First, Jamal wanted me to pass along a message to my blog people: He reads all of your comments and he still loves you all. Killin’ em with kindness, I guess.
With that out of the way, it’s been clear that the instant offensive jolt Jamal regularly provided under Woody has gone missing at times as L.D. moves to a more structured approach. Jamal is an instinctive scorer, adept at having the ball in his hands and attacking off the dribble, and now he’s being asked to play off the ball and set the table more often.
The Hawks have found more offensive balance than they’ve had in the past with L.D.’s approach. But for Jamal it’s meant a move away from the comfort zone he enjoyed last season.
“I think it’s some adjusting for him,” L.D. said. “Because he is such a good one-on-one players, I am trying to put him in more situations where he is running a lot more pick-and-rolls. I sat him down and told him he is playing very unselfishly, and he is making plays and getting the ball to his teammates. And he is showing to be a willing passer.
“When he and Joe play like that, I think that makes us a better ball club. Now teams can’t key in on individual guys to play one-on-one and they’ve got their defense set.”
After a spike in Jamal’s shooting percentage last season, it’s slipped back down to his career mark (though he was quick to note that with such a small sample size, a few good shooting games would pull it back up). His true shooting percentage hasn’t dipped as much because he’s taking and making more free throws. Jamal is taking about four less shots per game so far (though his attempts per minutes played are actually up from 2.2 to 2.9), his assist percentage is up slightly and his turnovers rate is up significantly.
I’d argue that, based on observation, Jamal also has shown more willingness to defend; he said L.D. told him the same thing. It’s not reflected by the on-court/off-court numbers (or by his lackluster effort against Dallas Saturday, though he was hardly alone among the guards) and I’m not saying he’s suddenly locking anyone down. But I’ve seen him more often aggressively fight through screens, keep his energy up throughout possessions and make up ground to challenge shooters.
What I haven’t seen much is the 2009-10, instant offense version of Jamal, and that’s something the Hawks could use as their bench continues to sag against better competition.
“I have got to put him in more opportunities where he gets more shots because he is a shotmaker,” L.D. said. “I’ve already sat him down and told him that. But he’s adjusting well. As I told him, he’s a guy coming off the bench that I need the instant offense, but I also need good decision-making. He has shown that he is committed to that.”