Deron and Brook: A Tale Of Men Whose Hearts Are Elsewhere

On Christmas, Kevin Randall of the NY Times penned this great article about the Milwaukee Bucks:

I’ll answer your first question: no, this piece is not about the Bucks or about Jason Kidd. The short version of this article, as related to the Nets: the Bucks have hired a facial expression analyst, in the hopes that this analyst can help them, through body and facial language analysis, in their roster building.

Think of your daily lives. Are you nicer to people when you’re in a good mood? And when you’re nicer to others, are they nicer to you? Are you more likely to see conflict with others, perform poorly, or lose allies when in a bad mood?

Such psychology ABSOLUTELY plays into sports. Imagine a basketball player. You are confident, and have a shot to take. You take it! Not confident? You pass the shot up. You like your teammates: you feel comfortable, and you attempt to make a play. You dislike your teammates, and worry about their attitude? You’re suddenly less likely to look to make that play.

As a tennis player, I was always told “sports are 90% mental” — maybe that’s hyperbole, but the mental aspect of the game is extremely important.

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez absolutely looked like two players who do not want to be members of the Brooklyn Nets in tonight’s thrashing. Who knows why. Maybe Brook’s too beat down by injuries to enjoy basketball anymore. Basketball is a kid’s game, but when your life becomes rehab, treadmill, gravity treadmill, rehab drill, getting back in shape, more rehab, then struggling to put it back together on the court, it can become easy to see why that would wear on you. Why, because you are so focused on getting your own game back, you freeze out teammates, make every play a 1 on 1 postup, a referendum on the state of your game. Why, when things don’t go your way, you get so down on yourself. Why, you simply don’t appear to like basketball, and why, in turn, it appears your teammates have become annoyed at playing with you.

Deron? You can see why a guy whose started to lose his game to injuries has struggled with accepting that, has made poor decisions in his attempts to do what he once could. And how that makes him surly, unhappy. And how that unhappiness may project onto his teammates. And how his teammates could easily grow tired of that act.

The bottom line for the Nets? When Deron and Brook have been out of the lineup due to injuries, or at least limited minutes wise, the Nets have simply played better basketball. And a large part of that is likely mental.

When Mason Plumlee dives for a loose ball, that makes his teammates want to play harder. They see his facial cues, his body language, and that makes them, in turn, happier, and more willing to lay it all on the line, FOR HIM. Jarrett Jack attacking the lane as aggressively as he can? You want to play better, for him.

When Deron and Brook are off the floor, they just play harder, and it feeds into every player on the roster. You feel your teammate is playing hard? When he blows an assignment defensively, you’re more likely to cover his back. Less likely to give him a vacant stare (hello, body language experts) that says “I hate you” in not so many words. More likely to want to get him back next time, want to see him succeed offensively. That type of positive attitude and energy feeds into everything you do. You’re more likely to want to rally when down 10-12 points, as the Nets did against Boston just yesterday. More likely to make the hard cuts or set the hard screens on offense, as opposed to standing around.

Deron and Brook play like they want no part of Brooklyn (and given Brook’s harrowing foot issues, I question if he just wants no part of the sport of basketball, sadly enough–he was never a basketball fanatic in any event). And it feeds into EVERY player on the roster. Joe Johnson looks irritated at them, incredibly so. Mirza, Bojan, and others simply don’t look like they have enough fire to get the job done. And that’s what happens when a player seems like he wants out: when he’s a key piece, it feeds into everything you do.

Who wants to hustle to make up for their mistakes defensively. Who wants to pass them the ball (especially Brook, if they feel it won’t come back). If they turn it over or miss a shot, who has the energy to fight defensively, as opposed to saying “the hell with it, what’s the point.”

The Nets in the first quarter tonight, actually got off to a good start…prior to inserting Deron and Brook. They seemed to want to win. They took a 51-50 lead in the third, seeming as though they wanted to win. And when Deron and Brook sat the majority of recent games, they played like a team that wanted to win.

When Deron and Brook play? The Nets don’t play like a team that wants to win.

And a day after a New York newspaper wrote about a Milwaukee team employing a body language expert, maybe a team much closer to the Times’ backyard should look into one … or should ship the two guys with body language issues as fast as you can say “Deron Williams.”


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