According to Kerr, Amundson has an elite level of athleticism, even for the NBA.
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It takes a certain kind of talent to be able to come off the bench and change a game.
Few players were able to spring off the bench and effect a game like Suns GM Steve Kerr could when he was playing. Everyone remembers the huge shot he hit in the Finals to help the Bulls knock off the Jazz in 1997, while hoops fanatics know him as the league’s all-time leader in three-point shooting percentage for a season (.524 in 1994-95) and for a career (.454). Although he possessed an inborn gift for eye-hand coordination to go along with his silky touch, he also may have worked harder and smarter than any shooter ever to develop his talent.
When Kerr would practice his shooting during the summers, he wouldn’t call it a day until he made a swish so perfect that he forced the nets to rise up and get caught on the rims of all six of the baskets in his high-school gym. That sort of meticulous manner in which he practiced extended to his habits in the pros as well.
When playing for the Spurs, Kerr would team with the club’s shooting coach and guru, Chip Engelland, to craft his longe-range skills in a unique way. Since Kerr would sit for long stretches of time as a reserve, Engelland would try to replicate those conditions in their training sessions.
Once Kerr would warm up, he would sit down for at least 15 minutes before Engelland would shout for him to get up and sprint to one end of the court and fire a three-pointer. After shooting, Engelland would have him sit down again before repeating this process several times. This allowed Kerr to become accustomed to shooting when he was stiff from sitting on the bench.
“It helped me, it was a different way to work out and it was definitely effective,” Kerr said. “If I was open, I’d let it fly and do my thing. But it’s hard if you’re ice-cold, so to help that I would stay loose by running in place and stretch during timeouts.”
Through his experience of being a key reserve, Kerr understands how vital every role is to a team. It is why he has been so pleased with the contributions of forward Louis Amundson. Amundson has gone from the 12th man in Philadelphia last year to the first post player off the bench in Terry Porter’s rotation this season. Lithe and athletic, Amundson’s boundless energy and hustle keeps forcing Porter to reward him with more minutes.
“It’s probably a little easier to come off the bench if you are a high-energy, athletic guy like Lou,” Kerr said. “You can bring those qualities every night, which is what he’s doing. Whereas if you’re a shooter, you have to make shots to be effective – and obviously – you’re not always going to make shots.”
“There’s a mentality that role players have to have in that the coach has to know what he’s going to get from you every night, whether it is two minutes, or 10 minutes or 20 minutes. That’s what’s been so great about Lou, we know he’s bringing energy and effort every single night.”
When prompted with the idea that Amundson has some of the same attributes as his former college teammate, best friend and ex-Bull, Jud Buechler, Kerr liked the correlation.
“Jud (Buechler) is a pretty good comparison,” he said. “Jud was a great athlete, but the difference with Lou is that he’s incredibly explosive, even by NBA standards.
“All NBA players are great athletes, but this guy is as explosive as they come. He’s incredibly bouncy and quick.”
Kerr believes that in order for Amundson to keep up his stellar play, he has to continue to approach his role with the same tenacity he has displayed thus far this season.
“There wasn’t much mentally that I had to do other than just remind myself to be aggressive,” Kerr said. “When you don’t play a whole lot sometimes you go out there and you don’t want to make a mistake. If you play not to make a mistake you’re not going to be effective.”