Bruce Bowen was never considered an offensive threat with the San Antonio Spurs, but he carved out a brilliant career by becoming a smothering defender and a terrific 3-point shooter from the corner.
Cavs coach Mike Brown was part of the Spurs’ organization when Bowen’s game was evolving. Now he believes Alonzo Gee could become the same type of player.
There’s only one problem: Gee has never been a good 3-point shooter from the corner. So shortly after Brown and Gee met for the first time to discuss plans for this season, Brown’s mission became clear — he wanted Gee to develop a corner 3.
Gee spent much of his summer in Cleveland standing in the corner. He would shoot hundreds of shots from the corners, then when he tried moving over to the wing, one of the Cavs’ coaches would escort him right back into the corner.
“This summer we put in a lot of work from the corner. Like a lot of work. I mean I got tired of shooting in the corner,” Gee said. “It was always, ‘We’re going to the corner, we’re going to the corner.’ I’d say, ‘Can we move to the wing or something?’ and it was always right back to the corner.”
Brown’s belief is simple. The corner 3-pointer is only 22 feet from the basket, easily the shortest part of the 3-point arc. And with offensive weapons like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack drawing most of the attention and some double teams, Gee should have plenty of open looks if he simply hangs out down there.
“Over time that has proven to be one of the easiest shots in the game,” Brown said. “He’s going to have the ability to shoot that ball. A lot of times, it seems guys like that get lost in the corners.”
For Gee to be effective, he’s going to have to improve his shooting percentage dramatically. He made just 31 percent of his corner 3s last season (39 of 127), although that was an improvement over two years ago, when he made 29 percent of his corner 3s (16 of 56).
By the end of his career, Bowen rarely shot a 3-pointer from anywhere but in the corner. During the 2008-09 season, his last in the league, Bowen shot 44 percent on 3-pointers. He attempted 147 that season, and all but five of them came from the corners.
“Bruce was a guy who might have been looked upon as a non-shooter,” Brown said. “It seems like the easiest shot in the game for people to develop on a consistent level. I think Zo could develop that and be very, very effective with it, especially based on the team we have.”
Gee believes his shooting percentages will increase this season simply because he isn’t chasing opposing point guards for 94 feet.
With the Cavaliers’ defense in such disarray last season, former coach Byron Scott often just told Gee to chase the opposing team’s best player.
Sometimes that meant Gee was picking up a point guard and chasing him from baseline to baseline. With Brown’s new defensive system, that won’t be asked of him anymore.
“I’ve had some nights where I shot the ball pretty well when I didn’t have to guard the best player full court,” Gee said. “I think that affected me a lot last year. Now with our defensive principles, it’s going to be totally different. It’s not going to be as intense as it was last year for me.”
Gee remains in a battle with Earl Clark for the starting job at small forward. It’s a decision that could go either way because neither player really emerged during the preseason.
Gee might be a little stronger physically and be a tougher on-ball defender, but at 6-foot-10, Clark has more length.
“Nobody has really separated themselves drastically from the other guy,” Brown said. “I told those guys, ‘It can go into the regular season, just keep yourselves ready to go in case your number is called.’”
Andrew Bynum participated in “most of practice” on Sunday, Brown said, and has participated in 5 on 5 scrimmages up and down the court, but he hasn’t been cleared yet by team doctors to return.
“He hasn’t gone through a full practice yet, but he went through most of it today,” Brown said. “I’m waiting for the doctors to say he can play. If the doctors say he can play, that’s when I’ll make a decision. But the doctors have not cleared him yet.”
Sergey Karasev (ankle) participated in parts of practice on Sunday and Tyler Zeller (appendicitis) went through all of practice, Brown said.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.