It was a dreadful shooting night for Luke Babbitt on Thursday - 3-for-11 overall and 1-for-8 on three pointers - and because of that, the slight chance the Trail Blazers forward had winning the NBA's three-point percentage title ended.
But for Babbitt, Thursday was not about finality. Not about the end of his flirtation with a shooting title. Not about the end of a season. It was about the start of his quest to become an NBA regular.
"This is the first step for all players: to get some minutes and see what you can do, see what you can work on,'' Babbitt said. "But (this season) has increased my expectations for next year now. I know what my strengths are, but I also know that there's a lot of areas I need to work on.''
Coming into the season, Babbitt's biggest hurdle had been getting into a game. In his rookie season, he played 137 minutes in 24 games. This season, he was sent to Boise for a second tour with the Idaho Stampede in the NBA Development League. It wasn't until coach Nate McMillan was fired in March and the Blazers shifted into more of a developmental gear that Babbitt began to get regular playing time. Before McMillan was fired, he played in 17 games, averaging 5.1 minutes. After the firing, Babbitt played in 23 games and averaged 19.5 minutes.
The spike in playing time brought with it some encouraging signs. Babbitt entered Thursday's season finale shooting 45.7 percent from three-point range (42-of-92). He needed a big night against Utah: he needed two three pointers to qualify for the league-mandated minimum, and he needed to shoot a high percentage because New York's Steve Novak entered the final day shooting 47.1 percent.
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