SAN ANTONIO — It has been difficult for San Antonio Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan to find much to laugh about in a season that on Tuesday night produced yet another double-digit loss for his team. Somehow, it seems that everyone finds something funny whenever Sochan steps to the foul line for a free throw.
The 130-118 defeat the Utah Jazz gave the Spurs at Frost Bank Center left them at 4-25 with too many of those losses linked to the team’s experiment with the 6-foot-8 Sochan as starting point guard. That exercise has been deemed a failure and scrapped with Sochan back at forward in a starting lineup that puts rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama at center and second-year guard Malaki Branham at the point.
However, a prior experiment with Sochan continues to be a rousing success: His quirky one-handed free-throw form makes nearly everyone smile. With a form that may well be unique in the history of the game, the only time Sochan touches the basketball with his left hand occurs when he uses both hands to catch it when tossed by a referee. Then, so quickly one can scarcely notice, he positions his right hand under the ball while simultaneously releasing his left hand and instantly beginning his shooting stroke. Completed with a picture-perfect release, the new form has produced dramatic improvement that Gregg Popovich appreciates and Sochan’s teammates marvel at.
After making both free throws after being fouled on Tuesday night, Sochan is 112 of 148 from the line in the 62 games he has played since switching to the one-handed shot, a healthy 75.7 percent.
Jeremy Sochan’s free throws this season:
He’s not Steph Curry (career 91.0 percent), but neither is he Andre Drummond (career 47.8 percent).
He also is not the first one-handed free-throw shooter in NBA history. Notably, Hall of Famers Bob Pettit (76.1 percent) and Oscar Robertson (83.8 percent) shot their free throws with one hand. So did Don Nelson (76.5 percent), a member of five Boston Celtics NBA title teams and, importantly for Sochan, one of Spurs Hall of Fame head coach Popovich’s most valued mentors.
During Popovich’s two seasons as an assistant on Nelson’s Golden State Warriors coaching staff in 1992-93 and 1993-94, he watched Nelson help a few challenged shooters by having them use only one hand to improve their shooting strokes. It made Popovich an advocate of shot doctor Nelson’s teaching technique.
Sochan’s one-handed free throw has been a revelation since he first used it in a game last season against the Rockets on Dec. 19, 2022, in Houston. Then, he entered game No. 23 of his rookie season having made only 11 of 24 (45.8 percent) free throws. But, Popovich and his veteran assistant, Brett Brown, had been working with the then-19-year-old to change everything about his approach to foul shooting.