clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Miami Heat's shooters' bus

New, comments

For years, Ray Allen would conduct his pregame shooting routine alone, but he's found a few companions in Miami, and now it's become their tradition.

USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO -- I was finally going to see it. I was going to see Ray Allen's routine, the whole damn thing. I was going to see Allen practice the same shots from the same spots before every game since his second season, choreographed more precisely than the dancers' pregame practice sessions.

Apparently, 4:17 p.m. was too late.

That's when I sat down courtside at the Air Canada Centre to see Allen, James Jones and Roger Mason Jr. in the middle of getting their shots up, the Raptors Dance Pak behind them. Three minutes later, two hours and 50 minutes before tipoff, Allen was done. He exchanged lefty and righty high-fives with Jones, they yelled, "Shoot it!" in unison and the shooting guard with the sweetest stroke I've ever seen walked back to the locker room, ball in hand. I'll arrive earlier next time.

Allen used to take taxis to the arena on the road. When he joined the Heat last season, he found Jones and Mike Miller doing the same thing.

"When we first got together we asked ourselves, ‘So, who is going to get the floor first?'" Allen said. "I told them I'd welcome guys shooting with me.

"For 10 years in my career I hadn't had anybody that really wanted to come out early and shoot. I welcomed it, I looked forward to it."

It soon became clear cabs wouldn't cut it.

"When Ray came, we needed more coaches, we needed more support, the trainers started coming over early," Jones said. "So they got us a bus."

They call it the shooters' bus. With Miller now in Memphis, Mason stepped right in this season. He'd gotten used to being his team's designated marksman, but now he's surrounded by three-point threats. Entering training camp with an unguaranteed contract, that didn't make things uncomfortable. The veteran guard said he felt at home before the season even started.

"There is a little bit of a shooting clique"-Roger Mason Jr.

"Even before I decided to sign here, Ray thought I'd be a great fit," Mason said. "There is a little bit of a shooting clique."

After Allen left, I watched Jones and Mason pretend two-point shots didn't exist. They made three after three, mixing in a few free throws, talking with assistants and giving a few more high-fives along with the requisite, "Shoot it!"

Jones only took eight two-pointers all of last season and 81.5 percent of his field goal attempts have been behind the three-point line since LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived. Both he and Mason know they'll see DNPs and be expected to stay ready, aware that roster is full of guys who feast on open looks from long range.

"It's by design," Jones said. "It works for this team because we all understand what our goals are and our jobs are. Our jobs are to be deadeye shooters and that's what we work on. It's clear. The shooters here, we push each other and we're the best of the best and that's what we believe."

"It's the ultimate amount of respect that is given because I believe both of those guys shoot the ball better than me," Allen said. "I'm more of a jump shooter, so it takes me so much more to get to my shot. Watching them shoot, their arc is higher than mine."

While there's no higher compliment than Ray Allen saying your shot is better than his, there's competition alongside the admiration. The Heat end practice with shooting games, and during pregame, the three who take the shooters' bus can't help but notice the shower of swishes in front of them.

"It's pressure," Allen said. "You go to a spot and somebody makes 10-for-10, you gotta make 10-for-10."

For Allen, the routine hasn't and won't change. He learned long ago how to get himself in rhythm, how to focus before games. The only thing more consistent than his form is his preparation. Having other shooters sharing his space isn't a problem, since they all enjoy the company.

"Rather than just hearing the sound of the ball or the sound of the net, you can hear the chatter from your teammates and the banter back and forth," Jones said. "It kills the silence, but the routine and the work remains the same.

"I think the basket feels the pain regardless of who's there."

More from SB Nation NBA:

Andrew Wiggins, the NBA draft and hype machine whiplash

Flannery: The Celtics are finding an identity

Prada's Pictures: Houston's defensive issues go beyond Harden

Sunday Shootaround: Anthony Davis is already here

The Hook: It's all coming together for Kevin Love