MINNEAPOLIS -- Watching Nerlens Noel and Brett Brown play horse on a daily basis is entertaining -- two men separated by 33 years in age but with equally fierce competitiveness.
The game is intended to allow Noel to show off the very thing he has worked hardest on since joining the team: his shot.
“I am thrilled [with] what he has done with his shot,” Brown said on Wednesday. “We said from the very beginning that this is an opportunity and one that I hope he never has again. We are going to take seven to eight months, and how often do you get that opportunity in a season, where you can break his shot down starting from the base?”
Known for being a defensive freak at the college level, Noel’s shot got little attention. When he came to Brown, Noel’s poor form was obvious to the naked eye as well as looking at his free throw percentage at Kentucky (.529).
Given the time for Noel to rehab his surgically repaired knee, the shot doctor made a move.
“He is a total rebuild,” Brown said, just like he has in the past. “No finger there, toe there -- it is a total makeover. Now it is December, and we said your guide hand will not touch the ball until after Christmas because it screws up your shot.”
That explains why during those games of horse, both Brown and Noel only take one-handed shots.
“I am thrilled with where he is at,” Brown said. “There is far more fluid to his shot and I think the carryover from this year will be significant if we can get it right for his future.”
Noel’s shot has received the most attention because it is the one thing members of the media witness him doing, but Brown takes advantage of many opportunities to instruct Noel on various facets of the game. For instance, before the Minnesota game, Brown pointed out what would be necessary from Noel defensively if he were playing a Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Love.
“I talk about defensive positioning because that is going to be Nerlens' greatest challenge," Brown said. “I mean, imagine Nerlens in a game like [Wednesday night], however many pounds [he's giving up] -- what is it 60 or 70? Pick a number, it's big.
“So you have to be smart where you are positioning yourself. You're fronting a lot, using your athleticism, your length and your speed. They can't hit what they can't catch has to be your mentality, because otherwise, you are going to get buried under the rim, and it is going to be a long night and you are going to be in a lot of foul trouble."
Noel may not be playing basketball just yet, but he's certainly being educated in it.