Monday, October 2 2023

The secret change behind DiVincenzo’s best shooting season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — To Klay Thompson, it’s simple. The Warriors star knows if his shot will sink through the net in an instant.

“You know it’s going in or not right when you release it,” Thompson recently said after the Warriors’ win over the Sacramento Kings on April 7, a contest in which he scored a game-best 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting and went 5 of 8 from deep.

Well, maybe it’s not that simple.

“That’s not true,” he continued. “Sometimes it goes in and out. Sometimes you bank it. But as a shooter, man, I don’t know, man.

“I’ve just been shooting my whole life and I was blessed with a gift, and I’ve just worked on it since I was a teenager and I’ll never lose that love for getting buckets. That’s for sure.”

The above is a reminder of Thompson’s uniqueness, both personality wise and with his picturesque shot. Steph Curry tops all other shooters in NBA history. Thompson isn’t far behind. From a fundamentals standpoint, the younger Splash Brother is ahead of Curry.

Thompson’s shot is perfect. It’s what coaches should turn on when showing players young and old. The same can be said about Warriors do-it-all positionless guard Donte DiVincenzo.

Though he doesn’t want to be boxed in as a “shooter” for his ability to do many other important skills on the court as a ballhandler, passer, rebounder and defender, DiVincenzo from his toes to his nose can be another freeze frame of what an elite shooter’s form should be. And that’s what he has turned into this season: An elite shooter from deep, giving the Warriors yet another option for teams to fear.

His career-year letting it fly started with him going back to where his ascension started at Villanova, but the real secret behind DiVincenzo’s success came from one of the game’s most accurate shooters ever offering a simple tip early in the season to him that has gone a long, long way.

This past summer, DiVincenzo returned to his college campus to work with George Halcovage, the head men’s basketball coach for the University at Buffalo who was an assistant coach at Villanova when DiVincenzo starred there. The drills the two did had an emphasis on base and lower body. DiVincenzo’s whole objective over the offseason was resetting himself from the ground up with what he can provide to great teams.

Going through free agency for the first time was tough enough. Keeping his foundation the main focus allowed him to stay centered.

“What’s gonna get you on the floor, what’s gonna change perspectives and everything is shooting the ball,” DiVincenzo said Thursday to NBC Sports Bay Area. “Joining two of the best shooters of all time — one, expectations are high. Two, pressure’s high. But three, the process is more detailed and the process is what I learned.

“I don’t want to be lackadaisical with myself and I think this was the perfect year for me to hone in on that and that’s why I started in the summer time.”

Three games into DiVincenzo’s first season with the Warriors, he was hit with an unfortunate detour when a strained hamstring caused him to limp off the court in the third quarter of Golden State‘s win against the Sacramento Kings, the team DiVincenzo finished last season with, on Oct. 23. He missed the Warriors’ next eight games.

Soon after, his season, and maybe even his career, changed for the best.

Steve Kerr didn’t need to study hours of film to see the slightest fix in improving DiVincenzo’s shooting form. He contemplated saying anything. The Warriors coach has long been a fan of DiVincenzo’s and has admired his shot before DiVincenzo ever donned a Warriors jersey.

“It helped me tremendously,” DiVincenzo now says.

The message was clear from the start: Take my advice or don’t, either way I trust you as a shooter. After an offseason of zeroing in on his lower half, Kerr had noticed the one area of DiVincenzo’s shot that could use a tiny tweak: Hand placement.

Naturally, DiVincenzo’s hand would pronate inwards every once in a while. Even the smallest movement of an elbow moving out can make the biggest difference. Kerr had DiVincenzo focus on keeping his right shooting hand straightn and widening his fingers a bit, allowing everything from his shoulders to his elbows to his fingers stay straight without feeling locked up.

Using a neon green tennis ball, DiVincenzo demonstrates to me how he wants the ball to feel in his hand and coming off of it every time. The end goal is poetry in flight, with his index and middle fingers making the magic happen.

“For me, it’s right around that air hole — right in the center of the ball,” DiVincenzo explains. “That’s where I put that first finger. For me, sometimes my hand was a little to the left of the ball. As soon as I turn that, everything is straight now. Everything kind of changes together.

“So you bring your elbow in and instead of being wedged up, you bring that hand over here and now everything is straight. And that’s why every time I get on the court now I do form shooting and everything for the repetition of just feeling it, feeling it locked in.”

When asked about his words of advice, Kerr first tried to deflect. He wanted the context laid out. DiVincenzo was enjoying the best season of his career when he first became a starter for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020-21. In his third season as a pro, DiVincenzo shot what was then a career-high 37.9 percent on 3-pointers and the Bucks went on to win the championship.

But DiVincenzo watched from the sidelines. A bad ankle injury in the first round of the playoffs ended his season short and kept him out for the first 34 games of the season. He shot a lowly 28.4 percent from three in 17 games with the Bucks last season, and 36.8 percent from long range in 25 games with the Kings after being traded and feeling closer to himself health wise.

The Warriors knew DiVincenzo had it in him. Kerr doesn’t want credit. What worked for him, though, has worked wonders for DiVincenzo.

“I rarely say anything to our players about their shot, but it’s something that really helped me in my career as a shooter,” Kerr said to NBC Sports Bay Area. “It was just widening out the fingers on the ball, changing the ball placement on the ball so the ball is coming off more on the two middle fingers.

“Now you widen the handle of it, now you can control the ball a little bit more with these two fingers. That was just something I noticed. His hand was really narrow on the ball.”

Long before Kerr’s success coaching the Warriors to four titles and six NBA Finals appearances in an eight-season span, like Thompson and DiVincenzo, he was a poster for excellence in shooting form. Not the biggest, not the tallest, not the strongest and not the fastest, Kerr perfected shooting fundaments.

On two separate occasions, he led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. First in 1989-90 when he made 50.7 percent of his tries. And then later in the 1994-95 season when Kerr shot 52.4 percent as a 3-point shooter. In his 15-year career, Kerr shot 40 percent or better beyond the arc 11 times.

He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage at 45.4 percent in a time where three were secondary.

Though DiVincenzo has had great coaches in the past, absorbing information and tips of the trade from the most accurate shooter ever at his craft tends to lend a listening ear to a new level.

“There’s a different perspective,” DiVincenzo said. “You have the coaching perspective. Obviously coach Kerr coaches me every day. But I think for me, it hit different with the way it was approached. This is coming from a former player, a former shooter. You can either take it, but you don’t have to take it.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, you need to do this.’ I respected that big time. And it actually sank in a little bit deeper, if you will.”

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Immediately after DiVincenzo and Kerr’s conversation, DiVincenzo hit the practice court with Warriors development coach Kris Weems. The two weren’t moving around the court or anything. The point was making the feeling of the ball coming off DiVincenzo’s first two fingers with a wider grip as natural as possible.

Months later, he admits it was difficult at first. Once he started connecting, DiVincenzo noticed right away that the feeling was the same as when everything was going right in the past. Only this time, he could repeat the action over and over again from drills to practice and then games.

Freedom was the hope. So was the result.

“I wanted him to play free and just get back to being himself,” Kerr said. “That’s what’s happened. It’s just a very minor, easy little technical fix.”

Playing 72 games in his first season as a Warrior, DiVincenzo made 150 3-pointers this season, the best of his five-year career. He shot 39.7 percent behind the 3-point line on 5.3 attempts per game, both being career highs. In his final three games of the regular season, DiVincenzo rolled into the playoffs going 10 of 19 on 3-pointers, good for 52.6 percent.

In particular, he has feasted from on his former teams with the long ball. Between five games against Milwaukee and Sacramento, DiVincenzo shot 46.9 percent on 3-pointers, going 15 of 32 overall. His next chance to silence an old fan base starts Saturday in Game 1 against the Kings at Golden 1 Center, with each shot flowing from his two front fingers.

“When you’re locked in against a former team, you play with a chip on your shoulder,” DiVincenzo said. “You want to play better in every aspect. But I think the loudest thing to play better is shooting the ball well with purpose.

“When you’re locked in on the form, you take the results.”

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Source: Yahoo Sports


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