Kyle Korver's streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer is still alive. Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
Korver not worried about streak
By Jon Cooper
There's a big difference between a streaky shooter and a streaking shooter.
Kyle Korver knows the difference and has dedicated himself to being the latter.
"As a shooter the one thing you want to be is consistent," the former second-round pick of New Jersey in the 2003 draft (22nd overall, traded to Philadelphia in a draft-night deal) said. "You don't want to be a streaky shooter."
Korver has personified consistency in the decade he's been in the NBA, shooting 41.8 percent from behind the arc. And he's getting better with age. His tenth season has been one of the best and most consistent of his career, even by his standards.
As Atlanta heads into its final 19 games, the 31-year-old Lakewood, Calif. native (he turns 32 on March 17), is leading the NBA in three-point shooting percentage and is on pace for the second-best season percentage-wise of his career. Led by Korver, Atlanta has taken its place near the top of the NBA in three-point shooting and has already set a team-record for games making at least 10 threes, passing the mark of 21 set in 1996-97.
"He's a guy that you know night in and night out what you're going to get from him," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "With him on the floor, anything we run, we know teams can't leave him. You just can't help off this guy. He's one of those guys if he gets it going, you're never out of a ball game. It's a pleasure coaching a guy that brings such a professional attitude to the locker room and when he's out on the floor."
He's a presence that opposing coaches need to consider when planning their defensive game plan for Atlanta.
"That's a huge concern, the way he shoots the three," Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins said. "The way he distorts your defense because he keeps moving, and then he gets those big guys shots just by running off screens. So he would be a big factor."
He's an X-factor every night and has contributed at least one three-point shot to the Hawks' cause every game except Opening Night.
While there have been explosive nights, like on Jan. 25 at Philips Arena, when he hit eight threes against Boston to spark a comeback from 27 points down, Korver usually just quietly goes about his business of making two or three threes every night. But they've added up.
On Feb. 8 at the 3:27 mark of the first quarter, his three-pointer put Atlanta ahead of New Orleans, 20-17. He treated it like any other three-pointer, despite it being historic, as it gave him at least one made three-point field goal in 43 straight games, breaking the franchise-record set by Mookie Blaylock during the 1996-97 season.
Korver knows little of Blaylock, an All-Star (1994), who played seven seasons in Atlanta (1992-99) and retired in 2002. A certain Seattle-based band considered naming itself after Blaylock before settling on Pearl Jam, but that's not a big deal to Korver, who is not a fan. He and Blaylock do have one thing in common - the consistency with which they shoot from three.
Breaking the record was special, as setting any franchise record is, but Korver was actually happier that he no longer had to address the issue.
"It was good. It felt like there was a lot of build up for it," he said. "You could tell some teams were trying to take it away. So it was a bit of a relief that now that's over. People come up with records all the time. People come up with records for everything. But it shows there was some consistency, I guess. That's nice, but I don't put a lot of thought into stuff like that."
He's still not thinking about the Hawks' record, even as he extends it, and certainly is not thinking about the NBA mark, held by Boston's Dana Barros, who hit at least one three in 89 straight from Dec. 23, 1994 until Jan. 10, 1996. Coincidentally, Atlanta put Barros on a two-game three-less streak, holding him without one on Jan. 12, the night after New York ended his streak.
"That's a lot. That's far away," Korver said. "That's more than a whole season. That's very impressive."
He's also not concerned about the eventual end of his run.
"All things come to an end," he said and smiled. "I haven't given it too much thought."
One thing he doesn't need to think about is forcing up a three just to sustain the streak. He simply won't, even at his teammates' insistence. They tried on Feb. 13 in Orlando, when Korver missed his first four attempts before sinking his fifth with six minutes left in the game.
"Everybody was trying to get me a three, and I hated it," he recalled. "I don't want to keep a streak going like that. It was like a scramble to try to get me a shot towards the end of the game. If it ends, it ends. I'm not trying to keep it going by all means necessary. If it happens it happens. If not, I'll start a new streak."
That kind of confidence is what has kept Korver at the top of his game and makes him someone the Hawks have confidence in.
"He has the ultimate green light, he never hesitates and he's probably, if not the best, one of the best shooters in the world," Anthony Tolliver, a fellow Creighton Bluejay who arrived at the Omaha school the year after Korver graduated, said. "We all have such confidence in him."
Korver is spreading that confidence and his knowledge to the next generation.
"He knows what his craft is, and he really works at it. He's really good for our young guys," Drew said. "I see John [Jenkins] really studying him, I see John talking to him, picking his brain about coming off screens and reading the defense, those type of things. He's just the ultimate pro."
As the ultimate pro he knows his role is shooting the three. Playing his role as well as he has again has put Blaylock in his sights. This time it's to pass him for 31st in NBA history in three-point field goals made. Entering the March 9 game against Brooklyn at Philips Arena, he was two threes from tying him.
Korver remains focused on team goals. It's all about taking things one step — and one 25-footer — at a time.
"I try to hit them every game whether there's a streak going on or not," he said. "It's kind of what I was brought here to do. We have a very unselfish team, and I'm getting to play a lot of minutes here in this situation. I'm just trying to take advantage of them. I haven't had a coach that drew up plays for threes for me like this in a while, either. So I get a lot of opportunities. I'm just trying to take advantage of it."
Jon Cooper is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.
Second photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images