I saw an article about Rafer Alston on True Hoop. According to the article, “last season, Alston finished on 49 percent of his drives, about 12 percent off the NBA average. This season, he is at 59 percent, roughly the league average and well ahead of the average for guards. That doesn’t make him Steve Nash or Tony Parker in the lane, but it has led to a better Alston.”
I spend a lot of time working on finishing with the players I train. I never felt like the players enjoyed it, as most work with me to improve their ball handling or outside shooting. Players and coaches think lay-ups are easy. However, when I asked one senior the most helpful part of our workouts, he said the finishing drills because nobody ever practices finishing. And, this was a kid with a legit 37-inch vertical who could catch the ball off the glass, do a 360 and dunk.
I have written before about Nash and his finishing. I also remember an analyst once mentioning that Parker was the first player he had seen work on finishing in the lane before a game, while every other player focuses on jumpers. Apparently Alston has taken note and is working more on his finishing:
But he did take steps to improve. Alston went to work with Rockets director of player development Kenny Atkinson and vice president of player personnel Dean Cooper. They put Alston through the “daily dozen” drills held over from the Rudy Tomjanovich years that former assistant Jim Boylen brought from Michigan State.
“It’s a combination of things,” Cooper said. “We do a lot of drill work where you know the angles when attacking; you spin the ball to where you get it on the glass, and you learn how to get it in front of you so the bigs can’t catch up to you. Then it’s repetition to get it in a comfort zone.”
“We’ve worked since training camp, Coop, Kenny and I, on different finishes, different spins, putting more arc on the ball. They felt I could finish better around the rim and I’m doing so.”
Players and coaches are always looking for the magic answer. There it is. Practice. Get more comfortable executing the skill, gain confidence through repetition and take the lessons learned to the games.