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Looking back at Jeff Hornacek, three point shooting, and the concept of a "Green Light" game

April 24, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz assistant coach and former player Jeff Hornacek prior to a game against the Phoenix Suns at Energy Solutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
April 24, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz assistant coach and former player Jeff Hornacek prior to a game against the Phoenix Suns at Energy Solutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

I love Jeff Hornacek. Much like that of John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Jerry Sloan he is one of the archetypal templates that Utah Jazz fans use when making (and basing) (and bashing) their comparisons to today's team. Jeff Hornacek *is* more than just another guy with his Jersey retired. He's one of the most deserving players to have his jersey retired by the team. The former All-Star really helped the Jazz get over that 1st round / 2nd round hump. He made the Jazz legit.

Take a look at what Horny did in our Uni, marvel at his three point shooting, and look at the affect having a "green light" had on his making. Hope Ty reads this post . . .

One of the biggest reasons why the guard helped was because he had the deep ball. (Ask his wife . . . no really . . . she was in the gym with him back in college when he was going through a shooting slump and gave him advice and encouragement. Wait, what do you think I meant by "ask his wife" . . . sheesh . . . some people.) Not only was he a veteran, former All-star with the three point shot -- but he was also a combo guard. We have two guys who put that on their resume on the team right now in Randy Foye and Alec Burks. Both of those guys are under 30, one having just turned 21 a few days ago.

When Hornacek came to the Jazz he was already 30. He then spent 6.5 seasons here. Forgetting that half season with the Jazz (after a buzzer beating trade deadline move), Hornacek really got comfortable with the team. We had a system, which kind of limited what a 'role player' could do. Jeff fit a role, but was still good enough to be called one of the "Big Three". And deservedly so. He was the primary piece used by the Suns to trade for Charles Barkley, a HOFer. He wasn't a role player.

Still, when he came here, in addition to all the great things he did, he was a shooter. Shooters have to have "that" mentality. The best shooters are absurd people, they don't care about probabilities and numbers, the only numbers they care about is how many points they put up on the score board. In that regard that absurd mentality is most like that of home run hitters in the MLB or goalies in the NHL. Nothing can give a shooter that edge he needs MORE than giving him the Green Light. When a coach does, the shooter is at his best. When the shooter has to count shots it ads another meta-element against him. This is unfamiliar. After all, a shooter just knows, implicitly, that "so what I missed those three shots, I'm going to make the next 6."

In a fixed offense where there are only so many shots to be had this can wreck a shooter. (Hi, Morris Almond!) Sometimes Jeff Hornacek, efficient as he was, was given the green light. IN his 577 games in a Jazz uniform he had that "green light" about 217 times. (Numerically I see the "Green Light" as Jeff taking 3 or more three point attempts in a game).

And you know what? IN Green light games Jeff shot absurdly high.



The Data:

Total games: 577

Green Light Games: 217

Games 3PTM 3PTA 3PT%
1994 - 1995 37 66 153 43.1%
1995 - 1996 56 116 222 52.3%
1996 - 1997 45 68 168 40.5%
1997 - 1998 27 41 89 46.1%
1998 - 1999 15 22 51 43.1%
1999 - 2000 37 327 697 46.9%
Green Light 217 640 1380 46.4%
Per Game 1 2.95 6.36
Jazz Career 577 544 1253 43.4%
Per Game 1 0.94 2.17

WHAT THE HELL, SLOAN? Why did you not run more plays for this obviously Tier I / Tier II three point shooter?

He shot a better % when effectively tripling his three point attempts per game. And he effectively tripled his three pointers made per game too. Actually . . . the real numbers are even more crazy.

Green Light games to normal games =

  • +293% to three point attempts per game
  • +313% to three point makes per game

He did triple it.

He was a great shooter.

He should have had that "Green Light" more, and more plays run for him.


What does this mean for the 2012-13 Jazz:

We've made a big effort to get three point shooters and makers. This off-season alone we've added:

  • Mo Williams
  • Marvin Williams
  • Randy Foye
  • and Kevin Murphy

This is in addition to the "internal improvement" we expect from Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. We did go over how we don't need to take more threes to be successful in the playoffs. However, I do think that it wouldn't be a bad idea to actually look at the plays other teams run to get guys open. If we can do the same type of thing it could really work for us.

Especially if we give some of these shooters a green light (within reason, Hornacek was allowed to take 8 threes in a game if he wanted to, none of these guys should be allowed to do the same). None of our guys are as pure of a shooter as Horny is . . . but these guys need every advantage they can get. Having a coach put his faith in you by letting you take open shots is a good place to start.