Before we get into anything else, what’s your handicap now?
As far as the USGA knows I’m still a 17-point handicap. I joined the Riviera Country Club. I played a little more golf. Practiced my short game. So my handicap is going to come down rapidly whenever I dedicate myself to golf, because I’m awful now.
What kind of custom clubs do NBA players have to buy?
I’m an inch and-a-half, so a little longer. It’s all about your arm length.
After you won the championship, you mentioned you had made some quick adjustments to your shot during the Spurs series. What were they?
I was missing right. When you shoot you have good misses and bad misses. You don’t really fret about good misses.
I had a lot of good misses when I was going through a little slump there. The way it was coming off my hand, the shot was going to the right. It was drifting to the right for whatever reason. So, instead of messing with hand position, which can get a little dicey, and finger position, I said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to aim a little left.’ It sounds to stupidly simple, but it worked. I think I did that for Game 3 of the Spurs series and I went to practice the next day and shot lights out after practice and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to roll with it.’ It’s a Band-Aid, but all I needed the Band-Aid for was two weeks. It proved to stop the bleeding pretty well.
So you were just aiming for the left side of the rim?
Yep. I usually go right over the midpoint, right over the center of the rim. So I was trying to put it right over the left side and it would drift back to the right and be dead on.
I actually got it from my golf swing. I have a tendency to leave my clubface open and instead of messing around with my wrists or my hips, thinking about that, I say, ‘screw it. I’m just going to keep my same swing, I’m just going to aim more left.’ And it works. In the long run can you get away with it? Probably not. But in a short term situation, in the middle of a round, I just took that thinking to a basketball court.
As long as you avoid the water on the right.
Right, exactly. The point is you can overcomplicate things. Sometimes it’s a lot simpler, a lot more primal.
Has a little time away from the game reset your shot?
You get away. To be honest with you, your shot is different every year. Not different every year, but it’s, for me, every year I’ve had a key that I really think about and focus on and this would have been the mantra for the year. And usually when I go through a tough shooting period I think about that key. It keeps me focused and gets me back on track. So, for whatever reason, it’s different. It clicks. Sometimes it’s pushing off both feet and be balanced. Sometimes it may be my elbow position, like get your elbow in the slot. Some years it’s thumb position, something random, but it’s a key that I think about when I’m shooting and it triggers the instinctual shot.
What is the key this year?
This year? I haven’t figured it out yet.
Is it a little bit like the Larry Bird story about him always rebuilding his shot?
My strength is different at this point. The way I move is different. My shot now is entirely different from my rookie year. I believe you have to rebuild it every year. A guy like Ray Allen probably disagrees since it’s the same and that’s what he believes in. That’s what works for him. But for me it’s a progression.
How do you feel about SportVu now that every team has it? Has anyone talked about it among the players?
No. I don’t think guys would understand what it is. It puts a premium on computer programmers. It’s a premium on guys, engineers, computer scientists, guys who can evaluate data and make it adjustable for scouts and make it adjustable for directors of personnel. It’ll be fascinating. I still think it’ll be a while before you understand what makes Tony Parker different from John Wall in the open court. You’ll have the data, or closeout speed or thing that you measure . . . it’s really infinite, the things that you can measure. It will take a while to trickle down to how players learn the game. Guys have a pretty good understanding of what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot now, but no one is teaching that in youth basketball. They’re still teaching the same old. It’s going to be a while until that trickles down to the grass roots level and a coach understands this is what you need to do to make it to the next level.
Do you think at this point it’ll be important for players to educate themselves on the new stuff? To understand how the league perceives them.
It’s an edge and players always look for an edge. Be it they work a little harder in the weight room to get a little stronger, whether they take 100 extra jumpers a day to get an edge on their jump shot… It’s just another edge, another way to get ahead of the competition. But obviously you can make more money the more edges you have.
It’ll take time for someone to take the data and make it digestible for players to understand, ‘OK, this is what I really need to work on.’ The game is not changing. It doesn’t change the way it’s understood, described and analyzed. The game is still going to be the same, it’s just going to be a different nuance.
Is there anything that you want to know about yourself that the new data could tell you?
Nope. I think it will be awesome when I retire, whenever that is, when I step away, to look at the numbers and see how I ranked, but I’m psycho enough to where that will cloud the way I play. That makes it less instinctual, to be honest with you. I rationally understand what’s good for me, obviously the threes, the paint shots, and I stay away from corner twos like they’re the plague, but I don’t want to know anything else.
I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know my weaknesses. I mean, I know what my weaknesses are, obviously, but I want to be as instinctual as possible, while still keeping the rational edge that keeps me a player in this league.
But the new numbers could still help you out a bit, defensively, on scouting reports, as far as providing more accurate data.
There’s not a lot of mystery with you guys this year. We have a pretty good idea of how you play.
That’s the way we like it.
Two years ago there was a total reinvention of how you played. Last year you were solidifying your use of small ball. This year . . .
I think it’s a microcosm of the national perception of us, too. Not to say we’re boring, but people are more excited to talk about Brooklyn, to talk about Houston. More excited to talk about every other team but us, which is OK. We know what we are this year is going to be different than last year. It’s going to be different, just like last year was different from the year before. We’ll get to where we want to be eventually. Hopefully when we get to the playoffs we’re playing our best basketball, like we were last year and go. Even though we’re comfortable in our roles, it will be different. That’s the fun part for us, figuring out how different we’ll be.
Do you have a different argument about the American League MVP this year than you did last year?
No. It’s [Miguel] Cabrera. You have somebody else?