Pelicans assistant Fred Vinson is the man behind Tyreke Evans' improved outside shooting
BY NAKIA HOGAN, NOLA.COM
Tyreke Evans is in the midst of another one of his regular post-practice shooting sessions, firing up jump shot after jump shot, when he is suddenly halted.
He has wasted movement in his upper body. His follow throw isn't correct. His elbow didn't quite make it to the right angle.
Fred Vinson, a young assistant on Monty Williams' Pelicans staff, noticed it all. Immediately, he corrected the flaws.
And Evans went back to shooting. Vinson nodded in approval. His pointers had helped.
In fact, Vinson's tips have been working out quite well through the first 10 games of the season.
While he has toiled in relative anonymity on the Pelicans' sideline, Vinson, a 43-year-old former sharpshooter himself, is the guy behind the newfound outside touch of Evans, a notorious perimeter shooter in the past who surprisingly is the Pelicans' second-leading 3-point percentage shooter.
"Fred is underrated," Williams said. "I always laugh when I hear about all these guys around the league who are renowned for being (a shooting guru), Freddy has been doing the same thing here and hasn't gotten a pat on the back or anything. And he hasn't asked for it. That's what you love about him. He doesn't look for it, he likes being in the gym."
That's always been the case for Vinson, in his fifth season in New Orleans.
Vinson -- a former Georgia Tech sharpshooter who spent 14 seasons bouncing around professional basketball leagues, including stints with the Atlanta Hawks (1994) and Seattle SuperSonics (1999-2000) – said he has always been enamored with the art of shooting a basketball.
"It's just something that I always loved to do," Vinson said. "I would watch Larry Bird and imitate his shot. I would imitate Magic Johnson's shot and Dr. J and all those guys when I was growing up.
"I would imitate the players, playing one-on-one against myself, basically in the games you play as a kid. And I started to get into it. I wanted to have the perfect shot. I'd read books about it and study guys who were considered the greatest shooters and try and learn from them. I kind of pieced it all together."
Now he's passing on his knowledge.
Evans, who signed with the Pelicans last season as part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Sacramento Kings, admitted he didn't know much about the shooting acumen of Vinson before Williams suggested Evans work with the assistant coach this past offseason.
Evans has shot 22.1 percent on 3-point attempts last season and was in desperate need of help.
The work is paying immediate dividends. Evans has made 46.7 percent of his 3-pointers.
Before reforming Evans' shot, Vinson helped with the shooting stroke of former Pelicans guard Brian Roberts, who was the NBA's free throw percentage (94.0) leader last season.
He also tutored Greivis Vasquez, whose 3-point percentage improved from 29.1 percent the season before he arrived in New Orleans to 34.2 after a full season of working with Vinson.
In Vinson's first season in New Orleans in 2010, he took Quincy Pondexter, now with the Memphis Grizzlies, under his wing and improved outside shooting, too.
"My thing is just helping guys get better," said Vinson. "Shooting was what I did best as a player, and it's something that I always studied and enjoyed. To see a guy whose mechanics may not be as good and see where I can help him, has always been something I prided myself in doing."
"He just pushes you to challenge yourself," Evans said. "He shows it to me and I just try and go out there and mimic it in the same exact way. I know that he's done it before and he's good at it.
"When coach Monty told me I should work with Freddy, I just said 'OK, we'll see where it goes.' I put the commitment in and he has definitely helped me with my game."
Williams said Vinson has been invaluable to his staff.
Along with serving as the Pelicans' in-house "shot doctor," Vinson has also helped teach and implement Williams' defensive principles.
"If you list the guys that he has been able to help with their shots who have gone on and had solid careers or are having solid careers, it would be astounding," Williams said. "Not only is he that, but he is a really good coach. He has really helped us out with our defense. He's a good sounding board for me. He's a former player, so he has a wealth of knowledge to turn to when you need it. His ability to help guys with their shot has been tremendous for us."