Jayson Tatum had a down season last year. After an amazing rookie year, a second-year slump isn’t that surprising. You can’t catch people off guard, the scouting report on you is better and as much as you adapt to the game, the game adapts to you. But, Tatum’s game didn’t suffer because of that – he suddenly started taking more difficult shots, more inefficient shots from mid-range and that change corresponded with working out at Mamba Academy last summer.
A chance to work out with one of the game’s greatest player is something you don’t miss, as we saw this summer when an invite-only mini-camp was held by Kobe and seems like everyone invited showed up: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Kyrie Irving, De’Aaron Fox, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Thomas, John Collins, Buddy Hield, Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jordan Clarkson. Kobe’s knowledge of the game is undeniable, but every player has blind spots and you should try and pick up the best from everyone.
If you want to develop footwork, go to Hakeem in Houston. For defense dial 1-800-Tony Allen. Flopping – Vlade Divac is in Sacramento. The opposite is also true. You wouldn’t call J.J. Redick to prepare for the dunk contest, and you probably don’t go to Mamba Academy to learn about shot selection and ball movement. I mean, there’s a grain of truth in every joke.
Footwork, skill, shooting the ball, analyzing game tape, making animated movies – all things Kobe has a lot to teach about. But it’s no surprise that Kobe’s advice to Tatum was: “Shoot every time. Pass if you have to. But if not, shoot it.” As awe-inspiring it is to have a one-on-one session with Kobe, maybe take that advice with a grain of salt. It took Tatum a season to realize that maybe that’s not the best way to develop. Here’s what Tatum said to Tim Bontemps:
“[I was] making the game tougher than I probably should have”
Making difficult shots is an important skill, especially if you want to reach the highest level of play. In the playoffs, when most of your plays are taken away from you, sometimes you need to create some space and do your magic. But that’s the last resort, not a primary focus. At least it shouldn’t be. That’s where Tatum picked up a bit too much Mamba – if an easier shot or pass is there, do it. This is a change Tatum is committed to making this year.
You have to take one or two every other game to practice difficult shots in game situations. But, a guy who would intentionally play high school games badly to go behind just so he could mount a comeback and practice game-winning shots probably isn’t the best teacher for that lesson.