When the Hawks were playing Oct. 29 in Miami, Lloyd Pierce had a conversation with Cam Reddish at the end of the third quarter.
Reddish had just turned the ball over on the last possession, and missed a pull-up jumper and 3-pointer in the final two minutes. With no Trae Young, the Hawks trailed by 18.
“He got flustered,” Pierce said. “And I just said, ‘This is why we have to work. This is why we have to.’ And I thought me barking at him a little bit, but also reminding him this is why he needs to work, not in that game, but now (in practice), the very next play he comes out, he rips it baseline and he dunks it. It was an aggressive play, but it was a mindset.”
That play by Reddish is just one small example of how talented the barely-20-year-old rookie out of Duke is.
But his shot, in the small sample size of five NBA games, hasn’t been falling yet, shooting 20.9 percent from the field (making an average of 1.8 shots per game, taking 8.6) and shooting 5.6 percent from 3-point range (taking an average of 3.6 per game, with his first career 3-pointer coming in Thursday’s loss to the Heat).
Rookies adapt to the NBA at different paces (remember when Young struggled from 3-point range last November?) and Reddish missing summer league while recovering from core muscle surgery likely put him behind.
Amidst his struggles on offense, Reddish is trying to be patient with himself as he continues to gain game experience.
“Trying to give myself a little bit of grace,” Reddish said. “Just trying to work through it and not get too down on myself and continue to just push through.”
As far as development, Reddish has looked ahead-of-schedule on defense and has rebounded the ball well (4.6 per game). He started at point guard in Thursday’s loss and tallied four assists, and has shown himself to be a heads-up passer at times.
“It’s a big part for me, especially when my offense isn’t going,” Reddish said of his defense. “Trying to find my way, especially on that end of the floor. Makes it a little bit easier. I feel like last year at Duke, that’s where I improved the most, on the defensive end, so I’m just trying to pick up where I left off and continue to improve on that spot.”
It’s mostly his shot that has evaded him so far.
The biggest areas of improvement for Reddish, per Pierce, is to stay shot-ready and balanced, control the tempo so as to not let defenses speed him up and attack the rim when his outside shot won’t go (for example, DeAndre’ Bembry has only taken five 3’s all season, making one, but goes into “attack mode,” as Pierce calls it, and is 59 percent from the field).
“The focus is really just to play with pace, to play through contact and to be shot-ready,” Pierce said. “I think those are the areas of focus for him on the perimeter. Having his body and his hands ready to shoot. Sometimes, he’s such an upright player that he’s got to get to his shot. He should already be ready for his shot. With the basketball, we want all our guys to attack it downhill, that’s how we’ll create more shots and 3’s for other guys.”
In the first quarter Thursday at State Farm Arena, Reddish was aggressive early, and got to the line four times (he could get there more often, averaging 1.6 free throws a game).
He made all four shots. And in the second quarter, he drove and finished left-handed. Coincidentally, Reddish’s first career 3-pointer followed soon after seeing the ball go in the basket.
“Just that little spark right there shows he’s got an ability and he’s got a mindset, and we’ve just got to get him to do it every possession, every time he touches the basketball,” Pierce said.
After Thursday’s game, in which he rushed for an early jump shot a few times, Reddish mentioned he needed to slow his game down.
That’s part mentality, part practice and games.
“Just get more reps,” Reddish said. “Working out in game speed in practice. And obviously, more games will help. That’s just nothing but time. But I would say more reps.”
There are certainly a lot of eyes on Reddish — being the No. 10 pick has that effect. But he’s focusing on improving bit by bit.
“Obviously, there’s expectations and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, all that matters is what’s in the locker room,” Reddish said. “Just trying to stay focused and stay engaged and get better every day.”
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