By Don Kelbick
July 13 – Raja Bell begins workouts
Today is one of the best days of the year for me. Today, Raja starts his workouts in preparation for next season. This year we are starting a little later than usual because we want to make sure he is healthy. He missed the last 8 games of the season with a calf injury. It is the same calf muscle he tore in the playoffs in 2006.
I truly admire Raja. He is a self-made player. He is not physically gifted and is not a great athlete, but he is carving out a great career after taking the long road to the NBA as an undrafted free agent. His work ethic and focus is remarkable and he is committed to maximizing every ounce of his physical potential, every day. Once we start, I usually have to be pretty firm and say “that’s enough for today,” or he will stay in the gym forever.
Raja started strength training about 3 weeks ago and is now incorporating yoga for more flexibility. He lifts 3-4 days per week. We try to schedule his lifts after we shoot but that is not always possible. The first couple of weeks we will work on the court 3 days per week and get about 350 shots in a workout. We will work up to 5 days per week with about 500 shots and then taper back a little about 10 days before he leaves for training camp. We try to keep most basketball workouts to about an hour and we definitely don’t want to ever go past an hour and fifteen minutes.
One of the great things about Raja is he always has a goal. He doesn’t just go out and fire them up. Each year he looks at what he wants to improve and comes in with a list. This years list includes getting to the basket more, getting better and having more options as he comes off screens and to continue his climb as one of the best 3 point shooters in the league. After 4 years of playing for Phoenix, he thinks he has become too much of a standstill shooter. Now playing for Larry Brown, in Charlotte, he is going to be called on to do more things he needs to recapture a lot of his old skills.
Most of the drills we used can be found in the basketball workout program found here. All the drills are multi purpose so I might use one drill one day as a warm-up and the same drill the next day as a ballhandling drill. We also shoot 5 foul shots in between each drill. We work on made shots so each drill works to 10 makes. We also work both sides and both directions.
The first few workouts, I just want to get the ball back in his hands. We start out by shooting 140 shots in a drill I call short long. It is a great rhythm drill and really gets up a lot of shots in a short period of time.
We then moved on to some wing shots from about 17’. Just coming to the ball for a catch and shoot. We also worked on going away from the ball. We worked both wings and on top.
We then moved to wing screens. Setting the screen at about 19’ and curling which produced a 17’ shot.
Next is wing catches with a 1-dribble counter opposite the pass. In other words, if we were on the left side, he would come to the ball, from the baseline (passer was on the top), make the catch and rip toward the baseline for a 1 dribble shot. The emphasis is I would like him to get more length on his dribble so he covers more ground, and to take straighter lines to the basket. He wants to get to the basket more so he has to start thinking about covering ground and using the pull-up as a counter move.
We then moved to a little ballhandling/break work. Coming from mid-court as if he was on the break and catching a headman pass. He gets 1 dribble to attack, a second dribble, in close quarters (I use chairs as obstacles) as a counter dribble, into either a pull up or a finish at the rim.
We finished up with a quick game of “Beat the Pro,” starting at six points. Eventually we will start at 9, which means if he misses his first shot, he’s a loser. We played a foul shooting game then, it was out of the gym. We made 320 shots in just under an hour.
July 14 – Raja works on footwork, ballhandling, and shooting
Today was one of the days Raja had to lift before we shot. He lifts at a very high intensity so we have to be careful of fatigue.
We started with footwork to loosen up. We did multiple sets of chair pivots, using each of the 3 main pivots, drop step, front pivot and inside pivot. The only counter we used was the inside pivot/sweep counter. We start with the drop step with the chairs just outside the block. Remember, in the NBA, they have a 16 foot lane so it is a pretty good stretch. We then go front pivot, in which the chairs are moved out to about 17 feet, inside pivot from 20’ and then the pivot counter with 1 dribble 25’ which leads to about a 19’ shot.
We then went to wing L cuts, first with a catch and shoot, and then with a 1 dribble move for either a pull up or rim finish. Yesterday, all the 1 dribble moves were rips away from the pass, so today we went with 1 dribble in the direction of the pass.
We then moved on to break shots, simulating catching the ball on the run as if on the break, with a catch and shoot.
We then worked on some dribble explosion from a ballhandling position where we simulate him bringing the ball up the floor and making a 1-dribble explosion to beat his man and get his shot.
We finished up with a 5/7 where we pick 7 spots and he has to make 5 out of 7 shots before we move to the next spot. If we don’t make 5, we start over from 0. He lost from the second spot and then proceeded to make 28 in a row. He doesn’t like to lose.
We finished up from the foul line.
360 made shots in 50 minutes of work.
Tomorrow is an off day on the court. It is the one day he will lift without shooting. We also try to schedule at least 1 day where he will shoot without lifting.
July 22 – Raja Bell and Sean Kett
We got back to work today after a forced layoff. I was called away on a family emergency. Raja worked in the weight room but was not on the court.
Today we wanted to just get some repetitions. I brought in a high school kid, Sean Kett, to rebound for us and make things go a little smoother. Having a rebounder gives the workout some pace. In addition, Raja gets a little break while Sean is shooting. In return, he gets a pretty good workout. Raja is a good mentor for kids. He enjoys showing them little things that will make them more effective. Last year we had a kid that had just graduated HS work with us. When he told Raj that he was going to try to make his college team as a walk-on, Raja called the coach and put in a good word for him.
We started with a 5/5/5 drill from 7 spots. This is a footwork drill that gets the shooter going both ways. From there we went to wing shooting, from each side and on top. From there, we moved onto the same drill, but added a 1 dribble rip to it. One of our objectives is to get him to be more effective on the dribble.
The next drill was a little guard play where we attacked a chair with the dribble with a 1 dribble change into either a pull up or a rim finish. In either case, there was no 2nd dribble. Whatever he was going to do, had to be done with the change dribble.
We then took a piece out of Charlotte’s offense. They set a small/big backscreen for the high post and the screener steps out looking for either the shot or the drive. We went from each side. Then, we used a simulated defense. Sean would follow him up and he had 3 choices: close out short, close out long to the right, close out long to the left. Raja had to read and make a play with a 2 dribble max.
We finished up with making 5 out of 7 shots from 7 spots and then foul shots.
All in all, we had about 300 makes in an hour and 10 minutes.
July 23 – Raja short shots and screens
Due to the gym schedule, today Raja lifted before we shot. I knew he would be fatigued so we made an adjustment by limiting his range.
We started with short/long. A quick 140 shots to warm up.
Next was a set of intensity shots. Since he lifted upper body and we were going to go with shorter shots, we decided to put more conditioning into the workout. The intensity series gets you shots from a designated spot but contains some good footwork and continuous running for conditioning. First set was layups, second set jump shots, third set 1 dribble jumpers, fourth set dribble jumpshots with a second dribble change.
From there we worked on wing play, receiving the ball on both wings and the top. First jump shots, then 1 dribble shots. We finish with Sean showing defense so Raja would have to decide shoot or drive.
We then went to wing screens, curl on the dribble, hide behind for shot and turn downs. It is one of the ways we work ballhandling into the workout.
We finished up with “Beat the Pro” (as Raja says, “I should win because I am a pro”) and foul shots. We worked for about an hour and 10 minutes with 370 makes.
One of the challenges with established players is having them make small adjustments. They are already very good at what they do and I don’t want to change anything and make it worse and they are a little resistant to change. Right now Raja reacts to everything as a jump shooter. Short dribbles and often stepping to the side. Since he now feels he needs to be better getting to the basket, little by little, I hope to lengthen his dribble and get him to go in straight lines. The trick is to get it done without him noticing.
July 23 – Raja Bell and Anthony King
Anthony King joined us today. Anthony graduated from the University of Miami in 2008 and played last season in Frankfort, Germany. He played, last summer, for the Miami Heat summer league team and then went to Europe for some seasoning. He has already made a decision to go back to Europe this season and then try to push for an NBA spot next year. At 6-8, he is a little undersized for a power forward so we’re going to try to work on his intermediate game and the things he can do to out quick bigger players. He is an excellent defender and rebounder, but to have a chance, he needs to score better than he does.
King is a good workout partner for Raja. He works very hard and needs to improve some of the same things that Raja wants to improve on, 1 and 2 dribble moves and scoring in the mid-range. We can work on screens, ball screens and option off them from both perspectives.
We warmed up with chair pivots, using all pivots and counters. We started on the block with drop steps and gradually moved out to 16 feet for front pivots and 20 feet for inside pivots. The counter, because they involve a dribble, were moved out to about 23 feet.
We then when through the intensity series, first layups then jump shots, then 1 dribble and finally 2 dribble changes.
Then we went to split post shots, front pivots from the low post and inside pivots from the high post. Then we reversed the sides and the pivot feet.
We then went to some 1 and 2 dribble moves, off the catch, from on top and on the wing, starting with about a 22 foot catch. We went catch and shoot, catch – 1 dribble move and then catch – 2 dribble move with a change in direction.
We then worked on ball screens with a slip, passes coming from the weakside. In order, shots were catch-jumpshot, catch-jump hook and then catch-drop step counter.
We finished up with wing shooting from 3 spots and then beat the pro. The total was 300 makes in 1 hour.