just starting to practice a new shooting form.
My understanding is that Wolf is only here for the week of training camp. Either way, the Wizards seem very committed to fixing Vesely's shot, even if it means reconstructing it. On the bright side, it does appear that the shooting strap itself isn't needed here.