Since getting traded to the Indiana Pacers last season, Buddy Hield has become a mainstay for the team’s scoring capabilities, with a three-point percentage nearly on par with his best years in Sacramento. He’s also become an all-around asset in the quick, effectively scrappy style of the team, pitching in with rebounding and assists, and taking some pointers from his teammate and one of the league’s most adept at stripping the ball out of unsuspecting opponents hands, T.J. McConnell.
Hield made it to the final round of the NBA’s Three Point Contest on All-Star Saturday night, but was beaten by a zeroed in Damian Lillard. Dime caught up with Hield before the contest to talk about his shot mechanics, how he’s become a leader with the Pacers, and breaking Reggie Miller’s franchise record for most triples in a single season.
What are you doing with Starry for the weekend?
I’m here with Starry, the new NBA soft drink. First one and I think they’re doing a good job of collabing it. It hits different. That’s the slogan they use, but it does. It’s smooth. I’m proud to be able to represent them and help build the brand.
I just had one, it’s very fresh.
It’s very fresh, right!
I wanted to congratulate you on breaking the record! Reggie Miller, in your dust. What does that feel like?
Thank you! It feels great. I didn’t even know that was in play. I thought it was like, probably game 70 I might get to it. I didn’t know I was that close to it. I mean, he did so much for us young kids and shooters. I’m just blessed.
I was going to ask you that — so you don’t keep track of records?
Nah. I think if you tend to focus on that, you get off track and press too much. You just gotta focus on the end goal, which is to win basketball games.
I know it can be kind of tough to explain, but could you walk me through your shot mechanics? I know it’s abstract.
It’s weird cause it’s like, it’s all about comfort. You know? Feeling, confidence, repetition. I just make sure I get it up and it leaves my hand smoothly. You don’t want a hitch in your shot. You want to come off smoothly, release up high, good rhythm and good base.
Okay, so is it the kind of thing then when you let it go, you can feel it already like, That’s going, or, Oh no—
Yes. As soon as you let it go, you’re like, Oh shit. This is bad. You can feel it in the ball. You know because the rhythm is in your hands, and once it leaves your hands it’s fire. It’s smooth and relaxing, like a shot firing off.
Maybe you can explain this to me, but was chatting with a friend of mine this morning who does shot coaching. We were talking about flat shots. When you make the rim smaller instead of bigger.
Yeah cause guys shoot straight. It’s not really good. One of the more flat shooters was Ray Allen, cause he jumps so high. But he’s still got arc on his shot. It’s good to get the arc, ‘cause then it’s going up. And it doesn’t need to be like a high arc, it can be an arc that just feels like a comfort zone. Everybody’s arc is different. So you’ve got to get comfortable with your arc and stay with that and don’t go off course. I think shooters get, especially kids, they try to make their shot like other great players, but just be you and find that comfort zone.
But how long does it take to find that? To find your own style?
Getting obsessed with it. [laughs] It’s obsession. You have to be obsessed. Put the hours, put the work in. And that’s how great shooters become great shooters, they’re obsessed with their craft. You become a basketball player, you have to be obsessed with going to the gym by yourself, not needing anybody to rebound the ball for you and you’re just figuring it out. That’s how life is, you figure it out.
That is how life is.
Yeah! You gotta figure it out. And the shot, it’s tough. You gotta figure it out how to get in the hole. It’s hard to get there, but you need to figure out that comfort.
If you had to pick three words to describe your own shot, what would they be?
Smooth. Smooth, smooth. Smooth!
I wanted to chat with you a little about your transition to the Pacers, and what that’s been like. Because you’ve stepped into a bit of a mentorship role there. Do you feel that?
Yeah, of course. Sometimes I can be that annoying big brother to the guys, letting them know, especially the younger guys, winning in the NBA is hard. Yes, it gets annoying when people talk to you, and you gotta listen to them. But everybody comes from programs where they’re the guy, but it’s not that no more.
When you broke Reggie’s record, I was thinking back to that Pacers team. There are similarities there. Do you pay attention to that kind of thing?
I pay attention, but I don’t dwell on it. Leave it for the media to figure out and talk about. Whether they’re right or wrong.
We try to get it right.
[laughs] Yeah, that’s what makes the sport great. They try to put the positive and the good with it. But we’re on the right move. The reason we’ve taken a dip, I think, is because Tyrese [Haliburton] is hurt. And you’re only as strong as your weakest player, weakest link. And he’s not a weak link, he’s our strong, big guy that we need. We get him back now, we finish the season strong and see what happens.
Do you set goals for yourself?
Yeah, you can’t just see where it goes because you’ll be too relaxed. You need to set goals. Like now, we gotta win a lot of games. And way less losses.
It’s tough in the East!
It’s tough in the NBA, period.
How do you feel about tomorrow?
Of course you have a little anxiety, but that’s normal. That should be normal. Because you expect something of yourself.
A certain amount of nerves are good because it meanest’s important to you.
On that note is there anything you do to hype yourself up, or bring yourself down if you need to?
Just think about it more [laughs]. That’s the point of life, you know? As long as I go out there — what I feel I feel — do my best, then I did what I gotta do. It’s something I love doing.