Thunder journal: Assistant coach gives Adams free-throw shooting punch
BY BRIAN DAWSON, NEWSOK
Late in the first quarter of Wednesday's 126-115 overtime win against the Washington Wizards, Steven Adams stepped to the free-throw line. The Thunder center sank his first attempt, then his second.
It helped that nobody slugged him in between.
Adams, a career 55.1 percent foul shooter entering this season, entered Wednesday's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena shooting 81.6 percent from the free-throw line. He made 4 of 5 first-half free throws against the Wizards, though he missed four of his last five.
As Adams tells it, punches and slaps have been the key to kicking his bad free-throw shooting habit. It's the work of Thunder assistant Darko Rajakovic, who besides stressing that Adams keep his elbow tucked has used his fists as teaching tools.
“So what he does is, he'll come and, like, punch me in the stomach,” Adams said. “I swear to God. He'll come punch me in the stomach or slap me on the arm really hard and he'll just say, ‘Make a free throw.'”
The logic behind that approach, Adams said, is that because he shot free throws well in practice last season, but the success didn't carry over to games, his issues must have been “strictly mental.”
The unorthodox approach appears to be working.
Adams entered Wednesday attempting about the same number of free throws he did last season — 2.6 compared to 2.5 — but making 2.1 per game, up from 1.4.
And though it's impossible to simulate game conditions for practicing free throws, Adams credits Rajakovic's physical approach with helping him carry his shootaround form to in-game shooting.
“With that kind of stress or whatever it is, you still have to try and stay locked in, focused on what you need to do,” Adams said. “That's what he does. It's not fun. I didn't say it was fun, mate. I'm telling you, getting a beating by a little Serbian, it's no good, mate. No good.”
Russell Westbrook struggled through much of regulation Thursday, but the Thunder guard finished strong, and his fourth-straight triple-double — 35 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists — kept him averaging a triple-double through 20 games.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Westbrook is the second NBA player ever to enter December averaging a triple-double, and the first since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. Robertson went on to average 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists that season, the only triple-double average in league history.
Brooks: Durant-Westbrook ‘eventually' will speak
For seven years, Scott Brooks was responsible for helping stars align in Oklahoma City.
And now the former Thunder coach — in his first season coaching the Wizards — is disappointed to see his two former star charges estranged from one other.
“It doesn't make me feel good,” Brooks said Wednesday, that Thunder Westbrook and former teammate Kevin Durant haven't spoken since Durant left via free agency for Golden State.
"I think that eventually they're going to (talk) ... I don't think they have. I'll trust you guys that you guys know they haven't spoke(n), and maybe that's probably dangerous on my part to trust you guys. But I don't like to see that. They did so many wonderful things together, and they should be proud of that and not be focused on not winning the championship. A lot of things happen in order to win one, and (I'm) fortunate we were there and able to (try to) win one."