Raps give Hopla shot

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

At best, the Raptors have hired the perfect guy to lead the team out of its season-long shooting slump.

At worst, they have another man to keep an eye on those evil road scorekeepers.

Dave Hopla, who, according to his personal web site, is "considered by many to be the top shooter in the world," is back with the Raptors for the second time in the past three years. But this time he has a more significant role.

Hopla, who worked with coach Sam Mitchell and Co. for a few days at Raptors training camp in 2004 and is a long-time friend of assistant coach Jim Todd, was named basketball development consultant yesterday. What that title means is that Hopla will not be a full-time addition to one of the smallest coaching staffs in the league and will be away from the team for periods because of personal commitments -- he runs shooting camps and does corporate speaking gigs (think Anthony Robbins while shooting a basketball). But Hopla said he plans to be a familiar face around Toronto once 2007 rolls around.

EXPERTISE

"It's something we've been talking about for some time," Raptors president/general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "He happens to have an expertise in shooting instruction and the fact is our team has not shot the ball very well ... (Hopla) is a natural fit."

Understandably, fans will point out ex-GM Rob Babcock's decision to bring in Hopla for a short stint didn't lead to greatness on the court. Hopla did point out that the team improved its shooting percentage to 44.4% in 2004-05 from 41.8 the previous year, which may or may not have had much to do with his presence at training camp.

Hopla, who brings that upbeat, positive-thinking personality shared by many in the motivating/coaching business, has testimonials from Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas and Ray Allen on his personal web site. His bio says the ex-European and CBA pro player made 35,232 of 35,979 shots during his lectures last year for a 99.02% pace.

IMPROVES

"I told the guys if everybody just improves one percentage point, (the team is in) great shape," Hopla said. "One per cent that's all ... That's huge over the course of the season."

Hopla never has spent most of a season with a team, having previously done shorter periods with the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics. He also has been employed to work with players by agents like Arn Tellem and David Falk.

"I think he can help everybody get more confident in their shot," Raptors star forward Chris Bosh said. "I think shooting is all mechanics. If we get more confident in our mechanics, we can step up and make shots without even thinking about it."

Hopla doesn't plan to make major changes to any player's shot, but he will look for a few constants, especially the emphasis on his BEEF belief -- balance, elbow, eyes, follow through. Hopla is travelling with the team to Oklahoma City and Dallas for road games against the Hornets (tonight) and Mavericks (tomorrow).


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