PHOENIX – Mired in a December shooting slump nearly as long as the month’s days now are short, Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins vows he will do what he always does during such a thing.
“Just keep shooting,” Wiggins said.
He also received a visit from personal skills coach Drew Hanlen while in Phoenix for Saturday’s game against the Suns, although Wiggins said he’s not back working with his longtime instructor and confidante with whom he last drilled in July.
Wiggins is one of many NBA players who work in summers and other times with their own specialists whom they themselves employ.
Teammate Jimmy Butler has his own strength-and-conditioning and skills coaches among a group of longtime friends who surround him home and away. Hanlen is a high-profile personal coach with his Pure Sweat Basketball firm who also works with, among others, former Wolves guard Zach LaVine, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. Former Wolves Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer worked for years with their own coach, David Thorpe, and Kevin Love had his own, too.
They all do it separately from their NBA teams, which, of course, employ their own coaches, a gaggle of them.
“I have my team,” said Butler, who has had his own for the past four years or so. “I think everybody here knows that. I don’t think it’s a problem. I just love having my people around. We all come from the same upbringing, the majority of us are from Texas. We get each other. As much as I love my teammates, too, I love being around the guys I’ve been around since the very beginning of things.
“I don’t consider it an investment. I consider it what family does. We take care of one another, we always ride one another. We’re always in everything together. Good, bad or indifferent, those are my people.”
The Timberwolves have head coach Tom Thibodeau, four assistant coaches, a player-development coach, a shooting coach, strength-and-conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and therapists.
Yet Thibodeau has been around the NBA long ago to see the game’s biggest stars employ their own.
“Everyone has someone,” Thibodeau said. “Guys that have been with somebody for a while, that’s fine. It could be their college coach. It could be someone they played with before. The thing is just concentrate on what you have here. Just get ready. You have to have a routine here. That’s the big thing. You’re in season, establish your routine. That’s how we approach it.”
Wiggins has scored in single digits his past two games, the Wolves’ victory over Portland at home and at Denver. It’s the first time he has done that since December 2014, his rookie season.
In the past nine games that dates nearly to December’s start, Wiggins averaged 13.4 points while he shot 34.2 percent from the field, including 17.1 percent (6-for-35) from three-point range. He averaged 21.3 points and shot 48 percent on threes in the four games before that.
Wiggins’ shooting struggles could be rooted in everything from improper balance, a shortening of his shooting stroke or simply a lack of confidence. Whatever the reasons, his shooting everywhere from three-point range to right at the rim and even at the free-throw line has been affected.
Wiggins and Hanlen spoke this week and Hanlen was scheduled to fly into Phoenix on Friday. Wiggins, though, said he isn’t seeking a second opinion.
“I’m not working with him,” Wiggins said. “I think he’s coming for the game.”
When asked how much he still consults with a coach with whom he has trained since he became a pro, Wiggins said, “Not that much. He might send me some film every once in a while.”
Thibodeau wants to see Wiggins continue to attack the rim and seek what he calls “easy buckets.” Those, in turn, boost energy and confidence. Moving freely without the ball and proper preparation and shooting form wouldn’t hurt, either.
“When a player sees the ball go through the net, that’s what usually gets them going,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what he has to do. He’ll work with way through.”
Wiggins said he continues to study his games played, the shots he has taken and the form he has shown.
“I watch film, but I’m more about making shots, trying to get my shot right,” Wiggins said. “I’ve just got to keep shooting until I start making my shots again. You’re going to miss shots, even some short ones. I just have to keep getting to the rim and I’ll be good.”