Meet the mastermind behind Donte DiVincenzo’s shooting success: Stephen Curry

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - MARCH 18: Donte DiVincenzo #0 of the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors talk during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on March 18, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)The Sacramento Kings rescinded Donte DiVincenzo’s qualifying offer just days before the 2022 NBA free agency began. It was an unexpected move that sent DiVincenzo into a market unprepared for his unrestricted availability. He was squeezed. About a week later, DiVincenzo was on the phone with Stephen Curry.

The Golden State Warriors couldn’t offer the shooting guard’s market rate, but other options didn’t appeal as much. So despite the money, DiVincenzo listened to a four-time NBA champion. Curry’s pitch (along with Draymond Green’s) was about the bigger picture.

If DiVincenzo spent a season thriving as a role player within the Warriors’ system on an elevated stage, a payday would come the following July. They discussed recent test cases, Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II. DiVincenzo signed with the Warriors for $4.5 million and thrived.

Then, in 2023, he walked into a friendlier market. His relationship with Curry grew enough in their one season together that DiVincenzo made an important call in the early days of free agency. Once again, a year later, he sought Curry’s advice.

“It was on FaceTime,”

DiVincenzo said.

“He and his family were there and his security, our team security. They’re people that I don’t take their opinion lightly.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves, per league sources, were a serious suitor with a real chance to sign DiVincenzo. A few other teams had significant offers on the table. The choices were weighing on a sixth-year guard about to earn his largest-ever contract.

“He reached out about New York specifically and what he should do, what I thought he should do,”

Curry said.

“When you have gained trust in someone to call, pick up the phone, it means a lot, especially for a guy who was only here for a year.”

DiVincenzo was leaning toward the Knicks, who were ready to hand him a four-year, $47 million contract. However, calculated individuals seek advice from those they trust most before making career-altering decisions. It turned out, he and Curry were thinking similarly. The two-time MVP dubbed New York as a quality fit. The Knicks needed an extra shooter — and the team already employed two regulars who were DiVincenzo’s best buds from Villanova, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart.

“Just looking at the depth chart and the role he could play, what they needed,”

Curry said.

“They were already a playoff team, starting to trend in the right direction. Then (there is) his familiarity with their players from college. That made it so he’d have the opportunity to go in and do exactly what he did for us. He’s a smart, high-IQ basketball player who plays defense.”

Curry’s words held weight.

“Ultimately, he said it,”

DiVincenzo said.

“It was on my mind. You know, I’m a grown man. I make my own decisions, but to have somebody of that stature to almost voice the opinion that I’m thinking — it makes you feel good about the decision you’re making, rather than if he says something way out of left field and you kind of start to question things. … He reinforced what I was thinking about New York.”

But Curry, leaning back at his locker with a smile, ensures he didn’t envision everything that would happen in DiVincenzo’s breakout first season in New York.

“I didn’t foresee the offensive output,”

Curry said. Nor did many others. DiVincenzo burst into the Knicks’ starting lineup in December, and the explosion has only become more ferocious since. Few NBA players are chucking more 3s than DiVincenzo. Few are making more.

He’s averaging a career-best 13.9 points on 42 percent long-range accuracy and is on pace to break the franchise record for 3-point makes in a season. But he’s hit another level over the past two months. Since Dec. 30, DiVincenzo is averaging 18.9 points per game.

He’s sinking 4.1 3-pointers per game during that time, second in the NBA to his old teammate Curry. And even though DiVincenzo is no longer running alongside one of the greatest shooters in the history of the sport, he still pins much of his improvement on Curry.

DiVincenzo earned more than just a season’s worth of open looks when he went to Golden State. He also got to apprentice a one-of-one talent. Once he and Curry grew closer, DiVincenzo learned more about the game’s fundamentals, if only from osmosis. His outlook on 3-point shooting began to adjust.

Two weeks after the Golden State’s 2022-23 season ended, DiVincenzo returned to the gym with Warriors assistant coach Kris Weems. The focus? Add some Curry-ness to his jumper. Two elements of Curry’s jump shot had become apparent to DiVincenzo.

First, he noticed the emphasis Curry put on his shoulders. No matter what, whether Curry was pulling up for a 30-foot dagger or scampering around a screen and hoisting some off-balance fadeaway, his shoulders always squared to the basket.

“I used to think feet squared, shoulders squared, release and everything had to be aligned and everything,”

DiVincenzo said.

“And I get he’s almost an anomaly. But what’s so much different is as long as his shoulders are good, he doesn’t care about anything else.”

So DiVincenzo figured it was best to care about Curry’s priorities.

“That’s what feels the most comfortable. It’s how you get the most power,”

Curry said.

“It’s like shooting a bow and arrow or throwing darts. You want your lead side closer to your target. If my feet are pointed ever so slightly to 10 or maybe 11 o’clock, you can accomplish that. Strong base, strong power.”

Today, DiVincenzo is a master of square shoulders, even as he tosses up increasingly difficult looks, whether they’re off the move or out of a pick-and-roll. And the new power in his game is showing. Entering Tuesday night’s action, he had already taken a career-high 132 3-pointers from 27 feet or deeper, according to Second Spectrum.

He’s knocked in 40 percent of those, which also is a career-best. The work from this past summer is paying off. DiVincenzo and Weems worked on shooting off movement. They watched clips of Curry, studying the way he angles his upper body.

They watched ones of DiVincenzo — the good and the bad. But the shoulders weren’t the only focus. DiVincenzo noticed another quirk of Curry’s jump shooting, too. Lots of players lean back when they pull up off the dribble. But Curry goes in a different direction.

“Even if he’s running 1,000 miles an hour, he’ll stop and his chest is forward when he finishes, but his feet are the same,” DiVincenzo said. It’s no accident, either. “You want momentum to carry you,”

Curry said.

“As long as you have arc with it, you’re fine for the most part. You can have a nice rhythm or flow and the power becomes more effortless that way. If you start to do the opposite, it becomes a lot harder to be consistent because you’re shooting mostly with arms. There’s a timing element to it.”

It’s another element of Curry’s game that DiVincenzo has lifted for himself.

Last week, Curry received a text from DiVincenzo, an appreciation message just to let the future Hall of Famer know the impact he had on a younger guard who is just now entering his prime. DiVincenzo added one playful jab, too.

“He told me he was trying to chase me down on the 3-point list,”

Curry said.

The Warriors guard has tracked DiVincenzo’s success from across the country. When the Knicks sharpshooter hits five or six 3s, Curry knows about it. And his reaction? “Same way as you. Like, ‘Damn,’ ”

Curry said.

“(It’s) every time you look at the stat sheet.” Of course, DiVincenzo knows he may top out at second on the 3-point list, even if you begin the count from when he caught fire just before the New Year. Since Dec. 30, DiVincenzo has nailed 111 3-pointers, second-most in the NBA.

Curry has hit 130.

“What’s funny with that is, if you look at (it), there was something else about the top-four or five guys (in 3-point makes) or whatever,”

DiVincenzo said.

“It was Steph, Luka (Dončić) and me. And Luka and I are right there and Steph’s like 100 more than everybody else.

“So it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. It’s literally ridiculous.”

DiVincenzo knew teaming up with the champs would mean receiving easier shots. He made 40 percent of his 3-pointers during his season with Golden State. But siphoning knowledge from Curry was never the objective. Instead, he wanted those free jumpers while the defense worried about Thompson or Curry.

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