Evan Turner's jump shot is the source of much discussion.
So it's no surprise that when Turner, the 76ers' second-year swingman, is asked about his adjusted jumper, a roll of the eyes is usually his first response.
As much as his basketball skills stood out at times last season, the most glaring part of his game was his inability to consistently make outside shots. And if you looked deeper into those shots, you noticed a jumper that had all the fluidity of an icy river.
Turner's jump shot wasn't the effortless type that you see from many NBA players. Each time he rose, the ball started in front of him all the way down by his knees. He would put maximum effort into jumping as the ball rose up to shooting position. Once there his guide (left) hand would often come over the top and front of the ball, in essence "looking like he was blocking his own shot," according to one NBA scout.
It really shouldn't have been a surprise that Turner was not the type of marksman fans had hoped he would be when they envisioned him stepping right into the starting backcourt with Jrue Holiday. Though he averaged 20.4 points his last season at Ohio State, which helped garner him national player of the year honors, most of those points came inside the 18-foot range, on either strong forays into the lane or midrange pull-up jumpers.
When he was asked last season to become more of a stand-still, jump-shooting player, instead of the ball-handling creator he was in college, Turner was out of his element.
This season, coach Doug Collins says he will allow Turner to handle the ball a bit more, to be able to improvise the way he did as a Buckeye. But the coach also still needs Turner to be able to drain the long jumper with some sort of consistency.
That's why during this offseason, Turner often met with Philadelphia University Hall of Fame coach and renowned shooting guru Herb Magee. The two met often, sometimes as much as three times a week. Their first encounter didn't start with Magee changing anything about Turner's form, but instead it was a question about his head.
"He just came up and talked to me," Turner recalled. "We just talked. He said, 'Bad, good, very good, great. Off the dribble, what are you?' I said 'I think I'm great.' Then he asked, 'Catch and shoot?' And I said 'I'm all right.'
"Then he said, 'I think you're very good because you have a strong shooting hand. Now we just have to get your hand off the top of the ball.' He said when you have someone who can shoot great off the dribble and very good in catch-and-shoot, we've got a good thing."
That was the mental aspect that Magee attacked. The shooting part then came, mostly concentrating on that guide hand and where it should be. Turner said the habit of it being on top and in front of the ball started when he was young.
"When I was in third grade, I was shooting in this gym back in Chicago and this one guy told me to take the ball [in the left guide hand] and hold it where the side seams are and then turn it. Then put your shooting hand where it belongs. I did that a couple of times but that didn't feel good. So then I took it and started shooting it the way I wanted [a push shot]. Then when I got to seventh and eighth grade, my dad showed me how to put the ball to the side, so I started putting it to the side and it was fine. Then when I got to high school, it felt more comfortable for me to shoot the ball off the dribble. So when I would grab the ball off the dribble my [guide] hand was starting to inch closer and closer [to the front of the ball], but it was going in and it felt good to me.
"My high school coach would tell me that my form wasn't that good, but as a high school kid I didn't understand because it was going in and I was scoring a lot. When you're playing high school ball, you're playing 11 months out of the year so there's not really time to change. I couldn't afford a shot doctor to come and completely change my shot. There wasn't time."
When you see Turner now compared to last season, the guide hand is more where it should be, the shot gets out quicker and the results seem to be improved. That should continue, said assistant coach Aaron McKie, as long as Turner continues what he's doing.
"Evan is catching the ball higher so he has a shorter distance to his release so it takes a lot of the movement out of the ball and he's more straight-up with his shot," McKie said. "For me, it's just repetition, repetition, repetition. To me, his shot still looks the same, but he's improving because he's practicing a lot more. He's a hell of a midrange player. But with the guys we've got, he's going to have to wait his turn [to create with the ball]. But it will come along.
"The way you improve is you get to the areas where you get your game shots and you work on them. That's why Evan is going to get better. He works hard, he wants to improve, he's putting in the work. He's going to be a good shooter because he works at it. There's no doubt in my mind."
And Turner is careful to not have any doubt in his.
"Sometimes I get caught up in practice thinking about my shot a little bit, but I feel fine with it," Turner said. "I just try shooting by looking at a certain part of the rim. From the corner, I'm looking at that second bolt [on the rim]. When I'm shooting, I want to make sure that my follow-through is the same and still strong. Herb showed me pictures of Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] and their follow-through hands were the same. These two fingers [pinkie and ring] were quiet, while these two [index and middle] did the work. That's part of what we worked on, and I have that down.
"The rest is coming and will come. I know it."
Follow Bob Cooney on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BobCooney76.