The weirdness of the Indiana Pacers continued on Saturday night. Despite being down Tyrese Haliburton, a soon-to-be two-time All-Star, they pulled off a win over the Miami Heat after just getting embarrassed by them two days prior.
But the oddities don’t stop on the court for the Pacers. And for Buddy Hield, in particular, the peculiar tendencies translate to his pregame ritual of touching the basketball.
Before each game, Hield makes it a point to touch the ball. At first glance, that seems normal. Maybe it helps him get in a rhythm. Get a feel for it. Well, not exactly.
"I've got to feel the ball, I've got to love the ball," Hield said via Tony East of All Pacers. "The ball has to love me back too."
This mutual affection Hield and… the ball have for each other has worked out pretty well for the NBA veteran. He’s one of the best three-point shooters the league has ever seen.
Over the course of his eight years in the league (this season marks his eighth), Hield is a 40.2% three-point shooter on 7.7 attempts per contest. He is 27th all-time in three-point makes and 11th among active players.
Hield’s need to feel the ball is an every-game affair. And if he doesn’t get the chance, he joked that the refs should be blamed for his poor shooting.
"I've gotta feel the ball, I've got to see it go in,” Hield said. “I can't entertain the fans, and the fans are booing us, and they're mad at us [because] Buddy's not making the shots. It's because I'm not touching the ball. Y'all, blame the ref."
This season, Hield’s shot has fluctuated a bit. He’s still shooting an impressive 39.3% from distance, but there have been a few games where his lack of shot-making, combined with relatively poor defense, have hurt the Pacers.
That said, Indiana clearly trusts him with the ball in his hands. And with Haliburton there to dish it to him, he’s going to get some of the best looks of his career.
But above all else… Hield and the ball need to love each other.