By Brian Dohn
L.A. Daily NewsFormer UCLA star MacLean becomes trusted instructor
Adam Morrison was having fits. He talked to some of his buddies about their daily workouts, and found he was doing more running. Way more running, and he didn't like it one bit.
He was getting ready to work out for NBA teams, so his shooting needed to be spot on. His legs had to be fresh. And here was Don MacLean, enjoying his retirement, running the scoring machine from Gonzaga ragged.
"We didn't quite get along at first, but I still listened," Morrison said. "He played in the league for a few years, so he knows what he's talking about. It sucked at first, but I stuck with it."
Morrison, a highly rated wing, was MacLean's latest pupil in a two-month crash course on getting ready for the NBA, and more importantly, preparing for individual team workouts leading up to the June 28 draft.
MacLean, a former Simi Valley High standout who went on to become UCLA's and the Pacific 10 Conference's all-time leading scorer, has been doing this for three springs after his agent, Mark Bartelstein, introduced the idea. MacLean's camp helps Bartelstein's clients get ready to work out for NBA clubs.
"I told Mark I'd try it, but in three weeks if I call you and say I don't want to do it any more, you have to let me off the hook," MacLean said.
"Coaching never really interested me that much, the whole process of networking to get the initial job and then moving your family around the country. I've done pretty well, so I don't need to do that. But this kind of quenches my thirst for coaching, in a sense. If you told me I had to do this for eight months out of the year, I don't know if I'd do it. But for two months, I really, really enjoy it."
MacLean retired in 2001 after a nine-year career in the NBA. The past three seasons, he was the analyst on UCLA radio broadcasts, and last season also was a commentator on Fox Sports Net.
But it is on the basketball court where MacLean is most at ease.
Beginning in mid-April, MacLean worked out Morrison at the 360 Health Club in Reseda six days a week. Some days other college players would stop by, or the Lakers' Devean George, the Knicks' David Lee, or Indiana's Danny Granger.
Lee and Granger both prepped for the NBA draft by working out with MacLean, and Granger is a testament to how much a player can improve under the former UCLA star. Projected as a second-round pick coming out of the University of New Mexico, Granger improved his stock so much he was selected No. 17 overall by Indiana in last year's draft. Granger and Lee came back to work out again with MacLean this offseason.
"I goof around a lot, but (Bartelstein) knows I take this very seriously," MacLean said. "He trusts me. He knows that I'm going to push (Morrison). He knows I know how important conditioning is for this process, because there are two different things.
"We have these two months to present (Morrison) to teams. Guys like Lee and Granger, we don't run. We just instruct. David Lee's shot needs to be worked on. Danny Granger still needs a lot of work on the perimeter."
One day earlier this month, MacLean arrived wearing a golf visor, polo shirt and a pair of shorts. His NBA career was littered with injuries, and his achy knees are evident as soon as he begins drilling Morrison.
Morrison's day began with running, and progressed to shooting drills. There were the 3-point shots from five locations on the court, the one-on-one competition in which a player cannot dribble more than twice after getting a start-up pass from MacLean, penetration drills, coming off screens, etc.
"I can work out point guards and I can work out big men, but my expertise is wing guys," MacLean said. "It's helping them improve their footwork and help them get better at scoring.
"That's why Adam's been so interesting. I ran through the checklist of what he had, and it was, yeah, he has everything. He's really been easy once I got him buying into doing it."
That's where the running comes in, like the full-court breakouts and the timed suicide runs.
"I think the thing that helped me the most is I'm in a lot better shape," Morrison said. "I'm a lot more explosive."
But that doesn't mean MacLean doesn't know a few things about defense, and he quickly tells Morrison the importance of absorbing an initial post-up move with a forearm before using his body and feet to defend.
"I think Adam knows now that I know how to play perimeter NBA basketball and he listens to what I have to say," MacLean said. "Its pretty high-end, technical stuff because you're talking about guys that are already pretty good."
When Morrison's jab step is done with little intensity, MacLean draws on his NBA experience to explain why that move won't work in the NBA unless it's done with full commitment.
MacLean averaged 10.9 points during his NBA career after scoring 20.5 per game in four seasons at UCLA.
"He's helped me with a lot of little stuff," Morrison said. "He always says to pick up the rim when I'm shooting, get my eyes on the target. We worked on footwork stuff that gives you a little extra time to get a shot off. My faceup game is a lot better and I can create my shot a lot better."
Morrison said MacLean's experience is the reason he didn't leave after the first week of workouts. Now, Morrison is poised to be a top-five pick in the draft. And MacLean satisfied his coaching itch for another year(reprinted with permission)