By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — Many basketball fanatics have a laundry list of excuses not to watch the NBA.
The excuses range from ‘It’s all about dunking’ to ‘Those guys don’t play hard until it really matters’ and ‘Those guys are just great athletes; there aren’t the shooters there were back in my day.’
But when the playoffs roll around, everybody’s got an expert opinion.
For example, ‘Kobe Bryant shoots too much.’
“Some of the commentators are saying he’s selfish, he’s not a team player. If he doesn’t shoot, his team doesn’t have a chance,” said Rick Mount, whose jumpshot is legendary.
Mount scored 2,595 points in high school at Lebanon and went on to become Purdue’s all-time leading scorer in just three years playing for the Boilermakers (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity in the late 1960s).
“The Rocket” once shot 47 times in a game against Iowa, making 27 for a percentage of 57.4.
“Back when I played, that was never said,” Mount said. “I averaged about 28 shots a game. I shot 50 percent. Nobody ever said a thing.”
The NBA has many more shooters than Bryant. Mount’s favorite to watch is Carmelo Anthony, whose Denver Nuggets were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
Anthony follows the form that Mount has taught for years, which includes a power pocket in front of the shooter’s face but most importantly uses a heel-ball-ball technique. That means the shooter gets a rhythm going by transferring his weight from his left heel to the ball of his left foot to the ball of his right foot.
“As far as pure shooters, Carmelo’s the best,” said Mount, whose five-year career in the American Basketball Association (ABA) ended due to injuries. “A lot of guys hop into their shots now. You have to have good rhythm and momentum and hopping doesn’t get it.”
Mount also enjoys watching Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon shoot, but “sometimes he starts hopping and leaves it short.”
Chicago has a couple of other great shooters in Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. Deng has become one of the best mid-range shooters in the game.
Chicago begins its Eastern Conference quarterfinal series today at Detroit, which boasts a few outstanding shooters as well.
With Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in the backcourt, Detroit has two steady outside threats. And Tayshaun Prince is a pretty solid shooter as well, but his important job will be to slow down Deng, who averaged 26 ppg in sweeping the Miami Heat.
As much as critics drag down the East, I don’t think anyone will beat the Pistons this year.
Mount scored 33.3 points per game in 1968-69 to lead Purdue to a national runner-up finish as his Boilermakers averaged 93 points — still a school record.
“There are many teams I can’t stand to watch,” Mount said. “Teams like Detroit that can score, I like to watch. I like to watch Kobe and LeBron [James]. I like to watch guys that can score.”
Mount can identify with James since Mount was the first high school player ever featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but he’s not a fan of King James’ jumper.
“He can get it going once in a while,” Mount said. “He’s not a lift-it-out type of guy like Anthony. He’ll hop some. He’s not a very good shooter. His upper part is more of a throw. He comes through his left eye instead of his right and he gets the ball behind his head.”
Amazing athleticism can obviously make up for technical faults.
As is the case with Phoenix Suns forward Shawn Marion. The one-time standout at Vincennes University hit 31.7 percent of his 3-pointers this season, but his shooting form is like no other. He short-arms his shot and flips the ball up quickly from his mid-section.
“When you’re standing wide open, he can get ’em in,” Mount said. “I definitely wouldn’t teach it that way.”
With the revolutionary play of point guard Steve Nash, Marion gets his share of wide-open 3-pointers. Nash has other good shooters to find, with Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa and former Pacer James Jones.
“Those guys are standing out there playing H-O-R-S-E the way Nash gets people open,” Mount said.
If Nash continues to play at a high level, the Suns will be on a crash course with Detroit — but you can’t count out the Bulls. Phoenix-San Antonio and Chicago-Detroit should provide the best drama in all the playoffs.
Mount appreciates the way Phoenix plays the game; it reminds him of his old days at Purdue.
“When I played, the first good shot we had, we got it up,” Mount said. “The coaches’ philosophies changed at some point. It would drive me nuts when [Gene] Keady was there, having to wait for them to shoot.
“Why should I let the defense set up on me?”
When you have fired up 500 shots a day for most of your life like Mount has — the 60-year-old still shoots a couple hundred shots many days — you can’t argue with wanting to get up as many shots as possible.
“Running around for eight or 10 passes, you get out a shooter of his rhythm,” Mount said.
Fresh off an upset of top-seeded Dallas, Golden State might even reach the conference finals after becoming the first No. 8 seed ever to win a seven-game series against a No. 1 seed.
The Warriors are doing it with guys who attack the basket and bomb from long range.
“The 3-point shot’s a lot different now,” said Mount, who would have had 74 points in that 61-point game against Iowa if there had been a 3-point line.
“It’s more penetrate and kick and you’re standing wide open,” said Mount. “Even at the high school level, it’s penetrate to the basket or shoot the 3.”
The game may change, but proper shooting does not.
Mount said he still enjoys helping kids improve their ability to get the ball in the basket.
The most successful take what he says and put in the most work. Sign up at www.rickmount.com.
Mount still teaches the same form that he learned himself by shooting a tennis ball into a coffee can that was nailed to his porch.
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (812) 231-4356. Read his blog at blogs.tribstar.com/craigpearson.