Timberwolves star Kevin Love goes back to California every summer and returns to Minnesota the next fall with something new added to his game.
This season, it seems at times as if he’s trying to bring back something else — a step-back, fall-away jump shot that Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki has perfected on his way to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame — overnight.
Love introduced a poor man’s version of that shot right in front of Nowitzki during a Wolves victory over the Mavericks at Target Center in November. He can be seen occasionally after practice working on a version more true to the original: a one-legged, off-balance shot that when Nowitzki launches it at 7-1 is impossible to block.
“That’s a nice shot to add,” Nowitzki said with a smile when told about Love’s latest project.
Nowitzki has used that shot to move into 13th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and approach 26,000 points scored in his career. He already has moved past Jerry West, Reggie Miller and Alex English on that list this season and now has his aim set at John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson just ahead of him.
“It’s a huge weapon,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “It’s just impossible to get. Dirk shoots it better than anybody in the world. He’s just perfected it. The more things you can put in your repertoire to get shots off, the better it is and Kevin certainly has the ability to do that. But that’s taking whatever it was — 14 years or whatever — to make it that type of shot. Dirk does it time after time. It looks like he’s so off-balance, but when he lets it go out of his hands it’s not off-balance at all.”
It helps that Nowitzki has a shooting guard’s touch in a big man’s body and has committed thousands of hours throughout his career to refining that shot.
“It’s a tough shot to shoot,” Nowitzki said. “But if you have balance and you have the touch, it’s a shot that you can master. It’s a shot you can get off at any time because you lean back and get a little separation between the defender and yourself. If you have good touch, it’s a good shot to shoot.”
Nowitzki has distanced himself from all others such as Love who have experimented with that shot because of a head start measured in years and because he has a four-inch height advantage over Love.
“I don’t know if there’s ever going to be someone quite like Dirk — 7-foot tall — shooting that shot again,” Love said. “But I try to pick apart people’s game, and Dirk is one of them with the way he shoots it. It’s something I’ll try to keep implementing. Being 25 years old, I still have a lot of time to work on it.”
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, Love is in some good company borrowing a good idea.
“LeBron’s shot it the last couple weeks, Kevin Durant’s been shooting it a little bit,” Nowitzki said. “It’s an honor to know some of these guys are trying to shoot it. It makes me proud that I actually did something in this league that’s worth somebody’s while.”
NBA Short Takes
Coming and going
The fairly newly named New Orleans Pelicans made their Target Center debut last week, just nine days before the Charlotte Bobcats visit for the last time.
New owner Tom Benson chose a new name for a team formerly known as the New Orleans Hornets and before that, the Charlotte Hornets. He picked the pelican because it’s a symbol for the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, no matter if many think the funny-looking seabird was a goofy choice.
With the Hornets name available, the Charlotte team reclaimed it after it was lost long ago when the city’s original expansion franchise moved to New Orleans in 2002. The franchise will return next season as the Hornets with an updated logo not far removed from the one that represented the team that entered the NBA with Miami in 1988.
Welcome back …
Friday’s game at Target Center is former Wolves star Al Jefferson’s second homecoming in two weeks.
Last week, he returned to Utah for an 83-80 loss to a Jazz franchise for which he played three seasons before signing a three-year, $41 million free-agent offer with Charlotte. This week, he makes his only Minnesota visit now that he’s back in the Eastern Conference after starting his career with Boston.
Jefferson landed in Charlotte last summer both because of that rich offer and the role Bobcats guard Kemba Walker played in recruiting Jefferson. The two share the same agent.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle on that step-back, fall-away shot with which Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki has won an NBA title and fashioned a Basketball Hall of Fame career: “It’s a very unique shot. It’s an original and Dirk’s an original.”
The Wolves’ Week Ahead
Monday: 6 p.m. at Philadelphia (FSN)
Wednesday: 8:30 p.m. vs. Phoenix (FSN, ESPN)
Friday: 7 p.m. vs. Charlotte (FSN)
Player to watch:
Goran Dragic, Phoenix
If you’re asking yourself how Phoenix has started 19-12, this guy is as good a place as any to start. He’ll be going solo in the Suns’ dual point-guard backcourt now that Eric Bledsoe is expected to miss games all this week because of a sprained right knee.
“Oh, that’s a foul!”
Wolves radio broadcaster Alan Horton, turning up the volume on himself after Monday’s final second when Dallas’ Shawn Marion never fouled Kevin Love, at least not until the following morning when the NBA finally said too late that he had done so.