A.J. English has a scorer's mentality. That does not allow for fear. The NBA scorer is cocky, even as he goes against the likes of Michael Jordan and Alvin Robertson night in and night out.
"I admire Jordan, just like everybody else," English said after a light workout yesterday at Bowie State University. "But on the court, I have just that arrogant attitude about going out there and going at them, regardless of who he is or who he is supposed to be."
Gradually, the second-round pick from Virginia Union is starting to match his performance with the idea. His shooting percentage (.444) thus far is relatively insignificant in the sense of what it is the Bullets want him to do.
He has scored in double figures in each of Washington's four games, averaging 13 points. And down the stretch the last two games, the Bullets have gone with him and Darrell Walker in the backcourt. There have been some miscommunications, but there also have been good signs.
In the true mark of a scorer, English got to the foul line six times in the fourth quarter of Friday's 108-100 loss to Milwaukee, even though he got off only one shot. Eventually, English could become a smaller Ledell Eackles -- designated offense off the bench.
"A shooter should get 20 shots a game, at least," Coach Wes Unseld said. " If he's a shooter. A scorer has got to be better than that. It's not how many shots he gets up, it's where he gets them."
Right now, the Bullets would prefer English get his shots in the flow of the offense. He's gotten some looks at the basket in Unseld's motion offense, but he has to make the usual adjustments.
When English did well in the summer tournament in Detroit, he was playing against other rookies and free agents. That's changed, obviously. And English is learning how to set up a defender, run him through a screen or pick and come off sharply enough to be in scoring position.
To help him, the Bullets are preparing a tape for English to show him what he's doing wrong.
"If I get into my rhythm, I look like a shooter," English said. "But there's not a whole lot of pressure on me as far as scoring is concerned. So I think I have to go out and play hard, regardless of the situation, whether the shot is falling or not. I'm looking for the minutes right now to prove myself."
He had to prove himself after a less-than-scintillating training camp and preseason. He was just 27 of 73 (.370) from the field and looked confused. The low point may have been a three-for-13 performance in the preseason opener in Richmond.
The adjustments were similar to ones he had to make when he went to college. He started slowly and gradually built his confidence until, by his senior season, he led Division II schools in scoring.
"The coaches are starting to see I'm starting to get comfortable," English said. "I'm not there yet. I think between the 10th and 15th game I'll be real comfortable with the system and find out what I can and cannot do within the system. That's when I think you can look for some good nights from A.J. English."