N.B.A. players have spent their entire lives working on jump shots. They hold the ball in a certain way, try to replicate the same release time and again, and resist any attempts to change their mechanics, even if they are in a slump.
That comfort level was one of the first things brought up when it was announced last season that the Golden State Warriors would try out a jersey with short sleeves rather than the traditional tank top. A few inches of fabric was thought to be a big change for some of the more particular players.
This season the jerseys expanded to other teams, and last week they came under fire from LeBron James of the Miami Heat, who partly blamed them for his performance in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs: He shot 6 for 18 from the field and scored 19 points.
“Every time I shoot it feels like it’s just pulling right up underneath my arm,” James told reporters after the game. “I already don’t have much room for error on my jump shot. It’s definitely not a good thing.”
After the jerseys were worn by the teams competing on Christmas, James and others, including Beno Udrih, who was with the Knicks at the time, expressed criticism. James said at the time that he would try to find one that fit him better.
Even as some players have expressed their dislike of them, the jerseys have been popular among fans, many of whom would rather not go sleeveless. During All-Star weekend, Commissioner Adam Silver addressed concerns that the jerseys could affect shooting.
“We know that shooting percentages are virtually exactly the same for games in which we have sleeved jerseys and teams in which the guys are wearing conventional jerseys,” Silver said. “So I’m pretty comfortable from a competitive standpoint that it’s having no impact.”
Both Silver and James are correct. The jerseys are not affecting overall play, but they do seem to give James trouble.
For the season, players wearing sleeved jerseys have connected on 46.3 percent of their shots while players going sleeveless have hit 45.3 percent. The Minnesota Timberwolves have worn them a league-high 10 times and have maintained the same field-goal percentage regardless of jersey style. Among teams that have worn the jerseys more than twice, only the Warriors have a lower field-goal percentage in sleeves, and the difference is 45.6 to 45.2, with the team actually shooting better from 3-point range in sleeves.
But James is right that he has played poorly in the jerseys. The Heat have worn the jerseys twice, and he wore one in the All-Star Game. In those three games, James combined to go 24 for 54 (44.4 percent) from the field, which is well below the 58.3 percent he has shot in a traditional jersey. Even worse, he is 0 for 14 from 3-point range in sleeves. It is possible that the best defense against the dominant James is a little fabric on his shoulders.
The good news for James is that the Heat are not scheduled to wear the jerseys again this season.
Talent Versus Anxiety
Ten-day contracts have existed in the N.B.A. since at least 1976 and have rarely garnered much notice. Teams occasionally find useful players, but for the most part they are the territory of tweeners, bench players and roster fillers.
The Nets made a splash last month when they signed Jason Collins, the N.B.A.’s first openly gay player, to one of the low-risk deals, and signed him to a second one last week. Now the Sacramento Kings have joined them in making the 10-day deal a bit more interesting, bringing in Royce White.
Drafted 16th over all by the Houston Rockets in 2012, White has an anxiety disorder that manifests in various ways, chiefly a fear of flying. A dispute about the way his care should be managed played out publicly between White and the Rockets, and he was briefly assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the N.B.A. Development League before being traded last summer to the Philadelphia 76ers. He was expected to make the team out of training camp but was cut before the season started. He had gone from first round to free agency without playing a minute in the N.B.A.
Through it all, White communicated with fans through his Twitter account, @Highway_30, in which he has discussed mental health issues, and has maintained a Zen-like tone, ending most messages with #BeWell.
The Kings, a struggling franchise with plenty of room to improve, took a chance on White’s potential, signing him Thursday. By Friday morning he was participating in a shoot-around with the Reno Bighorns, a D-league team owned by the Kings, and that night he started for the Bighorns in a win over the Idaho Stampede. He played 25 minutes, scored 5 points and grabbed four rebounds.
It is not hard to see why a team would want to check out White: He is 6 feet 8 inches, weighs 260 pounds and has a unique ability to pass the ball for a player his size. In his lone season of college basketball at Iowa State, he averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists a game. With the Vipers last season, he averaged 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 18 games.
The Kings, who own the basketball operations of the Bighorns, will be working with them on the way White is used. It has not been determined how long his stay will be or if he will go on the road with the team when it travels to Idaho on Friday.
But for White it is another chance, this time with a team whose desire for his talent may outweigh its concerns about his anxiety. He has 10 days to reward their faith.
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