Most everyone, ever, is taught to focus on the rim when aiming for a jump shot (obviously). Most are also taught to keep focusing on the rim while the ball is in flight. But not everyone. Some watch the rim, but as soon as the ball leaves their hands, they observe the arcing sphere. Dirk Nowitzki famously looks at the ball.
It’s a question that’s intrigued me. I recall during the 2012 NBA All-Star game, Andre Iguodala, mic’d up, asked Luol Deng if he looked at the ball or the rim. Deng said rim. Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller later discussed the topic on Inside The NBA. Both said they look at the ball in flight once it leaves their fingers. Internet searches—with mostly message board discussions providing the results—confirm memory of this Miller-Kerr conversation. (Miller even went so far as to claim that answers amongst NBA players would be dispersed 50/50—rim vs. ball in flight; a very Miller-like, outlandish claim.) Other good shooters said to look at the ball in flight: Steve Nash and Kevin Love.
I personally keep my eye on the rim. Some coaches will tell you that switching focus to flight can add unnecessary motion, as you would tend to raise your chin to follow the path of the ball. My shot was never consistent enough to be affected by such nuance (or, rather, there can be dozen of other inconsistent ticks in motion for the average shooter). I just figured that it’s best to provide the highest amount of concentration possible on the ultimate destination. Plus, that’s how I was taught.
[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 44, Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers; contributors: Conor Dirks, Sean Fagan and Rashad Mobley from the comfort of their own homes.]
Before the Wizards dismantled the Sixers 97-76 on Friday night, Doug Collins temporarily took off his head coach hat, replaced it with his analyst hat, and handicapped this current version of the Washington Wizards (Video courtesy of TAI’s Adam McGinnis):
Collins knows these Wizards are different, physical, hard-working, and the coach warned his team to be prepared for such. The Sixers responded by not showing up to play at all. Jrue Holiday took a pass from Andre Iguodala and scored on a layup to give the Sixers at 15-14 lead with 2:56 left in the first quarter, and that was the last lead Philadelphia would see. The Wizards went on a 9-0 run, led 23-15 after one quarter, 35-19 at the 8:10 mark of the second quarter, and 55-36 at halftime.
After the game, John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Collins if he thought his team could turn the game around after intermission. The coach thought about it for half a second and succinctly responded with a one word: ”No.”
The Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers may as well been two ships passing in the night last season. The Wizardsbeat the Sixers twice in overtime early in the schedule, during a time when the Wizards looked promising and the Sixers were struggling mightily. Later in the season, the Sixers defeated the Wizards twice by double digits, en route to a seven seed in the 2011 playoffs–the Wizards finished 13th in the Eastern Conference and 18 games behind the Sixers.
This season, the young Sixers will attempt to build on their first-round playoff exit while the Wizards will be looking to join the party. Their respective journeys start tonight at Verizon Center, as they kickoff their abbreviated two-game, home-and-home preseason slate with each other. But before that, TAI writers, John Converse Townsend and Rashad Mobley, along with Carey Smith from the ESPN TrueHoop Blog Philadunkia, address issues for both teams. Three questions, three answers start now…
1) According to the TrueHoop blog Philadunkia, Evan Turner has been working with a shooting coach and his shot has improved. John Wall spent the entire summer showing off his improved jumper and all-around game. Which player has more pressure to succeed in their second year? Who will be more successful?
TOWNSEND: Expectations are certainly higher for John Wall in 2011-12, but Evan Turner is under more pressure. Wall’s productive first season earned him recognition as one of the league’s brightest young stars. Turner, meanwhile, was largely forgotten, despite being the second overall selection in the 2010 draft; the 6’7” shooting guard struggled with his jumper, particularly beyond 10 feet, and failed to create consistently around the rim.
Usually this feature is called “Perfect Play” and breaks down an exceptional Wizard set from the game. Well, after last night’s blowout loss to the 76ers, business as usual just feels unnatural. It was a depressing performance from a team depressed by the impending trade of Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong to Atlanta.
The following play is one I would argue is exemplary of the reason the Wizards looked so terrible. It would be facile to just show Wall tossing a three off the backboard or an ugly Blatche isolation. The truth is, there is often real motion in the Wizards offense, it just doesn’t yield anything faintly reminiscent of teams like the Boston Celtics.
The Wizards were going through their offensive actions, but with no production, with no meaning behind the motion. It took eight frames to document this play from the beginning of the fourth quarter, I hope you stick around for the end, I’m sure you’ll be disappointed with the result (but hopefully not with the analysis).
On the floor for the Wizards: John Wall (2), Nick Young (1), Josh Howard (5), Trevor Booker (35), and Kevin Serphin (13)
[It's bad enough that the Sixers mopped the floor with the Wizards on Wednesday night... Making matters worse, this fan represented Washington in the city of Philadelphia.]
Tuesday night in Washington against the Indiana Pacers, Andray Blatche helped the Wizards dart out to a quick start and a 30-25 lead after one quarter by contributing 12 points himself. Then Jeff Foster did his best Dennis Rodman impression by grabbing seven rebounds against JaVale McGee in the second quarter, as the Pacers held the Wizards to just 19 points while scoring 33 of their own. Just like that, Washington was down 58-49 at the half and never recovered en route to 113-96 loss.
Last night against the resurgent 76ers in Philadelphia, the Wizards started off with a strong effort once again. In the first quarter, John Wall had nine points and six assists, and Blatche and Young had eight and seven points respectively. The score was 31-24 after one quarter, and it appeared as if the Wizards had quickly learned their lesson after a sluggish performance the night before — a performance that made Flip Saunders question who and was not entitled to playing time.
Then that evil monster called the second quarter showed up and decided to spook the Wizards once again. This time, Josh Howard was the main target. Kirk Hinrich was in street clothes and probably getting text messages about the trade of he and Hilton Armstrong to the Atlanta Hawks, which meant that when Wall came out of the game with 8:52 left in the second quarter with the Wizards up 33-29, Howard had to play backup point guard for the second consecutive night.
“We fell behind and lost some of our confidence. We didn’t make plays, we didn’t make shots. Their guards got in the paint and destroyed us.” – Flip Saunders
On Wednesday night, the Wizards lost 109-97 to the Philadelphia 76ers, falling to 0-17 on the road. Despite Andre Iguodala’s absence and the entire Wizards roster being healthy for the first time, the script was familiar: 1) Washington keeps the game close until some point during the fourth quarter; 2) during a timeout huddle, the players collectively decide that “defense” is no longer as important as taking “contested, off-balance shots”; 3) Washington loses in a slow, plodding fashion, as the opposing team shoots free throws for the last three minutes of the game.
I tried something new last night: while drinking (not the new part), I attempted to chart each Wizards’ offensive possession. Though my notes deteriorated late in the fourth quarter as my IV of Knob Creek was nearly tapped out, there was some wisdom to be found in my possession tracking. The results of that sophomoric effort, and other random tidbits, in bullet form:
Numbers that seemed important prior to the game: 1) the Wizards winning their last five games versus the 76ers, including two overtime games this season; 2) this was the 76ers first home game since December 17th; 3) the Wizards were 6.5 point underdogs
The Wizards scored 97 points on 90 possessions. By my primitive math skills, this amounts to a 107.8 ORtg (points per 100 possessions), good for 11th in the League if Washington played an Iguodala-less Philadelphia for 82 games a season.
Washington’s ball movement was good last night. The team recorded 26 assists on 40 made field goals and committed only 12 turnovers. But, some of the turnovers could have been avoided: three TO’s from Lewis/Blatche/Hinrich came on passes to no one in particular, where the ball sailed out of bounds. Hinrich tried to force a couple passes in the pick-and-roll, which were easily intercepted. Lewis was also called for a charge three times, though two of those were questionable.
Kirk Hinrich, streak-shooter — he started 5-5 from the field and finished 5-11, going 0-4 with two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Kyle already did a nice job chronicling Andray Blatche’s amazing ability to put up a decent stat line and still frustrate the hell out of you. My game chart suggests that Blatche’s ability in this regard comes from his propensity to ‘get himself started’ in the offense by taking long 2s, making no effort to get to the free throw line, and letting Elton Brand dribble and rebound around him.
See: Kevin Seraphin’s nine minutes of playing time in place of Blatche, a substitution which came after Brand dropped 10 points plus a couple offensive rebounds on ‘Dray in the first quarter.
Reason why the Wizards lost: 0.567. This number represents the 76ers free throw rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts) last night. Philly shot an absurd 38 free throws on 67 field goal attempts, while Washington shot 18 free throws on 82 field goal attempts. John Wall and Kirk Hinrich accounted for 11 of the 18 free throw attempts.
As point guards, Wall and Hinrich cannot be the only players making a concerted effort to get to the rim, especially when they are the team’s best (only?) perimeter defenders. When Wall or Hinrich misses in the lane, it can lead to easy transition opportunities for the opposition. Last night, Jrue Holiday killed the Wizards in precisely these kinds of transition situations. Holiday finished the game with 26 points on 10-14 shooting, four rebounds, and nine assists.
Something which Flip Saunders should read and send to all the players: this Sports Illustrated article on Ohio State — the team that leads the nation in free throw rate. Can you imagine if each Wizards player had to review the film from each of their fouls? McGee and Blatche would never leave the team facility.
Good quote from the SI article. To borrow a phrase from the critically acclaimed film Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood — “MESSAGE!”:
Due to Thanksgiving holiday travel, my pictures from the November 23 Wizards-76ers game are a bit tardy. But considering the Wizards have not won a game since, enduring two embarrassing blowouts in the process, reminiscing a thrilling victory could be a good remedy for Wizards fans. Enjoy.
John Wall & Gilbert Arenas stand out during the national anthem.
76ers top pick Evan Turner trying to get one of his threes to drop during pre-game shoot around.
There was 3:31 left in the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia 76ers leading the Wizards 98-89, when Andre Iguodala threw a pass that was stolen by Kirk Hinrich. The ball eventually found its way into John Wall’s hands, who looked up, found JaVale McGee, and hit him with a perfect pass. McGee, as he does so well, took the ball strong to the hole, and dunked it with authority on Elton Brand, who was late in his rotation.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, not only was Brand late rotating, but he was forced to foul, and foul hard — so hard in fact that McGee violently crashed to the ground and immediately grabbed his back in agony. The referee wasted no time whistling Brand for a type two flagrant foul, which meant an automatic ejection from the game. McGee, even as he was still on the ground in pain, managed to taunt the departing Sixer by waving goodbye to him as he left the court.
The flagrant served as a turning point in the game, as the Wizards outscored the Sixers 15-8 after that, and eventually won in overtime 116-114. When asked if that was indeed the turning point, Sixers coach Doug Collins vehemently disagreed: Read more »
NBA draft night 2010 was a whirlwind … and any other similar word you can find in a thesaurus to describe a confusing commotion of excitement.
I got there not knowing what to expect. And because of that, it was hard to really take in the whole scene. Minutes and picks flew by. What was I there to do? Capture the experience? Go on a sprint for blog-worthy moments with the goal of being first to publish? Catch interesting angles aside from ‘here’s my grade for a draft that really can’t be graded because all of these prospects have yet to play’? Grading the draft is a silly, fruitless effort, by the way.
I guess I tried to do all of it. And now that the dust has settled, I still don’t know what happened. From running through the pathways of Madison Square Garden to tall millionaires to-be in suits to power agents and media members to anxious prospect family members to drunk New York fans chanting ‘Jeff – Van – Gun – Dy!!’ … all of it added up on John Wall’s special night. A night that was all about the ceremony, and pomp and circumstance of matriculation to the National Basketball Association.
The night doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, aside from the fact that every draftee has hope … for the time being.
Below is the draft night I saw in pictures, accompanied by the preceding track from the latest Roots album: