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Shooting advice for Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio: be selfish

MINNEAPOLIS--Shooting struggles have plagued Ricky Rubio throughout his career, and the problem persists. It hasn't gotten any better this season, as his field-goal percentage (.360) is mere ticks off his career low and he's shooting threes at a ...

MINNEAPOLIS-Shooting struggles have plagued Ricky Rubio throughout his career, and the problem persists.

It hasn't gotten any better this season, as his field-goal percentage (.360) is mere ticks off his career low and he's shooting threes at a 28-percent clip, the second worst three-point percentage of his career, which is hard to fathom considering Rubio has taken more than half of his three-point attempts from the corner - the most-efficient shot in the league.

Shooting has been Rubio's primary problem for the duration of his six-year career, and his detractors are flustered the passing-wizard point guard can't just fix it. How many practices and offseasons does it take to learn to make a jumper?

But it might not be as simple as learning how to shoot. Rubio knows how to do that, just ask any media member who has watched him hit countless consecutive uncontested jumpers at the end of practices for years.

Sure, it's different when the lights are on or a defender is guarding you or you are hard charging for a close-out. But there might be more to it than that.

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Just ask Jason Kidd, the current Milwaukee Bucks coach who is No. 2 on the NBA's all-time assists list. He was always a better shooter than Rubio has been throughout his career, but twice in his career Kidd finished a season below 30 percent shooting from three-point range, and finished under 35 percent shooting from deep in nine of his first 12 seasons.

But by age 34, Kidd turned the tide, shooting 38, 41 and 43 percent from three over his next three seasons.

How was he able to finally break through?

"Just practice and age," Kidd said last week. "Just taking the time, trusting all the things that you've worked on. It takes time."

And a different mind-set. As a pass-first point guard, Kidd said there were always so many thoughts swimming through his head about 'Who's open?' It's tough to even thinking about taking - much less making - a shot when your initial thought is to find where to pass the ball next.

The league's top shooters have a different mentality. They look for their shot first, only opting to pass if the shot's not there.

Look at Rubio's three-pointer to tie the score with less than two seconds left in the Wolves' loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday. When there was no choice but to shoot, Rubio knocked it down.

"So when you become a little selfish and start thinking about yourself a little bit," Kidd said, "that's when your shooting tends to improve."

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That selfishness is what Kidd, who finished in the top five in NBA Most Valuable Player award voting twice, including a runner-up finish in 2002, attributed to his ability to stick around the league long enough to win a league title as a 38-year-old guard with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.

"Anytime you can add something to your game, no matter how old you are, you get to keep that jersey on," Kidd said.

Not that Kidd is advocating for passing point guards in their primes, like Rubio, to ditch pass-first mentalities in pursuit of a better three-point percentage. The best version of Rubio isn't one that looks for his shot first and takes six threes a game. Kidd said players have to stick to their strengths - that's a key to consistency.

But maybe there's a happy medium in a spot the Wolves and Rubio haven't looked yet?

Regardless, Kidd's story can be one of hope for Rubio and the Timberwolves - it's never too late to develop a quality jumper.

"You can always become a better shooter," Kidd said. "You can always get better as you get older, for sure."

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