Long after Timberwolves practice ended Saturday, after every other player had left the court, Zach LaVine was still shooting. Corner threes, top of the key, all along the arc. Midrange jumpers. Scores of free throws. Over and over.
“I’m the kind of guy who will go out, try to get my mind off of it,” LaVine said, much later. “So I just come in the gym and shoot.’’
It would be a 2½-week glitch, eight games in which LaVine’s shot has steadfastly refused to fall. LaVine, a second-year combo guard — interim coach Sam Mitchell has played him at both point guard and off guard during different stretches — has struggled with his shot, his frustration occasionally showing.
And so LaVine has simply practiced more. His current regimen on days without games is to practice with the team, spend extra time shooting afterward. He gets something to eat, then takes a nap. But he’s back at the team’s practice facility at 7 p.m. for three more hours of shooting.
“I just want to shoot until it feels good,” LaVine said. “The shot hasn’t been falling, so I’m just going to shoot until it starts going in.’’
In November LaVine shot 45.2 percent and averaged 15.3 points. During the first 12 games of December he shot 42.3 percent and scored 15.0 points per game.
Since then things have gotten rough. In his past eight games LaVine is 17-for-66 (25.8 percent) and averaging 5.7 points.
“I was on such a hot start,” he said. “I didn’t want to come back to Earth, but I feel like I’m below Earth right now. But I’m digging myself back up.’’
Though just 20, LaVine has always appeared to be blessed with an innate confidence that allowed him to roll with the NBA punches. But LaVine’s body language has shown his frustration lately.
That was something Mitchell talked with LaVine about before practice Saturday.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Get that look off your face,’ ’’ Mitchell said. “Then I said, ‘Do everything else as hard as you can, except worrying about scoring.’ In practice I had him coming off picks, running the plays, just looking find people. All of a sudden, at one point, he’s going to look up, he’s going to be open and the shot will come.’’
Mitchell said having LaVine swing between the two guard positions hasn’t helped. He will try to get LaVine minutes at shooting guard going forward. But, with Andrew Wiggins playing there, and with Shabazz Muhammad getting some minutes there — and playing well — it will be difficult. So most of his minutes will come at the point.
And, Mitchell is certain, LaVine’s shot will be back soon.
“Everyone goes through this,’’ he said. “He’s going to be OK. Because he can shoot the ball.’’
LaVine? He’ll just keep shooting until they start falling. What else can you do?
“There are a lot of games left,” he said. “I’ve been a little frustrated with my game. But I feel like if you don’t get frustrated you don’t care about it.’’