How Lonzo Ball is rebuilding his shot with the Pelicans

When the New Orleans Pelicans wrap up any practice or a shootaround, the team splits into different groups on goals scattered around the practice facility to get up extra shots.

So far this season, almost without fail, one of the last players on the court is Lonzo Ball.

Day by day, practice by practice, shot by shot, frame by frame, he and the Pelicans are doing everything they can to rebuild what had been a broken jump shot.

Prior to this season, Ball's shooting form involved him bringing his right hand -- his shooting hand -- across his body and releasing the ball to the left of his head. This year, with the help of Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, the third-year guard has modified his shooting form, in hopes of turning around what has been a dreadful start from the field to his NBA career.

Now, Ball's shot looks a little more traditional. The ball is being released on the right side of his head. And it took some work getting there.

"We just take it step by step," Ball told ESPN. "It wasn't a drastic change from the beginning. I kind of got here and he just started with my follow-through. We started with legs after that. Then we started from the left to the middle to get it to the right."

Ball said his revamped shot is still a work in progress. He says sometimes when he's moving left he has a tendency to shift his shooting hand over to the left side of his body, muscle memory formed from shooting that way his entire life.

But as he works through rebuilding his motion, the results are starting to show up on the stat sheet.

Entering Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and the ESPN App), Ball is shooting 38.2% overall, a dip from the 40.6% he shot last season. However, he has seen his 3-point percentage jump to 34.0%. He also is letting it fly more often, averaging 6.3 3-point attempts per game, second on the Pelicans behind only sharpshooter JJ Redick.

"They've been available to him," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "We'd like to see him make a few more. I think he has made the ones where it's been a catch-and-shoot. I think the step-back dribble one is one we have to cut out. But I don't want to discourage him from shooting it, especially when he's open."

Of Ball's 34 made 3-pointers this season, 25 have been of the catch-and-shoot variety, and he's shooting 38% on those attempts.

That's a far cry from his two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, when he put up some of the worst shooting numbers in NBA history.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information:

  • Over Ball's first two seasons, only Russell Westbrook (29.3%) shot worse from deep among players to attempt 500 3-pointers.

  • His 31.5% mark from deep in his first two seasons was the sixth-lowest percentage for a player's first two seasons in NBA history of the 82 players who have attempted at least 500 3-pointers in their first two years.

  • No other guard in NBA history has multiple seasons shooting under 46% from the free throw line with at least 40 attempts.

It's at the free throw line where the work Vinson and Ball have put in has shown up most noticeably. Despite shooting just 14 free throws in 16 games, Ball is making his free throws at a 71.4% clip.

Last week against the Suns, he went 4-for-4 from the line, marking the first time in his NBA career that he attempted at least four free throws and made each one in a single game.

"I think now my shot is just more consistent," Ball said. "It feels the same throughout the game instead of how I had it last year when it was kind of adjusting throughout the game. It just comes with hard work. I'm going to keep working and hopefully [shooting percentages] will keep going up."

Consistency has been the challenge for Ball, not just with his shot, but with his availability. He missed six games with an adductor injury, and when he returned, he shot a combined 6-for-21 from 3-point range in the subsequent three games. He then missed two more games with a stomach virus. Upon returning he alternated good performances (4-for-8 and 4-for-5 from deep) with bad ones (2-for-10, 0-for-7).

Ball was traded to New Orleans in June but wasn't cleared for basketball activities until early September, due to the ankle injury that ended his 2018-19 season. As soon as he was cleared to go, he started working with Vinson, who Ball says has been there every step of the way.

"He's really good at communicating and letting understand that these are the areas you have to get better in with the mechanics of your shot," Gentry said of Vinson. "He's outstanding in what he's done."

Vinson previously worked his magic on Tyreke Evans. The former Rookie of the Year shot a dismal 27.6% from the 3-point arc in his first four seasons with the Sacramento Kings. After struggling mightily from deep in his first season in New Orleans (22.1%), he improved all the way to 38.8% just two seasons later.

The Pelicans are hopeful they'll see the same kind of improvement from Ball, who did shoot 41.2% from deep in his lone season at UCLA before being drafted second overall by the Lakers in 2017. But they know that improvement won't come unless Ball is willing to put in the work, something he has done religiously so far this season.

Before practice, Ball and Brandon Ingram -- who has shot 42% from deep this year after shooting just 32.9% from beyond the arc in his three seasons with the Lakers -- work out with Vinson getting shots up.

The duo has a practice routine in which they shoot set shots from seven different spots on the court. They have to make 10 shots from each spot before moving on to the next junction. If they miss two in a row, the shot count starts over. After that, they work on different scenarios -- getting to the corner, dribble handoffs, etc. -- while observing the same count.

"Fred has been a big confidence builder every single day just coming in here for both me and Lonzo," Ingram said. "Just coming in and trying to find a proper way to shoot the basketball in a way that's comfortable for us. He's done a good job of building our confidence every single day that we come in here."

After practice, Ball gets in more work with Vinson getting extra shots up before finishing with the first part of the pre-practice routine and then adding free throws.

In total, Ball is getting at least 250-300 makes per day with Vinson before and after practice as he continues to shift his shot.

Following games, once he and Vinson are done with the post-practice shooting routine, they sit in Vinson's office and go over every shot Ball takes. Sometimes they'll throw in spots where he should have shot instead of passing the ball on.

They break down the film frame-by-frame as they continue to tweak the shot. The results have been gradual, but positive. And while Ball is happy with his improvement, he isn't satisfied yet.

"I'm trying to get it down," Ball said of his reworked shot. "Hopefully I can get it to where it's over 40 percent from 3 and 50 from the field."