Napier learning, improving each game in summer league

Napier learning, improving each game in summer league
July 9, 2014, 10:30 am
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Like most rookies in the Orlando Summer League, this week has been a basketball-playing roller coaster of events for Roxbury, Mass. native and former UConn star Shabazz Napier.

There were opening night jitters in his first pro game against the Boston Celtics that ended in an 85-77 loss. He bounced back with a much better showing - and a victory - in leading the Miami Heat to a convincing 110-91 win over Brooklyn.

And then came Tuesday night's 80-78 buzzer-beating loss to Detroit, a game in which Napier had a chance to win it or force overtime as his jumper rimmed in and out in the game's closing seconds.

Although this is a step up from the competition he faced at UConn, Napier is quick to remind all that whether it's summer or the playoffs, the goal for him remains the same as it has always been - find a way to win.

"My performance individually is getting better each game," Napier said. "The big thing to me is two losses. If we would have won all three of our games the way I played, I'd be happy. That's the type of person I am."

The area in which Napier has shown the most noticeable growth is in limiting his turnovers.

After the Celtics forced him to turn the ball over eight times, he turned it over five times against Brooklyn and just three against Detroit.

But there's no way to ignore that his shot-making isn't what he or anyone who saw him lead the Huskies to the national championship this past season, expected to see.

"I can't make all my shots," said Napier who is shooting 31.6 percent (12-for-38) from the field. "If I miss it, that's human error. The biggest thing I can control is my effort, and try to slow down my turnovers. I think I did a better job from my first game and my second game."

And while Napier's desire to win remains strong even in summer league, he understands this week is about him learning not only what he can do but also use those in-game miscues as teachable moments going forward.

"I'm just out here trying to figure out how to adjust to the game much quicker," he said. "That's my job."

But it's clear that winning not only drives him to compete, but also serves as motivation to continually work on his game.

Following the loss to Detroit on Tuesday, Napier mentioned how he should have driven to the basket instead of pulling up for a jumper in the final moments of play. He also thought about his missed free throw that might have affected his decision in the game's final moments.

"But you live with the decisions you make," he said. "You learn from them. Learning from your mistakes, what happens during a game. Each and every day you have to figure something out to adjust to the game quicker. That's basketball. You're going to have times when you go through some obstacles and you're not going to get through it right there."

Which makes this roller-coaster of a week for Napier the ride of his life.