Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks is currently having one of the greatest shooting seasons in NBA history, and is on pace to have just the second 50/50/90 (FG%/3P%/FT%) season in NBA history — Steve Kerr did it in 95-96, but on far fewer attempts.
This season, Korver is shooting an insane 51.8% from the field, 53.4% from the three-point line — on 5.8 attempts per game — and 92.3% from the free throw line. His mere presence on the court terrifies opposing defenses, who must stay with him constantly as he weaves his way through mazes of screens. Teams must commit a defender to him at all times and leaving him to help rotate down to defend the paint is often times more detrimental than giving up a layup.
For the third time in his career, Korver will compete in the three-point shootout at All-Star Weekend — and he may find himself as a first time All-Star if selected by the commissioner to replace Dwyane Wade. Korver has not competed in the event since the 2004-05 season despite being asked to participate on a number of occasions. I spoke with Korver ahead of the Hawks' matchup with the Portland Trailblazers on Friday to discuss his historic season, the three-point shootout, and more.
How aware are you of how historic your shooting season has been to this point?
I mean, people have talked to me about it. I just try to make my shots, man. I want to shoot 50% on my shots regardless, that's just where I want to be, but there's still so many games. When you talk about percentages, everyone has good games and it's really about minimizing your shooting slumps, I guess. That's just a daily thing of making sure you're right mentally and physically and taking it one shot at a time.
I remember a year or two ago you told us that Allen Iverson gave you the advice early on that "shooters shoot" and to not worry about slumps. This year, you'll have maybe one off night but bounce back quickly. How have you been able to avoid any prolonged slumps this year?
I think it's just continuing to be a better shooter. You try to understand your mechanics more and I'm a firm believer that if your body is working correctly and you shoot it the same way every time, you're able to minimize those kind of shooting slumps. There's plenty of other factors — defense, first of all — that can throw you off, but I just try to take good shots and focus on that. I rarely ever shoot a shot just to shoot a shot, I'm always thinking about the shot and what I need to do to make it.
Did you see Klay [Thompson]'s 37 point quarter?
Totally. Well, I saw the highlights of it.
Have you ever felt in a zone like that for a quarter?
Oh, for sure. I just can't get that many shots up. His ability to create shots, he's just a really special talent and when he gets going like that it's really tough to guard.
People talk about the "hot hand," and there's people that say the hot hand doesn't exist. As a player, do you feel that?
Mmm, no you do. I think some people think they have a hot hand when they don't, and that's what skews the stats. There's definitely a feeling where, and it doesn't happen all the time, but when you do you feel like "man, I need the ball and just get it up and I just can't miss." Those are the moments you dream about, and you hope happen at opportune times.
One of the big things you've been able to do here in Atlanta is transition threes. This year, more than ever, it seems like guys are looking for you [in transition] more than ever. Do you feel that guys are getting more comfortable looking for you and cognizant that you're going to be there in transition?
Yeah, definitely. It all starts with the coaching staff allowing you to shoot those. The coaches that I've played for that feel like that's a good shot, and I've always tried to find those shots in transition. I think it puts a lot of pressure on the defense when they have to worry about whoever has the ball going to the basket, but they also have to worry about the three. It's really hard for the defense that way if you can get out and run and cover all of that. If you have a coach that doesn't think it's a good shot, then your teammates won't look for you as much, but I'm in a great situation where I have a green light. When you make a few of them, guys look for you a little more and it creates the opportunity.
I notice that you almost always run to the same spot on the elbow, the break of the three-point line in transition. Is that a sight-line thing, is that so your teammates know where you're going to be, is it easier to line your feet up there?
Uh, it's just me trying to run wide. Really I'm just looking for the open space. Sometimes it's all the way to the corner, sometimes it's on the wing, but really I'm trying to stay wide to create driving lanes for Jeff [Teague] or whoever has the ball and stay out of their way. If the defense soaks in or fills in on them, [the break of the three-point line] is usually the open spot.
Last year, you chose not to do the three-point shootout. Did the league adding an extra four days to the break help you choose to do it this year, since you'll have the family time that I know you want?
There's a lot of factors in it. It is your one break a year, and the last few years I was either just married or just had a baby, and it is our one break so you want that time with your family. I am on the executive committee this year, so I have to be there anyway, which factors in. I think the All-Star game can be lost in New York, too. Usually, the city that it's in it's everything and you are surrounded by the NBA and basketball all the time. This is your one time to have break and sometimes you just want to get away. I also want to try and win it once. I do. It's an honor to be asked, and it's a great field this year. In my opinion, it's the by far best field they've had for the three-point contest in a super long time.
How much are you going to practice for it? I know pulling from the rack is a different feel.
Yeah, it's a different shot. I'm not going to get too worked up over it, but I'll probably shoot off a rack a few times to get used to it.
Are you going to take [Mike Muscala] with you to stand behind you and do the Moose goggles?
Hmmm, I should.
Just put him on the bench.
Yeah, if he wants to come, he's more than welcome.