As much as he tries not to dwell on the statistics, Jazz rookie guard Jim Les finds himself counting the shots these days. His goal: making three of his next six tries.
By the time he reaches 100 field-goal attempts for the season, Les hopes to have made 30 shots. His .277 average (26 of 94) is not bad for a shortstop but is not quite up to NBA standards."It does bother me," Les admitted, "but I see a definite improvement in my shooting since the season started."
Les says he's hoping to break basketball's version of the Mendoza Line - in baseball, that's the designation for a .200 batting average, named after former big-league infielder Mario Mendoza. The NBA equivalent would be the Sly Williams Line. Williams, who played 13 games for Atlanta in 1983-84, is the last player to shoot less than 30 percent while taking an unofficial minimum of 100 shots.
Until Les went on a recent tear and made 7 of 16 shots, he was threatening to become the NBA's worst shooter since Cincinnati's George Wilson (.265) in 1964-65. "Starting out the way I did did not help matters any," he said.
The curious thing about all this is that Les should shoot more. "We don't mind him shooting," says Coach Jerry Sloan. "In fact, we've told him to look at the basket more. I've never thought he was a bad shooter at all."
Les is averaging fewer than two shots a game, hardly enough to find a groove as he plays less than 10 minutes behind John Stockton. "It's tough to get in the flow," says Les. "By the time I get loose, John's back in - but I've adjusted myself to all of that now."
After shooting .477 last summer in the World Basketball League - for players 6-foot-4 and under - Les has found life in the NBA a little tougher. "Going to the basket was a lot different," he noted. "Here, the guys are so big and so agile. People take for granted the shots (Stockton) gets inside, the way he uses his body; I'm trying to learn from him."
***** Stockton, meanwhile, is back in the NBA's top 10 in shooting at .545 and is third among guards behind Michael Jordan (.554) and Mark Price (.548). Stockton continues to lead the league in assists, but his 13.5 average with 23 games left projects to 1,109, short of his NBA record of 1,128 last season. Stockton is also second in steals (2.9), behind Jordan.
In other departments, Karl Malone is second in scoring (29.1) and fifth in rebounding (11.0) and Mark Eaton is second in blocked shots (4.1) and eighth in rebounding (10.2).
Leading the Midwest Division by three games, the Jazz meet second-place Houston Wednesday in the Salt Palace.