NBA Daily: DPOY Watch – 12/17/19

It is no secret that over the past several seasons Russell Westbrook’s offensive efficiency has been an issue.

So far, during the current season in Houston, this trend has not changed. Westbrook’s field goal and three-point percentage have taken a hit again, falling to 42.5% and 23.3% respectively, while his free-throw percentage of 75.9% is far below his career average of 80%.

Actually, since the 2016-2017 season, Westbrook’s field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage have steadily decreased year-over-year.

Some analysts are saying that the change in scenery — and playing alongside a ball-dominant alpha like James Harden — is to blame. Others lean on the theory that, because of the heavy load that Westbrook shouldered in Oklahoma City, offensive efficiency eventually suffered.

Both points are valid and are probably contributing factors. However, there seem to be more systemic and deeper influences now at play. Internal influences have gained momentum and are now threatening to further short-circuit Westbrook’s ability to course-correct his downtrending shooting percentages.

It’s The Mental Blocks

Diving deeper into the internal mechanics of the jump shot may help to shed some light on this mystery.

Based on past case studies for players with similar chronic shooting woes, there always seems to be that one common thread tying to each together. That commonality is subconscious mental blocks, or unresolved past experiences in the form of thoughts, emotions, feelings and images stuck within the player’s muscle memory.

The elimination of a player’s subconscious mental blocks is the absolute number one most mission-critical thing for improving percentages and resolving a shooting slump. Here’s why.

The Subconscious Mind & Muscle Memory

Science tells us that the subconscious mind is like a tape recorder. It absorbs all life experiences, storing and tagging these experiences by emotion, thought and somatic feeling. From these new recordings, it builds new habitual mind-body patterns.

During a prolonged shooting slump, the subconscious or muscle memory will not only record the on-court repetition but will also SAVE the player’s upsetting thoughts, emotions, and feelings during that slump. For a player like Westbrook, these psychosomatic elements are like a record of the past. These records will inevitably short-circuit future shooting performance if left unresolved.

Said in another way, once the memories and feelings of missed shots, poor performance and hours of futile practice repetitions are psychosomatically stored within the body’s mainframe computer. Good luck trying to solve shooting woes with purely more on-court shot repetition.

Let’s Do The Math

Since the 2016-2017 season, taking into account regular-season games, Westbrook has taken a total of 5,517 field goals, making 2,386. He has also taken 1,429 three-point field goals, making 441. At the charity stripe during this period he has gone 1,519-for-1,986.

For a player like Westbrook, taking thousands of attempts while leaving the root cause of the slump unchecked is like trying to race a 6-speed Ferrari Testarossa 180 miles per hour while still being stuck in third gear. Yeah, you’re going to get somewhere, but you’re going to be super inefficient doing it. Your performance over the long term will continue to decline.

Westbrook could take a million more jumpers, but unless the psychosomatic blocks are addressed first, he is likely going to be spinning his wheels.

Solving The Shooting Slump

Solving Westbrook’s shooting woes is a simpler process than you might think. Eliminate the cause of the mental buffering and you will unlock shooting percentage improvement.

A systematic and customized High-Performance – Player Development Program that zeroes in on eliminating subconscious blockages is the solution. Synthesizing these methods with on-court repetition is the fastest way for players to break out of shooting slumps.

This may be just what Westbrook needs to regain control of his shooting proficiency. I have written about this process in previous columns, for further background click here and here.

Below is a step-by-step process that, if employed, could drastically boost Westbrook’s probability of success.

The Five Steps To Bust A Shooting Slump

Step 1 – Buy-In

The most important element is trust and buy-in. For Westbrook, or any other player experiencing a shooting slump, the willingness to implement a new way to unlock improvement is vital. The absence of this is a non-starter.

Commitment to the process further skyrockets probability for successful outcomes. Players who have tried everything in the book without success are ideal candidates. These players are open to anything that may help them improve.

Step 2 – Employ High-Performance Sessions

Neuroscience is showing that internal mental and emotional changes in perception influence external performance.

Off-court sessions that eliminate the mental blocks mentioned above clear the way for players to take control of shooting performance. This work is vital and often must be done first before any substantial on-the-court improvement can take place.

Step 3 – The Player Viscerally Feels The Shift

This usually takes place both in-session and on the court.

Combining off-court High-Performance Sessions with on-court implementation is the fastest way for players to connect the dots with this phenomenon.

For the player, understanding that visceral changes within his/her internal world actually can influence performance is critical. As soon as the player sees that working through the mind to correct on-court performance is a powerful way to unlock shooting improvement, then you are off to the races.

Moreover, improved feeling in one’s shot always precedes tangible on-court improvement over an extended duration. Once a player begins to feel internal improvement and improvement in how the shooting motion somatically-feels, the door swings wide open to totally bust the slump.

Step 4 – Employing In-Game Methods

We are seeing the implementation of in-game techniques that work synchronously with pre-existing player development curriculum further stabilize and influences percentages upwards.

What we are looking to do is create flow state experiences for players. Let’s break down what the word flow means. Director of the Flow Research Collective, Steven Kotler, says:

“Flow is now described by an optimal state of consciousness, where we perform our best and feel our best. Of course in flow states performance goes through the roof. The Transformation is available to anyone anywhere provided certain initial conditions are met. Researchers believe that flow sits at the heart at every athletic championship.”

One way to access flow states is through clearing mental blocks. One of the most powerful ways of doing this is through the MRP™ Tapping technique.

MRP™ Tapping is rooted in Emotional Freedom Technique foundations and helps players to process through nerves (mental blocks) quickly. Throughout a season, it has been shown to have profound effects on influencing shooting percentages upwards because it helps players to access flow states faster, and for longer.

This on-court element would be invaluable for Westbrook and would likely provide him increased flow at the foul line and live-action shooting.  Here are examples and how this process has been applied in-game:

Step 5 – Consistency

Once the player begins experiencing substantial (5-30%) shooting percentage improvement, what inevitably happens is that the athlete believes the work is done. Disciplined continued application is paramount to form new subconscious performance habits.

Consistently implementing the process until the body automatically installs the new subconscious operating system is vital. Along with buy-in, in Step 1, consistent implementation is also KEY.

Conclusion

Outside of the box struggles often require outside-of-the-box solutions. For players like Westbrook who have experienced chronic shooting issues, it probably would not take long for him to begin to experience the improvement that he desires.

This is assuming buy-in, commitment and consistency are in place.

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