Reporters heaped question after question onto Carmelo Anthony following the Knicks’ 119-114 Christmas day loss to the Boston Celtics, but nestled away beneath a herd of journalists and cameramen, an already dressed Courtney Lee waited patiently for those who wanted to speak with him.
Normally, players use Anthony as a distraction for their grand escape from the locker room. All eyes shift to the Knicks’ All-Star when he walks in, and the holiday adds extra reason to shun a media obligation.
But Lee let his teammate go first, a quality he possesses both on and off the court; and a quality he says head coach Jeff Hornacek wants to tinker with.
When Hornacek played for the Utah Jazz decades ago, he was a lights-out three-point shooter, specifically from the corner. Lee shoots the three at a 46.7 percent clip, second-best in the NBA, and sits near the top of the league shooting 50 percent from both corners.
As Lee tells it, Hornacek says he could shoot the corner three with his eyes closed and wants his starting shooting guard to do the same, using his perimeter shooting touch to get quality offense early in the shot clock.
“He’s encouraging me to take a lot of shots that I normally wouldn’t, more so contested ones,” Lee said. “So it’s just me getting used to playing for a coach that’s giving you the green light to shoot contested shots.
“I always try to get the best shot every time down whether it’s for myself or for my teammates, but I mean, I’m gonna try to listen to him."
Not until 2:30 remaining in the third quarter, with the Knicks trailing by five, did Lee take his first perfect shot by Hornacek’s standards.
Fourteen seconds on the shot clock is normally a lot of time. But Hornacek wants his offense to come early. So Lee hit heralded Celtics defender Jae Crowder with two jab steps before launching a corner triple...cash.
His shot over Crowder, Lee says, is the kind of shot Hornacek wants him to take. It’s something the Knicks’ shooting guard isn’t used to.
“It’s not something that I try to do,” Lee said, noting offensive execution leads to a better shot. “That’s very new. It’s only a selective few guys in this league that the coach is telling you to shoot contested shots. Especially, like live ball, off the dribble, jab steps, all that stuff, so it’s crazy. But I respect it. I’d rather have him tell me shoot the ball rather than not shoot it.”
A look at the numbers shows not much changes for Lee whether there’s a defender in his face or not. NBA.com defines tight defense as having a defender within two-to-four feet when attempting a shot.
Lee shoots 50 percent on threes when the defense is tight, but those contested attempts make up only 5.1 percent of his possessions (spot-up jump shots, for example, account for 30 percent of his possessions).
Regardless of the statistics, one thing is certain: Hornacek wants Lee to be more aggressive, and it’ll impact the Knicks offense, one way or another.