Raptors Take Aim At Better Shooting Numbers

Hire assistant coach Hopla to make ‘adjustments’

By: Doug Smith
Sports Reporter

Dave Hopla is a self-professed shooting “guru” who makes some of his living delivering motivational speeches and now he’s going to try to help the Raptors become better marksmen with his word and his deeds.

The team has hired Hopla as a “basketball development consultant,” which is a gussied-up title for shooting coach.

And for a squad that’s among the worst shooting teams in the NBA, any little bit of help can’t hurt.

“We just feel like he can add something to our staff, our team,” head coach Sam Mitchell said yesterday. “We’ve been talking to Dave for a while and looking for his schedule to thin out a little bit. All the coaches know him, we’re comfortable with him, his reputation speaks for itself and we’re happy he joined us.”

Hopla, who never played an NBA game but who does have experience in Europe, South America and the CBA, said he isn’t going to radically alter the shooting stroke of any of the players. He will, however, help hammer home basic shooting principles.

“It’s just like a personality, there are certain things everyone needs to do but not everyone’s shot looks the same,” he said. “There are certain basic techniques that everyone must have. I always tell people I’m not here to change your shot, I’m here to make slight adjustments.”

Those adjustments are what’s known as BEEF: Balance, elbow, eyes and follow through. While shots are very individual, those tenets, Hopla said, don’t vary.

And it’s a statistical fact that the Raptors can use the help. Toronto is currently 24th in the 30-team NBA in field goal percentage, shooting 43.9 per cent from the floor. Through their first 13 games, the Raptors also rank 26th in three-point efficiency, shooting 30 per cent as a team.

Hopla said that field goal percentage will determine whether he’s doing a good job.

“I challenge it every day, my goals are to make the guys shoot the ball better and I’ll be looking at the percentages. Percentages don’t lie,” he said. “If every guy just improves 1 percentage point (they’ll be in) great shape. One doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s huge.”

The top field goal shooters in the league generally fire at just above 50 per cent with 45-47 per cent being about average. Only three of the Raptors who regularly play — Jose Calderon (53.4 per cent), T.J. Ford (47.3) and Chris Bosh (47.2) — can be considered average or above average shooters.

Fred Jones (39.4), Jorge Garbajosa (42.1) Anthony Parker (43.7) and Morris Peterson (40.0) are shooting a lower percentage than Toronto needs.

“Like coach said before practice started, no one’s shooting 100 per cent so you can always work on your shooting,” said Peterson, who will miss tonight’s game in Oklahoma City and tomorrow’s game in Dallas because of a sore elbow. “For me, I think it’s important to have a guy like him (Hopla) around that can help me with my mechanics on my shot. Having him will definitely help us in the long run.”

Hopla has actually been with the Raptors before, serving as a training camp consultant in 2004. At that time, Toronto was coming off a 2003-04 season when the Raptors shot 41.8 per cent from the floor; they shot 44.4 per cent in 2004-05.

Mitchell said he and general manager Bryan Colangelo had discussed adding a coach or consultant to his three-man staff as far back as last summer.

“Overall, (it’s) getting guys to work at a certain pace, a certain speed and we need a guy like that,” said Mitchell.

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