A Conversation For Great Shooting Part 2

Special thanks to Tom Nordland for agreeing
to write for our site! (Matt & Dave)

Second part to the series of articles on the art of shooting a basketball for Matt & Dave’s “Basketball Plays & Tips” website. – Tom Nordland



Most of the few great “pure” shooters in the NBA are now the international players.

Players like Peja Stojakovic from Sacramento and Dirk Nowitzki for Dallas are two of the best.

Early imports like Kukoc, Divac, Turkoglu and Medvedenko had generally good shooting skills and helped open the doors.

A constant stream of foreign players is now coming through.

Sarunas Jasekevicius is an example of this trend toward getting “shooters” from overseas.

Jasekevicius is 29 years old, from Lithuania and playing his first year in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers.

He can light it up anytime, as he did in the upset of the U.S. team in the last Olympics. He’s not the quickest player, but give him an opening and he’ll usually knock it down.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas from Cleveland is another fine shooter at 7’ 3”. Tony Parker from France was signed due to his remarkable speed and play making, and is slowly developing into a more effective scorer/shooter.

Most NBA teams now have one or more foreign players. I, Tom Nordland, went through the nba.com website and found these international players:

I found Andriuskevicius, Biedrins, Biricek, Brezec, Cabarkapa, Caleron, Diaw, Giricek, Ilyasova, Jaric, Kasun, Khryapa, Kirilenko, Korolev, Krstic, Lampe, Macijauskas, Milicic, Monia, Nachbar, Oberto, Okur, Pachulia, Pavlovic, Petro, Pietrus, Planinic, Podkotzin, Radmanovic, Rebraca, Tskitishvili, Turkoglu, Udrih, Vujacic and Welsch from Europe and Russia and the Balkan States.

From South America, there are Barbosa, Batista, Delfino, Ginobli, Nocioni and Varejao.

This list does not include some of the players from abroad who are chosen more for their height and post play rather than pure shooting, like Rasho Nesterovic and Nené and South Korea’s 7’3” Na Seung-Jin, whom I haven’t seen play yet for Portland. Some of the “Bigs,” like Yao Ming and Pau Gasol, happen to be pretty good shooters, as well.

When you know my Tom Nordland – Swish Method, you’ll see that many of the above list of “shooters” stroke the ball the way I, Tom Nordland, coach it.

It’s something they learned naturally. If not told over and over to “square up,” or “wrist flip,” etc., a player’s stroke will probably evolve toward what I discovered in high school over 45 years ago.

One of the main reasons WHY the foreign players excel is because they developed this method of shooting. They’ve been drafted into the NBA over more athletic players who shoot less well! I think it’s also felt they have better “fundamentals” than American players and, in general, a better sense of “team” play.

Watch these players and see if you can tell why they’re playing in the NBA. Here’s what to look for as to shooting (Tom Nordland Tips):

STANCE You’ll see that most of them have more of an open stance than squared up. They step in to shoot rather than jump-stopping square.

WHEN IN THE JUMP DO THEY SHOOT? Most of the shooters have what’s called a “quick” Release, shooting on the way up rather than at the top of the jump.

Watch how Ilgauskus from Cleveland shoots. He’s 7’3” and can light it up just about any time. Put him at the free throw line and he’ll make the shot. His stroke is aligned with his strong eye and he shoots quickly and high, his hand flopping in the Follow Through.

ARCH What kind of arch do these players have? I think you’ll find most of them shoot with generally high arch. They don’t have the flat, “line drives” you see in more streaky shooters.

RELEASE AND ARM ACTION Do their elbows lock and do their arms stay in line with the basket for a bit in the Follow Through? You’ll find they do. Few of them short-arm their shots or have tentative Follow Throughs.

WRIST AND HAND Does the hand bounce a little or a lot, meaning the wrist was basically relaxed in the stroke? If yes, it means the player is not flipping the wrist. A flippy wrist adds variables that are hard to control, especially as pressure increases.

Most Americans flip their wrists and you can see the hand action is tight, no bounce or flop. You can’t do both, have a hand that bounces and flip your wrist. When you take all the small muscles out of the shot, consistency, predictability and repeatability show up.

If you see a player hesitate in the jump before shooting, he or she is relying more on the upper body than the lower body, and that lack of big muscle stabilization makes such shooting more “iffy,” more “streaky.”

Amazing athletes like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Duane Wade, etc. can shoot lights out at times, but they’re not considered the purest of shooters. Kiki Vandeweghe could shoot well that way, too. What they do with apparent “ease” is extremely difficult for mere mortals.

DON’T JUST BELIEVE OR NOT BELIEVE ME, TOM NORDLAND! Don’t just accept or reject these ideas. Watch NBA games and see what’s happening with the shots of all players. With your own shooting, try different things and see what the results are.

MORE PRESSURE WON’T HELP MUCH! I’ve seen many teamd run a drill before the start of a game where each player, in turn, shoots a free throw or two and the others watch. The idea is to create game-like pressure. It must work to some degree or coaches wouldn’t use it.

But, when I’ve seen this done, it seems like little is learned and some just keep missing and look embarrassed.

A professional team I read about has started to incorporate this now to try to improve the foul shooting. If the chosen shooter misses, the players have to do a sprint to the other end of the court and back. They’re probably getting a lot of extra exercise. I wonder what these highly-paid players think of the exercise. And does it help?

WHAT’S NEEDED IN COACHING IS TECHNIQUE, NOT EXERCISES IN PRESSURE! The “adding pressure” school of improved shooting might get some results, but there’s a limit to what you can do in calming your mind if your stroke isn’t sound. Working on technique is what I recommend.

My Tom Nordland – Swish Method shows how to improve control of what I call “The Flight of the Ball.” It’s about controlling distance and direction.

That’s what shooting is all about, not mental gyrations (hoping to improve confidence or trying to calm one’s mind), not having a special “pre-shot” routine. I’m sorry to tell you this, but circling the ball three times around your body before shooting, like Gilbert Arenas does, is NOT going to give you sound technique.

If your stroke is great, then you can perform some little eccentricities to draw attention to yourself if you want, and if it gives you a little more confidence, go ahead. But if you think the little physical and mental games you play just prior to a Free Throw are going to improve your technique, guess again.

– Tom Nordland, Shooting Coach