Warriors

How Oubre worked out of miserable Warriors shooting slump

Warriors

Any time a player joins a new team, he deserves an adjustment window. 

That was what the Warriors were telling themselves when Kelly Oubre Jr. joined the team during the offseason and had a slower start than anticipated. 

The Warriors saw the career-high shooting Oubre had in his two years with the Phoenix Suns, and thought he would be the perfect filler for Klay Thompson as he worked his way back from an Achilles tear. 

"It's not always easy playing the style of basketball we play," Oubre's player development coach Luke Loucks told NBC Sports Bay Area. "So for guys who are talented, and especially guys who are comfortable in their own skin and are comfortable playing a certain way -- it's how they've played their whole life -- sometimes there can be an adjustment period to us, and us to them. That's some of what we were seeing with Kelly."

The largest area of concern for Oubre his first month with the Warriors was his shooting -- the reason why Golden State wanted him. 

In the first four games of the season, Oubre shot just 26 percent from the field and 4.3 percent from three. Throughout January, he improved a little, but not much, shooting 37 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three.

"We've always believed that Kelly was a really good shooter," Loucks said. "We saw it in his workouts, in his practices, but it just wasn't translating. That was the main focus for me as his player development coach. How can I help this guy make open shots?"

 

In Loucks' mind, once Oubre started to his open shots, everything else would fall into place. That is when his drives would start opening up and his scoring at the rim would become more efficient. 

He was right -- Oubre averaged 20.1 points on 50.2 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from three in February.

Of course, part of Oubre's slow start was adjusting to the Warriors' system and building chemistry with his new teammates, particularly Steph Curry.

"There's always an adjustment playing with any star in the NBA," Loucks said. "Those guys carry so much gravity on the court. And you have to find your place as, I don't want to call them a role player, but as a guy who's playing next to those superstars. You just have to find your way with those guys."

Watch the full interview with Luke Loucks on YouTube

When it comes to playing with Curry, Loucks and the rest of the coaching staff try to give players cues on what they should be looking for. Sometimes that's difficult because they have never experienced that. All coaches can do is show players film of Curry and let them know when they should make a move off what he does. Other than that, it's all about getting physical reps alongside Curry. 

For Oubre's individual game, there were two areas Loucks focused on with Oubre to get him out of his slump: his balance and holding his follow-through. 

But that's not where Loucks and Oubre's work stopped. Oubre has said he feels like an overall fundamentally better basketball player now than he was when he first joined the Warriors. And a lot of the tools he has added in the last several months are through sessions with Loucks and other members of the coaching staff. 

"Working with a guy like Kelly, he's open," Loucks said. "He wants to get better and he wants to improve and he wants to work. When a guy has those qualities, you know at the end of the day they are going to improve. It's just a matter of what you pour your focus on. With the limited training camp and the early struggles, that narrowed down the list to improving shooting, some balance issues and follow-through issues."

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Not only did the Warriors have a shortened training camp because of COVID-19, but they also have had a limited amount of practices because of all the protocols they must go through. 

Because of that, Loucks and Oubre have had fewer sessions than they'd like. The key was to hyper-focus on one area of improvement at a time. That way, they could maximize the time they got.

 

"There's a balance in terms of there are a lot of things on this checklist I would like to get to, but what's going to help us beat the Clippers tomorrow," Loucks said. "Or, what's going to help Kelly in this game, this matchup against Kawhi?"

As Oubre was working through his slump, a key posed to him by Loucks was, "Find ways to, even when you're not making shots, to impact the game with your ball-pressure, your length, your athleticism, with your speed."

Oubre did this with his defense and the overall energy that he exerted on the court. This side of his game is what allowed Oubre to maintain his confidence as he worked out of his shooting funk. 

Of course, the confidence Oubre carries is just who he is. Because of that, Loucks nor anyone else on the team ever had to worry about his mindset.

"Our confidence in him never wavered but the coolest part was that a lot of guys, when they struggle, especially in new situations, their confidence can waver. His never did," Louck said. "He showed up every day, put in the same work. Had a great work ethic, smile on his face. He remained humble. That's one of the best things to see as a coach, a player struggling but also bringing this positive attitude every day. 

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