I ran into Horace Grant this week, who’s an assistant coach of the Mission Prep junior varsity girls basketball team this year in San Luis Obispo.
Grant, a former 17-year NBA player and four-time champion with the Bulls and Lakers, said that the three things he impresses on young basketball players are the following: have a good attitude, work hard, and eat right.
“Treating your body well is so important,” Grant said.
Fundamentals are always a key point of emphasis for Horace – who said that learning to dribble with both hands and keeping your head up are critical for point guards. For low post players, like him, understanding the proper footwork will make you a better player, he said.
Grant says he regularly watches NBA games still on TV. He calls himself a “fan” now and says he still loves keeping up.
“I’m such a fan,” Horace said. “I got the NBA ticket. I’m at home, I watch it. Some things make me cringe, but it’s still a great game.”
Grant believes that only a few players in the league have truly sound fundamentals with so many players coming out of college early and having to learn only the fly in the pros, which isn’t enough time to properly develop.
He named Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant as two players with solid footwork in the post in particular.
“As a league, we’ve gotten away from footwork in the post,” Grant said. “When kids spend a year in college, you can’t expect them to know all the fundamentals. The pro level is very different.”
He said guys like Dwight Howard who’s shooting 50 percent on free throws should be working extensively for four or five days per week to get better at the line.
“I love this kid Dwight Howard, but he’s got to improve,” Horace said. “When Michael Jordan (a former teammate) came into the league he didn’t have a jump shot. You have to work at your craft. That’s all it is.”
Players he mentioned as prime examples of dedicated workers included former stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Currently, he said Blake Griffin, Duncan, Kobe, and Lebron have spent the hours to hone their games.
“Those guys were made in the offseason,” he said. “They’re always working on their craft to get better.”
As for the struggling Lakers, one of his former teams, like many, he said that it’s going to take a different approach on offense for them to get better.
He said Pau Gasol can’t be used in the same way Mike D’Antoni used Amare Stoudemire in Pheonix because they have a different skill set. Stoudemire likes to run on fast breaks and play the high pick-and-roll and that’s not Gasol’s game.
Horace believes they still can win a championship together because of Kobe, who has two or three good years left, he said. And he hopes Steve Nash will be part of that equation.
“There’s no way they should be under .500,” Grant said.
Horace said that time is closing in on Kobe, though, and “as Charles Barkley says, father time is undefeated.”
It’s funny to watch a 6-11 guy clog up the middle while coaching a JV girls teams, urging them to play energetic defensive. He and head coach Bailey Brown have the kids on the winning track.
Horace seems to be having fun with the kids and enjoying life in retirement — and I’m sure the kids are learning a thing or two from him.