‘I feel like it’s only up from here:’ Cam Reddish looks to build on strong January

Atlanta Hawks guard Cam Reddish (22) guards Dallas Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) in the first half Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 in Dallas. Reddish left the game after taking contact to the face.

Credit: Richard W. Rodriguez

Credit: Richard W. Rodriguez

Atlanta Hawks guard Cam Reddish (22) guards Dallas Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) in the first half Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 in Dallas. Reddish left the game after taking contact to the face.

Even though rookie Cam Reddish never doubted his 3-point shot would start to fall, he wasn’t about to turn down advice from Vince Carter.

Carter, playing in his NBA-record 22nd season, had noticed some extra wiggle and movement in the long 6-foot-8 Reddish’s game (Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce had previously pointed out Reddish wasn’t always “shot-ready,”) and worked with him one-on-one to tighten his footwork and shooting motion.

“I call it taking a lot of the noodle, the wet noodle, out of his game on both sides,” Carter said. “I think it’s helped him, just because now he’s locked in and just precise. Everything’s precise. You just get to whatever you want to get to, so you don’t worry about having to lean, it’s just, ‘Boom, I’m locked in.’ And it’s worked for him.”

The pair had been practicing together consistently, per Reddish, but started working together more often in December and January. They also worked on staying balanced, not rushing and trying to shoot the same way every time. After the January that Reddish had, miles ahead of where he was at the beginning of the season, it’s safe to say that work has been paying off for the 20-year-old.

“I mean, as we can see, I was shooting 5%, whatever month that was,” Reddish said, letting the numbers speak for themselves.

To be specific, Reddish shot 5.6% from 3-point range (or 1-for-18) in October, over his first five games in the league. That went up to 27.9% in November, 31% in December and exploded up at 40.3% in January. He also went from shooting 20.9% from the field in October to 41.1% in January as he settled into a rhythm. The rookie, who the Hawks selected 10th in the 2019 draft, is adding 9.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

After he was injured in the first quarter of the Hawks' loss to the Mavericks on Feb. 1, diagnosed with a concussion, Reddish had to clear NBA concussion protocol before he could try to follow on his strong showing. He returned to action in Monday's loss in Orlando, playing on a 25-minute restriction and finishing with 11 points, going 2-for-4 from 3.

Since he missed only four games, and since he was still able to work out during that stretch, Reddish doesn’t think time away will slow him. Overall, the rookie has trended upward, and he hopes to continue that in the remainder of the season.

“I feel like it’s only up from here, really,” Reddish said Monday. “Just continue to try to do great things and great things only. Just staying dialed in.”

Reddish’s defense has been his biggest strength all season, and he was able to hang his hat on that early in the season before the production on offense started to uptick. That scrappiness hasn’t gone anywhere. In the third quarter of the loss to Orlando, while defending Evan Fournier on the perimeter, Reddish ripped the ball from Fournier’s grip for a steal and tore down the court for a layup, pausing to draw contact from Nikola Vucevic in the lane for the and-1.

Now, with his offense and finishing coming along, teammates are taking notice of how the game is slowing down for the rookie.

“Sometimes that happens when you’re new to something. I remember just the rookie struggles I went through last year,” Kevin Huerter said. “Just adjusting to the league and slowing yourself down and being confident as a player and just letting the game come to him, I think he’s done a lot better with that.”

It’s not just Reddish’s 3-point shot that has started falling. After tending to rush shots or settle for mid-range jumpers earlier in the season, he’s attacking the rim more ⁠—sometimes over the 7-foot tall center Joel Embiid, in the Hawks’ win vs. the 76ers on Jan. 30.

His decision-making also looks to have improved. When the Hawks got an offensive rebound in the final seconds of their win against the Clippers on Jan. 22, Pierce thought Reddish might decide to take a shot when he got the ball, but instead he killed time.

“I thought that shot was going up, which if he shoots it and makes it, it’s kind of a Cam Reddish play,” Pierce said. “A ton of confidence. He thought about it. It would have been a big gutsy shot, but we didn’t need it. We needed to use the clock. But I think in general, he’s played aggressive basketball on both sides. He’s chasing guys around, he’s denying. … His defense has been tremendous, and his offense is slowly coming.”

Even before Reddish began having more success shooting from 3, the rookie stayed confident. Shots may have started falling for him in January, but he still wants to see more improvement in that category (taking the whole season into account, he’s shooting 31.3% from 3 and 35.2% from the field).

“I was never really worried about it,” Reddish said. “I knew it would fall. It’s still not falling at the rate I want it to. There’s still a lot of work to be put in, but I think I’m in a good spot.”