Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
If you watched the Bobcats-Lakers game earlier this week, the interplay between Kobe Bryant on the floor and Michael Jordan courtside was infectious. Bryant drained an unconscious shot in the third quarter and as he ambled down the court his eyes were locked on MJ. In some sense, it was completely natural. Bryant has been staring at Jordan since childhood, studying every facet of his hero's game -- his mannerisms, his biomechanics, his competitive spirit. It's undoubtedly one of the things that makes Bryant the killer he is. So far as Jordan goes, there are reasons icons are icons. There probably isn't a guard born in the 1970s or 1980s who hasn't imitated MJ on some court somewhere in some fashion.
Figuring out who to imitate is half the fun. In David Thorpe's new Rookie Watch feature, he assigns each rookie a veteran mentor to study. I like the homework he gives Sacramento's Jason Thompson, taking a closer look at second-year big man, Al Horford :
I actually think Thompson and Horford are already very similar -- both have great size, length and speed for either post spot. But while Thompson plays at 100 mph at all times, Horford is a model of tremendous effort under control. The Hawks' second-year man never takes a play off, is always around the ball and basket and, despite playing out of position, has not fouled out of a game this season.
Thompson has the right motor, but he needs to adjust his speeds better so he can finish around the rim more and foul less. He's starter material for a good team when he learns this trait.
Thorpe tells another big, the unrefined but talented J.J. Hickson, to track down some David West game tape:
Hickson has loads of raw potential, so who better to study than a technique guru like West? The Hornets' two-time All-Star is an expert at creating angles for easier shots by using fakes and changing speeds on his back-in moves. And he has all the shots within 15 feet of the rim.
West also competes at a high level with passion, but under control. He is a great example for Hickson and other young power forwards.