Ian Mahinmi is in the middle of his 11th NBA season. He has appeared in 623 total games, including the playoffs. Yet, until Wednesday night, he had never made a single three-point shot in an NBA game that counted.
With just over a minute left in the first half of the Wizards' win over the Cavs, Mahinmi stepped back behind the line in the weakside corner. John Wall drove to the elbow to collapse the defense and fired him a pass. Wide open, Mahinmi rose and released like he had done it many times before.
Technically, he had. Mahinmi has been working on his three-point shot persistently. At the end of every Wizards practice, he can be seen going around the horn popping threes.
In practice, Mahinmi makes long range shots consistently. Head coach Scott Brooks has put the number at around 70 out of 100 on his best days. Mahinmi even made a few this preseason, suggesting it might actually happen in a regular season game this year.
Sure enough, it did.
"It's something I work on. I work on threes and especially from the corners. It's good to see one finally go in," Mahinmi said.
Mahinmi had attempted two threes already this season. One clanged off the side off the backboard. The second rolled in and out of the rim.
Mahimni said the second attempt was actually a designed play to get him a three-point look. On this one, Wall called his number again.
Mahinmi said Wall told him to go to the corner. The team was up 20 points and it was late in the first half.
The stars had aligned. It just seemed like the right time.
"Obviously, I was looking for it," Mahinmi said. "If the ball comes my way, I'm shooting it."
Brooks has expressed confidence in Mahinmi's outside shooting ability for months now. And he reiterated after Wednesday's game that Mahinmi has the green light.
"I want Ian to shoot threes if he's open," Brooks said. "He practices that every day. We see it go in every day. The league is changing. It's not just a small-ball league for the smalls."
That last point was not lost on others around the Wizards locker room. When Mahinmi entered the league in 2007, centers were expected to camp around the rim. He was asked to block shots and play with his back to the basket.
In the decade-plus since, new species of big men have flowed into the NBA. Many of them hit threes, leap high above the rim and break down defenders off the dribble.
Mahinmi, though fully-developed at 32 years old, isn't letting that stop him. He has added a three-point shot that opponents have to at least know is possible to go in.
"He's adapted to the game and that's not easy at his position because they try to kick fives out of the league," guard Bradley Beal said.
No one expects Mahinmi to all of a sudden become Dirk Nowitzki and hit threes all the time. It was a small moment that probably won't mean much in the big picture.
Still, it was a reason for him and his teammates to celebrate.
"I'm glad to see him do that," center Dwight Howard said. "I'm so happy for him."
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