The word on Xavier Henry coming into 2013-14 – fair or not – was that he was great at getting to the bucket, but not a consistent shooter.
In his first three seasons since being drafted 12th overall by Memphis in 2010 out of Kansas, Henry shot only 40.3 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from three-point range. The sample size was pretty small, as he played only 14.4 minutes and attempted 4.1 shots per game, but large enough to draw the conclusion that his shooting needed to improve.
And, well, through three weeks of preseason basketball in Los Angeles, his shooting stroke has looked pretty good, especially from three, albeit in an even smaller sample size.
While averaging 12.3 points in 20.8 minutes per game, Henry’s hitting 42 percent from the field and 56 percent from three (5 of 9). His play has certainly aided his chances in making L.A.’s roster, which currently stands at 16, one more than allowed once the season begins.
To understand what’s going on with Henry’s stroke, we interviewed Lakers player development coach Larry Lewis:
Q: On Henry’s emergence this preseason:
Lewis: It’s a brand new day for him and the team. It’s a new system. I can’t say why things happened the way the way they did in other places, but I know here, it’s like a breath of fresh air to see him grow and strive the way he’s doing.
Q: On what Lewis sees fundamentally from Henry’s shot, particularly his release, his follow through, etc:
Lewis: Nothing’s wrong with his shot fundamentally. He has a good shot. The timing of his explosion from his toes to his release, I think there was a timing issue there. Other than that, he had a nice looking shot. It’s not bad at all.
Q: On what was wrong with the timing and the release:
Lewis: I think he was holding the ball a little too long. For athletic guys, sometimes they have to tone it down in their jump shots. Sometimes, non-athletic guys shoot better because there’s less going on if you think about it. That’s all; nothing big. Just a few minor tweaks here and there, and that’s all it took.
Q: On how long it took the coaching staff to identify that and the process of cleaning up his shot:
Lewis: We saw it immediately. You just take them to the side and start with one concept. I remember early on with (assistant coach) Kurt (Rambis) on his side, it’s drilling him and you just do shooting the right way repetitiously for an amount of days. Then you go from one basic concept to deeper concepts. Like I said, Xavier’s a fast learner and he listens very well. He just tried to do it as we were saying it, so he started to practice right.
Q: On seeing Henry shoot so well (29 points) in the preseason opener and if it was a confidence building thing for Henry:
Lewis: Yeah, and he was going to the hole as well. That’s something he does well. Now it’s about taking him to the next level as far as when to go to the hole and making him a better passer, which he can do.
Q: Bottom line: He can shoot the ball well in the NBA as opposed to what he’s done in the past:
Lewis: Right, and bottom line, he has a chance to help this team.