For the last several months before or after Jazz practices, assistant coach Tyrone Corbin has spent time working with center Mehmet Okur, sometimes bodying up on him but often charging at him on the perimeter, as defenders have come to do against Utah's outside-shooting big man.
Other times, Corbin will make a run toward Okur on the perimeter and then stop short so he can play Okur if he tries to drive which has become a big part of the big man's game since the All-Star break.
The idea has been to get Okur to recognize his options.
"He has to read whether he should take the shot or get around, go right or left," said Corbin Tuesday. "He can go both ways, so he has a lot of versatility in his game.
"Most guys that are right-handed are better going right, and he's a little bit better going right, but he's not reluctant to go left also."
The work which was Okur's idea after he watched videos of the way opponents closed out against him outside is paying off handsomely, as is the big Turk's enhanced enthusiasm for rebounding and defense that he attributes to better health in the second half of the season.
Okur had 21 points to go with 19 rebounds and three assists in Sunday's loss at the Staples Center to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. Game 2 is tonight in L.A. and tips at 8:30.
He has six straight double-doubles, and for the 2008 playoffs, he's averaging 14.3 points and 13.6 rebounds the best postseason of his six-year career and up considerably from averages of 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in the 2007 playoffs.
The rebounds are up from his 2007-08 regular-season average of 7.7.
"I'm trying. Try to get myself going, stay on the glass, get every rebound out there," Okur said.
He scored 14.5 points during this regular season, boosted in the latter half and sustained in the playoffs by the work he's doing with Corbin.
"He's terrific," said Corbin. "He's receptive. He'll listen to what you're saying, and he'll have input as to what he's thinking, and you can talk to him about that.
"You can let him see it, taste it a little bit, and he wants to build on that."
Big guys Okur is 6-foot-11 who can shoot from outside but also drive and post-up are dangerous, and Okur is aware of that.
"I do know," he said. "That's why I'm try to work on it and try to get better every day."
The other three seasons he played for the Jazz, Okur felt he was mainly an outside shooter.
"Well, you know, we have a guy named Carlos Boozer, who is down there (in the paint) a lot more," Corbin said of Okur's reason for staying outside.
"Then I watched my individual films," said Okur, "and I said, 'I got to do a better job because they're going to come at me, so I got to do better job put the ball on the floor or post-up,' so I stay on the floor after practice or before practice, try to get better at that."
Because he's shown he can drive, Corbin said, now opponents are putting smaller, quicker defenders on him, which means he can post up, which gives Utah more versatility as Okur and Boozer swap inside and outside roles a bit.
"They play off each other very well. The next stage," said Corbin, "is getting (Okur) a few more touches down low, and then once he gets in there, recognizing how they're playing him there."11 comments on this story
Corbin said Okur can be a post presence. "Oh, yeah. He's a tough guy. He's very good on the low block, and I think he'll be a great low-post player once we get him down there."
The series with the Lakers may see more of that.
"We try to take what they give us," Okur said. "I don't know what they're going to do, what they're going to change for (tonight's) game, so see how they play, so we go from there.""We will have options," said Corbin. "They're playing Boozer a little bit different, so we have to move him around a bit, move Memo around a little bit, and see how they make the adjustment to us."