'Just comes naturally': Tre Mann's stepback has become a weapon for the Thunder rookie

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  • Tre Mann
    Tre Mann
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Eric Bledsoe
    Eric Bledsoe
    American basketball player

Tre Mann’s legs acted like rubber bands when Mann crossed over into a stepback 3-pointer against Clippers veteran Eric Bledsoe.

Mann stretched into a deep lunge before snapping back with incredible quickness. Bledsoe bit hard, and Mann paid off the devastating dribble with a silky shot.

“It just comes naturally,” Mann said of the move.

“If they’re all the way up on me and they’re running full speed, I know if I stop real fast, it’s gonna be hard for them to recover,” Mann explained. “That’s what it is. I don’t even work on that shot a lot.”

The Thunder rookie guard, drafted 18th overall, has a charming innocence about him, but his stepback dribble is lethal.

A screenshot of Mann’s stepback against Bledsoe spread on Twitter last week.

It showed Mann’s left leg parallel to the court while his right leg jabbed forward. Mann’s left knee hovered a smidge above the hardwood, and his left foot was turned on its side.

The move looked natural at full speed, and anatomically impossible when slowed down.

Mann laughed when asked about the viral photo.

“That happened to me a couple times in college, where I did the same move and then later on Twitter you see the same picture,” Mann said. “Me, I didn’t even notice it. In a game I wouldn’t know my leg was that low until after the picture.”

Mann can’t explain it. He just does it.

“See the thing is, I’m not flexible at all,” Mann said. "My legs are bad. I had knee problems.”

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Mann tore his right meniscus in high school, and a limited range of motion in his knee still ailed him when he enrolled at Florida as a five-star prospect.

Preston Greene, Florida basketball’s director of strength and conditioning, tried to break down the mechanics of Mann’s stepback in layman’s terms.

“It’s not just mobility, but also stability and strength,” Greene said in an email. “Unless you’re naturally hyper mobile, flexibility isn’t the only factor. By having stability and strength on the front leg, it allows the back leg to have mobility."

More technically, “the mass and momentum on the front leg allows the posterior leg to be free,” Greene said. “In essence, the back leg is just going along for the ride.”

When Mann said his stepback “comes naturally,” he’s right.

“When you put the body in motion, while having strength, it’ll find a way to get the task done,” Greene said.

Mann creates valuable space with his stepback, but that’s only part of the equation. Mann has shot just 6-of-24 on stepback jumpers, including 3-of-13 from 3-point range.

“I’ve been using that ever since high school,” Mann said of his stepback. “Now all it is is just making the shots.”

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Mann’s overall shooting numbers are much better.

He’s shooting 42% from the floor, including a 22-of-55 (40%) mark from 3-point range.

Mann has the third-best 3-point percentage among qualified rookies, only behind Rockets guard Josh Christopher (44%) and Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (42%). Former OU star Austin Reaves ranks fourth behind Mann in rookie 3-point percentage.

A quarter of Mann’s 3-point attempts have been “wide open,” which, as defined by the NBA, is when the nearest defender is at least six feet away. Mann is shooting 47% on those attempts.

Over half of Mann’s attempts have been “open” — when the nearest defender is four to six feet away.

Some of those are catch-and-shoot opportunities. Some are the result of Mann creating space for himself, like he did against Bledsoe.

“He’s got some stuff there,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Mann’s moves, “and it’s shown up in games.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Tre Mann's stepback has become a weapon for the Thunder rookie

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