Shooter's Touch

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It’d be hard to argue that Daniel Gibson is the Cavaliers best pure shooter – from a technique standpoint and otherwise.

He’s a career 41 percent shooter from the floor. He’s participated in the Three-Point Contest twice, had the biggest three-point shooting playoff performance in team history and names Damon Jones – once the Greatest Shooter in the World – as one of his rookie mentors. This year, he’s back in the NBA’s top 25 at 43 percent from long-distance.

But beyond the numbers, he’s got almost picture-perfect technique, the one every coach teaches: Balance, shot pocket, up-force, follow-through – the whole thing.

That’s why he was an ideal player to ask about a quartet of Cavaliers with “unique” shooting forms.

(Editor’s note: The reason I’m not asking the foursome is because before a game against Oklahoma City last year, I asked one of them – Luke Harangody – about his unorthodox shooting style and he proceeded to go 0-for-8 from the floor, including 0-for-4 from three-point range. Bizarrely, I felt somewhat responsible.)

Gibson’s shooting touch looks smooth in games, but it comes from countless hours and hundreds of shots a week. He’s routinely one of the last Cavaliers on the floor at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“I always say confidence comes from preparation,” said Boobie. “You put the time in, getting all these shots, shooting them day after day after day. When you get out there on the floor, it’s like second nature. You don’t even think about it once the game starts.”

The Cavaliers have some good-looking shooters. Anthony Parker’s shot is almost effortless, as is Kyrie Irving’s. Ramon Sessions would rather slash to the rim, but he’s rounded himself into a solid jump-shooter.

Then there are the guys who do things a little differently.

Almost every team and every sport has at least one example: Jim Furyk or Vladimir Guerrero or Tim Tebow. They’re all unorthodox, but pro sports is a bottom-line game. And all of them have two simple things in common – they’re good and they win.

The Cavaliers are no exception, starting with the aforementioned Harangody – whose forehead-high, snapping release put him in Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor and made him an All-Big East selection three times. Luke’s not asked to score as much with the Wine and Gold, but he was prolific in his college days.

“If it goes in, it goes in,” Harangody said, before that fateful game against OKC. “If it looks funny, it’s still worth two or three points. I know it doesn’t look pure, but that’s just the way it is.”

“(It’s) a very unique shot,” said Gibson of Harangody’s release. “Luke has a very quick shot. But he’s a big-time scorer, so it’s hard to tweak a guy like Luke’s shot because he shoots it so well. It’s definitely weird, but he gets it out kinda quick.”

Omri Casspi has an unconventional shot as well. He almost cranks the ball at his side before releasing it. Of course, that hasn’t kept him from making Maccabi Tel Aviv as a 17-year-old or from being the first Israeli ever selected in the first round.

“Yeah, like he’s winding that thing up,” observed Gibson. “He winds it up. But, Casspi, he finishes good.”

Antawn Jamison’s jumper might be somewhat pure, but everything else is about as nonconformist as you can get. Even Coach Scott has to shake his head on some of Jamison’s quick flips.

In his early days in Cleveland, the 14-year vet explained the genesis of his unusual arsenal.

“I didn’t have that until I got to college,” said Jamison. “In high school, I was always taller, more athletic, so I was dunking everything, laying everything up. Once I got to college and those guys started outweighing me by 40 or 50 pounds and were taller than me by six inches, I had to use my quickness and develop the unorthodox shots.

“People ask me if I’m in the gym, 30 or 40 minutes after practice working on them. I’m not. It’s just kind of natural for me. And I’m glad I have it, because it’s been successful for me. It keeps my opponents off balance because you don’t know where or when it’s coming from. You can see guys thinking about it.”

Gibson remembered a university lesson that involved Jamison.

“In college, Coach Barnes showed me a tape of ‘Tawn (in college at UNC) and he scored 30 points and had the ball for something like 14 total seconds,” recalled Boobie. “It was either a catch-and-shoot, catch-and-layup. That’s his thing.”

Then there’s Anderson Varejao.

The Wild Thing is having his best season as a pro. The seventh-year pro has always been a prolific rebounder, but recently his offense has begun to catch up with his defense.

There was a time where the crowd at The Q would groan or shout “Nooooooo!!!!” in unison when Andy would wind up – elbow out – to take his unusual jump shot. Now, Varejao has a virtual green light on the offensive end. He’s even attempted three three-pointers over his last six games. (Although those were prompted by an expiring shot-clock. His light isn’t that green.)

“That’s ‘Andy Buckets,’” laughed Gibson. “I’ve been calling him ‘Buckets’ from when he first got here. He always told me on his (Brazilian) National Team, he shot the ball and they trusted him to shoot the ball. But here, with the teams that we’ve had, he’s been put into a different type of a role.

“Now, when a scoring opportunity develops, he’s showing us what he can do. But he works harder than anybody you’ll ever know. So a lot the shots that he shoots – what I said about repetition – he’s a guy that gets a lot of reps on those shots, so now I’m sure he’s totally comfortable with it.”

In terms of non-Cavaliers, Gibson cites Ray Allen as having the best form in the league. (“He has, to me, the picture-perfect shot. Even when he floats, he’s still straight up and down whether he’s going either way.”) And Dallas Shawn Marion has one of the strangest. (“I still don’t know how he shoots that shot and he’s been doing it for 13 years!”)

Whether one describes these players’ shots as unusual or unorthodox or just plain weird, the fact is that these guys have been successful with it. And at this level, it’s almost impossible to make major renovations.

“It’s very tough to change the entire form,” explained Gibson. “You can tweak little things, but guys are always going to – regardless of how much you work with them – once the game starts and the ball drops, they’re gonna always go back to where they’re comfortable. You can tweak a little bit, but at this stage, whatever style you have, you gotta work on that one.”

Gibson will continue with his picture-perfect form. Harangody will do the same, snapping the ball forehead-high. Casspi will wind up, Varejao will go elbow-out and Jamison will do … whatever it is that Jamison does. And it’ll work for each of them.

And if you’re wondering if any of these peculiar forms will rub off on Boobie during post-practice shooting drills and games – don’t.

“No, if anything, my technique is going to rub off on them,” laughed Gibson. “They’ll watch mine and take it from me; I’m not going to take it from them.”