We’ve done “The Art of … “ for a few years on Cavs.com. We talked to players about the art of dunking, prolonged road trips and the art of boxing.
But until talking to new Cavalier guard James Jones about the art of long-distance shooting, it wasn’t like talking to an actual artist.
An 11-year veteran who’s played for four teams after being taken by Indiana 49th overall in the 2003 Draft, is a career .403 shooter from behind the arc, a mark that puts him in the NBA’s top 30 of all-time. (He’s also a career .848 free throw shooter.)
Along with Cavs teammates LeBron James and Mike Miller, Jones won a pair of rings for his hometown Heat. Jones was recently inducted in the University of Miami Hall of Fame. At “the U,” Jones was a star on and off the floor, earning All-Big East honors in hoops and was an Academic All-America in the classroom.
In 2011, Jones won the Three-Point Shootout at NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
On a team of great three-point shooters, we chose the cerebral swingman from South Florida about the Art of Long-Distance Shooting …
At what point – during morning shootaround, in pregame warmups or actually in the game – do you feel whether your shot is on or off?
James Jones: I wake up every day with the mindset that I’m on; that I’m always on. Like a 24-hour news channel – always on.
I try to set my routine so that I do the same thing every day. When I walk into the arena, every day my first shot, as I call it, is a ‘cold turkey three-pointer.’ And, I make that cold turkey three-pointer 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent of the time, I’ll shoot until I make it. And once I make it, I feel like I’m on.
So it’s a mindset more than anything. We know that this game is all about numbers. At the end of the day, you’ll shoot above average, so I’ve always positioned myself mentally to know that I’ll shoot above average. Some days you’ll go 7-for-7, some days you’ll go 1-for-7. But my mindset is the same, which is: every time I shoot it, I’m going to make it.
No one’s born a great three-point shooter. How did you develop from a great shooter into a great long-distance shooter?
Jones: Well, in order to make it at this level, you have to be great at something, but good at a lot of things. And as you get higher and higher up the chain, as far as ability goes and you become a professional among the world’s best players, you realize that you have to specialize at something.
You can’t be ‘good’ at everything, you have to be great at something. Because every player in the NBA is great at something. And for me, it’s always been shooting.
I think shooting is more mental than physical. And that’s what allows you to have a long career as a shooter. It’s your ability to mentally stay focused and grow – but maintain the consistency in your shot as your body gets older and you get a step slower.
So it’s all mental, and for me, I’ve always been a mental guy. So I thought that naturally (shooting) would be the best direction to take my career, if I wanted to have a long-lasting career.
What’s your range?
Jones: (laughs) Oh, unlimited. My range is: If I can get my hands on the ball, I can shoot it.
What’s the your preferred set-up for a three-point shot: catch-and-shoot, coming off a screen, pulling up?
Jones: I prefer coming off wide pin-downs.
That’s a shot that’s a very difficult shot. But it gives the point guard the best opportunity to deliver the ball to me or the big man that’s setting the screen for me. So it’s one of those plays where it allows me to be effective – whether I get the shot or not.
You were pretty enthusiastic about Coach David Blatt when you were asked about him at your intro presser in August. Why?
Jones: Because his system is read-and-react. But it’s a movement system. It’s not: ‘stand on the block, pass it to one guy, isolation, everyone stand around.’
It’s being a player: reading, reacting, good momentum, creating triggers for your teammates and getting the best shot. And that’s what championship basketball is about – it’s about getting the best shot for whoever’s in the best position to help the team.
At this stage in your career, do you still tweak mechanics?
Jones: You always tweak mechanics! You have to.
I’ll say the base of my shot is the same; my form and everything else. But the longer you play, the more you have to adjust. You don’t get as much lift, so you have to change something. You don’t move as fast, you have to change something. You get older and beat down so that your left side is lower than your right side, you have to change something.
I think the beauty of longevity is understanding that you HAVE to tweak. Not your base – but always around the edges.
Playing with Shawn Marion in Phoenix and Miami, were you amazed at how efficient he is with that unorthodox form?
Jones: Shawn’s shot is unique to him.
I learned a long time ago, my first year in the NBA – specifically working with Reggie (Miller): Every player is unique. And there isn’t a universal form, there isn’t a universal pose, there isn’t a universal way to shoot the basketball. You start to realize there are so many different factors: mechanics, hand size, arm length, hip size, finger length. All these things go into each individual player’s ability to shoot the ball.
Now, Shawn has a VERY unique style, but it goes without saying that he’s been extremely successful and that he is one of the best players to ever play this game. So if it works for him, great. But I know it won’t work for me!
Have you ever tried it?
Jones: No, I can’t get it! I can’t get that shot off. But he works at it. And that’s the basis of everything. Especially being a shooter, a specialist. You have to work at it.
What don’t fans – or even fellow NBA players – realize in terms of how difficult it is to win the Three-Point Shootout?
Jones: Well, it’s one of those things where you have to have rhythm automatically. You can’t manufacture it. You’re not going to have the opportunity to get your body moving. You’re not going to have the opportunity to ‘find’ a rhythm. You just have to start the competition with a rhythm – and you either have it or you don’t.
If you don’t have it that night, you have to get it quickly. And if you start with it, you need to keep it.
It’s exhausting to shoot that many shots in a minute. And if you’re a jump-shooter, it’s a whole lot of movement, it’s extremely tough. If you’re a set-shooter, like me, Kevin (Love) and Kyrie who have quick releases and get a lot of shots up quick, you have a good chance of winning.
OK, with you, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, we’ve got three of the last four Shootout winners on the team. On the first day of Camp, if we …
Jones: I’ll win.