Rick Barry’s Advice As Lee Approaches Record Books

Jeff Hornacek won’t talk about Courtney Lee‘s free throw streak.

Jeff Hornacek holds his post-game press conference after the Knicks' road win in Dallas, explaining the game's physicality and deflects when asked about Courtney Lee's free throw streak.

It might even be sacrilege writing about it, like teammates talking to a pitcher that has a no-hitter late in a game, and Rick Barry says Lee shouldn’t even think about streaks or records.

For Lee, well, he didn’t even know he was on the brink of making Knicks history until he started getting tagged on Instagram after the Knicks last game, a 100-96 win in Dallas Sunday night.

Lee made all four of his free throw attempts in the final 16 seconds, leaving him just one made free throw away from tying Chris Duhon for the franchise record with 44 consecutive makes.

Courtney Lee has made 43 consecutive free throws and is just two away from setting the Knicks franchise record.

He could tie and set a new franchise record Wednesday night when the Knicks host the Chicago Bulls in The Garden.

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“I just want to make the free throws and give ourselves a chance to win,” Lee told me Tuesday after practice. “That’s all that really matters.”

“I mean, now you all are going to put the streak in my head but hopefully it doesn’t affect me. I don’t really think about it.”

Which is exactly the advice, Barry who was the best free throw shooter in ABA history (87.9 percent) and the fourth best in NBA history (89.9), has for Lee.

Rick Barry #24 of the Golden State Warriors is at the free-throw line against the Washington Bullets during a circa 1974 NBA basketball game at the Capital Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Barry played for the Warriors from 1972 – 77. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

He hasn’t seen Lee shoot but he said all great free throw shooters share a common trait – they have a routine and they trust in it.

“Tell him that I said, ‘Don’t even think about the record, just do what you’ve been doing,'” Barry said. “Use the same routine.”

Lee always has been a superb free throw shooter throughout his career (906-of-1058; 85.6-percent) but after shooting 79.2-percent in 2010-11 with the Rockets, he changed his routine and never looked back.

When he goes to the line he tucks the ball against his left hip and pretends to shoot two free throws with his right hand.

“A lot of people don’t understand,” Lee said. “They ask, ‘Well, why do you do that, shoot it twice before you shoot the free throw?’ That’s just getting my arm ready for the repetition and seeing it go in. That’s two free shots and two makes that I see go in.”

It’s been going in at a remarkable rate. Lee leads the NBA in free throw shooting, having made 73-of-76 (96.1 percent). He has not missed a free throw since Nov 29.

Since then it’s been 43 in a row.

When asked about Lee’s streak after the Dallas win, Hornacek all but pulled out a rabbit’s foot and horseshoe.

“We’re not talking about it,” he said with a smile. “No, we’re not talking it. No. No. No. He’s a great free throw shooter.”

It’s not an accident. Lee has put in the work.

“Every pregame shoot, between sets, or every drill [in practice] you got to make free throws, whether it be making five in a row or two swishes or what not. All my workouts, it’s always free throws in between.

“Pregame, I’ll shoot my midrange jumpers, go to the free throw line. I’ll shoot off the dribble, go to the free throw line. I’ll shoot my three’s, go to the free throw line. Then I’ll make 10 in a row. It’s a habit.”

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“Your entire focus should be shooting the ball the same way,” said Barry. “If you shoot it 1,000 [times], shoot it the same way 1,000 times. Then, it doesn’t become about the situation or streaks or records. It’s about the routine.

“At this point, I’m sure his confidence is so high he’d be upset whenever he missed. When I missed I thought I must have done something wrong.”

Lee has achieved his success by focusing on the bigger picture.

“I try to have a clear space [in my head],’” Lee said. “Stick to my routine.

“All it is, especially in crunch time, you just want to make the free throws, It doesn’t matter that you made 40 in a row or whatever. If we don’t win the game, that don’t mean nothing.”