As you may recall, I wrote this free throwing shooting lesson (scroll down after the preview) way back at the beginning of the 08-09 season. I've learned an important thing since then about shooting. I have learned that I was wrong, dead wrong, about one of my two major points. And I think what I was wrong about is the reason why we lost to the Lakers last week.
I Was Just So Wrong
I had two major points that I put forward. One, that the quads were the key to the shot. Two, that you had to start by going down, then go up into your shot to create rhythm. On the first point, the quads, I believe I was correct. I think a lot of people would say that you shoot with your legs and back, or your whole body, but I'll stand behind the quads. On the piston-like action of going down and then up, I was terribly wrong. The seeds of correctness were planted on Media Day. You remember, when Chip Engelland gave me my shooting lesson. Buried in that was this:
start from the bottom of your squat to shoot
Now, a normal person might hear that and say, "Hmmm, I didn't know that. I thought you should start at the top then go down and back up. I didn't know I was wrong. I'll think about it." That might be what a normal person would think. But not me. Oh noooooooo. Once I've thought through something, dammit, I'm right. Why? Because I've thought about it.
Charting The Lakers Game
Heading into the Lakers and Cavs games, I decided I wanted to chart our shots against two of the best defensive teams in the league. I have developed a nice system and I thought I would get a good read on whether or not our offense could handle good defense. As I have mentioned, I chart where a player shoots and what kind of shot it is. By "what kind" I mean whether they are opened or challenged. Challenged means the guy is in his face and creating a visiual problem or making them shoot off balance. The second half of the Lakers game threw me a curve ball. Our guys were shooting open shots, but they looked rushed. I didn't have a metric for rushed. I couldn't even really explain what I was seeing. The guys just looked rushed. So I went looking for answers. I didn't expect this answer.
What? Mechanics? Yes, mechanics. You see when a player shoots like I instructed, by dipping down into their shot, they set themselves up to be rushed. Why? Because the dip is a hesitation in getting off a shot. When you have somebody running at you, you then don't dip quite as low and the mechanics of your shot is off. Chopping that dip causes all your shot rhthym to be off. Now, was this really the problem in the shooting in the Lakers game? I don't know. You'd have to know a hell of a lot about the mechanics of everybody's shot to give a definitive answer, but I feel like that is what I was seeing. Additionally, besides it messing up your shot rhythm, it causes you a delay in attacking somebody running at you.
Good mechanics have you at the bottom of your squat when you catch the ball. Where have I heard that before? Hmmm. Still, I'm stubborn. I wasn't really getting it. So I went to the gym.
Nothing Like The Truth Of Experience
I quit playing basketball about 10 years ago. Here, let me show you why.
It's ugly every time.
Yeah, pretty convincing. Anyway, I decided I needed to find things that were easier on my body. I'd put on a lot of pounds over the years and I didn't think my joints could handle it. I found other things to do. I ran. I played softball. I took up backpacking. I was active. But then Ian Mahnimi planted the seeds of desire last summer with a simple question. "Have you ever not played for a year?" I had asked him if he was going to sit out the next Summer League game. He looked at me like I was stupid. Then asked me that question. He exuded such passion for playing the game. Just wanting to be out there running around. It made me think. Always dangerous.
About a month ago, I gave in. I just got up out of my desk and went and joined the local gym that has a basketball court. Just like that. I didn't even have basketball shoes. I grabbbed a ball a shot baskets all by myself for about an hour. In all seriousness, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Since then, I've been working on reconstructing my shot. It hasn't always been pretty, but my feel for the game is still there. If I don't think at all, I will have moments where I can't miss. The ball just comes out of my hands like I was born to shoot. At other times, not so much. I have no consistency at all. I have made a point of mostly shooting 12-16 footers. Very few 3-pointers. Just nice mid-range jumpers.
Today was brutal. I couldn't get any feel going. The ball was coming out of my hand like I had three thumbs. Clang. Clang. Clang. Shot after shot. I went to the free throw line and employed my magic routine. Down, up, clang. Down, up, clang. Oh shit. I had been using my free throw as my go to for getting my shot going again and this time it wasn't helping. Then, I thought about "start from the bottom of your squat to shoot". Maybe that Chip guy knows what he's talking about. You know, it might be worth trying.
Swish. Swish. Swish. Not bad on mid-range shots. How about free throws? 10 for 10. Damn, this feels good. More mid-range. Make, make, make. Glory Be (lame R.L. Burnside reference). Now for some 3-pointers. I was just money. Every bit of every shot felt fantastic.
The lesson: Don't dip. Not only will you develop a much more consistent shot for when the heat gets turned up in a game, I think you will develop a more consistent shot all the time.