Dime: Following Tyreke over the years since his Dime cover, I’ve noticed he’s become a lot more explosive. He’s dunking on people, almost jumping over guys. How did that happen?
LP: That was always part of the blueprint, that gradually over the course of four years (starting in ninth grade) he would become more explosive. I wanted to work on every aspect of human development with ‘Reke, from weight training to having a great flexibility program to plyometrics. He was repping 225 as an 11th grader; his lower body has always been dynamic and his feet have been excellent.
And, you know, I think Tyreke gets up for his level of competition. Most of the great ones are like that. He’s always been competitive, but he wasn’t salivating to go against 5-9 point guards in high school, you know? If you look at it exponentially, in high school the best guys in your peer group are on one level, and in college that group becomes even smaller, and in the pros it’s even smaller once you get to the more elite players. So in hindsight, ‘Reke wasn’t challenged until he became a pro.
Dime: You don’t work as much with Tyreke on basketball technique, but when you see a prospect who has something unorthodox about his game – in Tyreke’s case, his jump-shot form – does the coach/trainer in you want to “fix” it?
LP: The rule of thumb is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If his jumper is going in, I’m not going to mess with it. In high school Tyreke was an incredible perimeter shooter, but at Memphis his percentages went down. So when he came to the Kings, (assistant coach) Pete Carrill started working with him to adjust it, from shooting behind his head to releasing in the front. So if you look at his jumper from high school to today, you’ll see a noticeable difference.
Dime: You’re around Tyreke a lot now that you’re living in Sacramento. You’ve basically watched him grow up. How has he taken to the off-court responsibilities of being a pro?
LP: It’s routine now that he’s in Year Three. He’s taken it upon himself to be more of a leader, and I really saw that focus in his workouts this summer. He is the face of the franchise, and he knows that. He wants to be in that role.
Dime: Some trainers have a basic set of principles, either in motivational style or in their training focus. What are yours?
LP: A lot of guys don’t understand the relationship, biomechanically, of their feet and how important their footwork is in every sport. That’s one thing I try to get guys to really understand: Synchronization, body movements – why you move the way you move on the floor. Once they start to understand that, it helps them become better.
Dime: So the first thing you look at when you meet a player is their feet?
LP: It’s not the first thing. When I meet a player or meet their family, if somebody comes to me wanting to be trained, I want to know what their realistic goals are. Some guys are just trying to make their high school team, others are trying to get a college scholarship, others are trying to go to the NBA. I’ve worked with NBA talents, and I’ve worked with 5-9 power forwards. Just being realistic, what are your goals? What are you trying to achieve through this sport? Everyone’s not gonna be a pro.
So the first thing I do is just sit and talk with them. What’s your work ethic? So many kids today only play when they play, you know what I mean? They only practice when they have to practice. They don’t workout on their own. You can’t get the level of skill you need, the IQ and the discipline, by just going to practice and playing in the games. You have to set aside time to work on your craft: on your free throws, on your mid-range game, pulling up on one or two dribbles off the elbow. And I tend to find that the ones who end up making it, basketball is their love. Basketball is their girlfriend. They don’t get driver’s licenses until they’re sophomores and juniors in college because they’ve been all about basketball.
Dime: As an up-close Kings observer, who is one underrated guy in Sacramento you think will blow up this year?
LP: Marcus Thornton. He should’ve been a first-round pick. He wasn’t the SEC Player of the Year for no reason. He definitely flew under the radar.
Dime: What have you seen from Jimmer Fredette?
LP: He can stroke it. If you leave him open, it’s automatic.
Dime: What about DeMarcus Cousins?
LP: He’s like ‘Reke in that he’s so instinctive. He does things you can’t teach someone 6-10, 280 pounds to do. He’s fluid for his size and great offensively.
Dime: What are we going to see from Tyreke that we haven’t seen before?
LP: You’re definitely going to see an improved jump shot. But with the dynamic scorers they have on this team, I’d be looking for his points to go down. His assists are going to go up, but his scoring might go down. ‘Reke will be a better floor general because the impetus isn’t on him to score all the time. You’ve got DMC down low, you’ve got Thornton, you’ve got Jimmer, you’ve got Donte Greene and J.J. Hickson and John Salmons. You’ve got JT, Jason Thompson. Scoring is not gonna be an issue with these guys.
How much did it help Evans to be physically ready for the NBA by the time he was finished with high school?
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