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High-Performance Mindfulness: Breaking Out Of A Shooting Slump

Jake Rauchbach breaks down shooting slumps and provides a detailed systematic and repeatable approach for eliminating them.

Jake Rauchbach

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Despite the frequency to which players experience downtrending performance, it seems as if there is still no clear cut consensus answer as to why players go through slumps, or a trusted way to systematically and repeatedly break players out of shooting slumps once they occur.

In the second installment of High-Performance Mindfulness, we will dissect the shooting slump and discuss the fastest way for breaking players out of one. We will also discuss how incorporating High-Performance Mindfulness techniques into an overall player development program has been shown to obliterate shooting slumps, by supercharging statistical performance through unlocking the subconscious mind.

Providing systematic and repeatable ways for players to move through downtrending performance, I will share techniques that have been proven to help NBA, professional and college players break slumps, improve shooting percentages and elevate offensive and defensive efficiencies on both ends of the floor. We’ll also discuss working parameters and best practices for incorporating a Mental Performance resource into the overall structure of an organization.

First, let’s start by breaking down what a shooting slump is! Here we go.

Shooting Slumps Are?

Unprocessed thoughts, emotions, feelings and images from intense past experiences that become trapped and stuck within the subconscious mind or muscle memory of a player. When these barriers to performance are left unresolved, they seep in from the subconscious mind and begin to permeate all levels of a player’s game. When this happens, confidence, mental focus and even shooting mechanics can be adversely affected.

Often, a combination of traumatic on and off-court experiences create a formidable barrier to success on the subconscious level of the mind for the player. And, in most cases, it’s only a matter of time until these unresolved unconscious blockages jump up to short circuit an athlete’s performance.

Take an example. Say a player goes through the experience of missing game-winning free throws, and/or going 0-11 from the field in a crucial game. If left unresolved, the thoughts, emotions and feelings from those experiences will act as performance blocks for a player.

This can have the effect of throwing a wrench into something as refined as a player’s shooting motion. This phenomenon is especially prevalent during crunch time moments when players’ nerves (unresolved unconscious blocks) can tend to get the best of them.

Sound crazy? Sound too far out there? It shouldn’t. Most players intuitively understand that bad performance sometimes lingers with them. Further, it can affect future performance until fully processed through on the mental and emotional levels.

During this past NBA season, players like Russell Westbrook, Markelle Fultz and Danny Green
all experienced downtrending shooting performance. Their struggles were well-documented.

Based on my experience in working with NBA, college and national team players, Westbrook, Fultz and Green could likely have neutralized – and quite possibly preempted – their chronic shooting struggles. Integrating a High-Performance Mindfulness process into an overall player development curriculum could have had the effect of eliminating the performance-inhibiting unconscious patterns likely holding them back.

Maybe one of the most obvious examples of how unconscious performance blocks can directly affect performance is the curious case of former Orlando Magic guard Nick Anderson, whose career implosion, self-admittedly, can be mapped back to Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals versus the Houston Rockets. Unresolved unconscious mental blocks ensued.

Anderson’s Magic were up three points after blowing a 20-point advantage. After being fouled twice, Anderson stepped to the foul line. He proceeded to miss four consecutive go-ahead free throws, sealing the Magic’s fate that year as the Rockets swept the series in four games.

The unresolved mental and emotional discord stemming from this experience consequently derailed Anderson’s progression as a player. He admittedly carried this mental baggage with him throughout the rest of this career.

“It affected the way I played,” Anderson said in an interview with The Ringer. “It affected the way I lived. It played in my head like a recorder – over and over again.”

The tape recorder Anderson is referring to is his subconscious mind unsuccessfully trying to process out the upsetting thoughts, emotions, feelings and images previously experienced. Anderson’s free throw percentage went from 74 percent to a 40 percent in a matter of a few seasons. His three-point percentage, effective field goal percentage and several other statistical categories also worsened throughout the rest of this career.

A High-Performance Mindfulness Program lasting just a few weeks could likely have helped Anderson regain the reins over his unconscious mind, shooting percentages and, consequently, his career.

The Fastest Way To Eliminate A Shooting Slump

No, it’s not tinkering with shooting mechanics, getting additional shots up or watching more film. The fastest way to break a player out of downtrending shooting is by working through the unconscious mind to eliminate the slump at its core.

How do we do that? By neutralizing a player’s unresolved unconscious blockages stemming from past on and off-court experiences that have yet to be processed through.

Approaching slump-busting from this angle oftentimes has the effect of freeing up the player’s physical shooting motion. As years of limiting mental baggage clears, the subconscious mind no longer acts as a burden on the player’s performance systems. In this space, a player’s muscle memory and subconscious mind are instinctually able to shoot the ball without the clutter of the mind getting in the way.

Mindfulness methods such as High-Performance Tapping, mental focusing methods and other leading Edge Energy Psychology techniques – deployed within a multi-week program that systematically zeroes in on neutralizing subconscious blocks – are ultra-effective when addressing shooting slumps. This is especially true when integrated into a pre-existing player development program.

In this scenario, the potential improvement that occurs can be massive, as aligning the deep mental piece with skill development oftentimes unleashes big-time statistical increases.

Taking this one step further, from my time working as an embedded High-Performance Coach within the context of college and professional coaching staffs, it has been my experience that operating from the inside of an organization provides the best possible probability for helping players bust shooting slumps and statistically improve performance over the long term.

Sitting on the bench in the middle of the player rotation during games, reinforcing performance processes in practice and consistently knocking out bi-weekly one-on-one High-Performance Coaching sessions off the court – those are the best practices when it comes to systematically breaking players out of shooting slumps while unleashing big-time statistical improvement.

The Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are two of the first teams to blend Mental Coaches into the overall coaching staff, with Dallas Director of Mental Performance Don Kalkstein acting as a pioneer in this regard.

When approached in this manner, players begin to view the Mindfulness Coach like any other coach, allowing the building of trust, rapport and credibility to take place. As this happens, the High-Performance resource has the requisite opening needed to implement the player specific, customized mindfulness programs mentioned above.

As for shooting slumps, as High-Performance Mindfulness techniques and the role of Mental Performance Coaches are understood more thoroughly, the way players tackle downtrending shooting percentages and slumping performance will likely begin to change drastically.

With this increased efficiency in the player development department, expect shooting slumps to soon be a thing of the past.

Jake Rauchbach is an Integrated Player Development Coach, specializing in High-Performance Mindfulness. He has coached professional and Division-1 basketball. He is the founder of The MindRight Pro® Program and consults on the Olympic, collegiate and professional levels. Follow him on Instagram @mindright_pro and twitter @mindrightpro

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NBA Daily: The Young, Western Conference Bubble

The race for the West’s final playoff spot may seem crowded, but the last two months make it clear that two teams are already ahead of the pack.

Douglas Farmer

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We all jump to conclusions too quickly, this space and this scribe most certainly included. Three months ago, five weeks into the NBA season, the Western Conference playoff bubble looked like it would be a race between the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves. That has assuredly not become the reality.

While the Kings and Suns can claim to still be in the playoff race, they would have to not only make up five-game deficits, but they would also each have to jump over four other teams to reach the postseason. The Timberwolves would delight at such challenges as they initiate a not-so-subtle tank with franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns sidelined for at least a few weeks with a fractured wrist.

Instead, the race to be swept by the Los Angeles Lakers has come down to a pair of up-and-comers, a perpetual deep threat and the NBA’s most consistent organization. Of all of them, it is the youngsters who are both currently playing the best and have the most control of their playoff hopes relative to their competition.

Between the current No. 8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, the Portland Trail Blazers (3 games back), New Orleans Pelicans (3.5) and San Antonio Spurs (4), the next six weeks will feature eight key games. Five of those will include either the Grizzlies or the Pelicans or, in two instances, both.

That pair of matchups is still a month out, but they warrant circling already, nonetheless. Memphis and New Orleans have been playing at a high level for two-plus months now, and by the time they play two games within four nights in late March — when the basketball world is largely distracted by the NCAA Tournament — the two inexperienced teams may have completely separated from Portland and San Antonio.

After starting 1-5, 5-13 and then 10-19, the Grizzlies have gone 18-9 since Dec. 21. The Pelicans have matched that record exactly, down to the date, since starting even worse than Memphis did, bottoming out at 7-23 before finding an uptick long before Zion Williamson found the court. Winning two-thirds of your games for two months is a stretch with a sample size large enough to make it clear: Neither Memphis nor New Orleans should be dismissed in this playoff chase.

Their early-season profiles were examples of young teams sliding right back into the lottery — and there was absolutely no indication a surge was coming.

Grizzlies Pelicans
Offensive Rating 106.4 – No. 23 106.8 – No. 21
Defensive Rating 111.7 – No. 23 113.5 – No. 27

Through Dec. 20; via nba.com.

Then, for whatever reason, things changed. They changed in every way and in ways so drastically that one cannot help but wonder what could come next for the teams led by the top-two picks from last summer’s draft.

Grizzlies Pelicans
Offensive Rating 111.9 – No. 15 115.1 – No. 4
Defensive Rating 109.3 – No. 11 110.3 – No. 13

Since Dec. 21, through Feb. 23; via nba.com.

In a further coincidence of records and timing, the Blazers and Spurs have both gone 13-16 since Dec. 21.

If all four teams in the thick of things out west continue at these two-month winning rates for another month, then Portland and San Antonio will have drifted out of the playoff conversation before Williamson and Ja Morant meet for a second time. Of course, those rates would keep New Orleans a few games back of Memphis; the latter has 14 games, compared to 12, before March 21, so the gap in the standings would actually expand to an even four games.

If the Pelicans can just pick up a game or two before then, though, they have already beaten the Grizzlies twice this season. Doing so twice more that week would just about send New Orleans into the playoffs – at which point, perhaps Williamson could steal a game from LeBron James to put a finishing coda on his rookie season.

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NBA Daily: The Stretch Run — Southwest Division

David Yapkowitz finishes Basketball Insiders’ Stretch Run series with an overview of the Southwest Division.

David Yapkowitz

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We’ve hit that point in the NBA season approaching the final stretch of games before the playoffs roll around in April. The trade deadline has come and gone, the buyout market is wearing thin and most teams have loaded up and made their final roster moves in anticipation of the postseason.

Here at Basketball Insiders, we’re taking a look at each team — division by division– at what they need to do to get ready for the playoffs, or lack thereof. Looking at the Southwest Division, this was a division that used to be one of the toughest in the league.

It still is for the most part. The Texas triangle of the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs was no joke and hell for opposing teams on a road trip. Those are still a couple of formidable teams, but with the exception of the Rockets, it’s not quite near the level of yesteryear.

The Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans are a pair of young, up-and-coming teams that will give you 100 percent every night. While Memphis sits firmly in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are on the outside looking in. Here’s a look at how each team might fare in the stretch run.

The Houston Rockets have been the best team in the Southwest all season long, and all that remains for them is playoff positioning. They currently sit in fourth place in the West, giving them home-court advantage in the first round, but they could just as easily slip a bit with the Utah Jazz essentially tied with them record-wise in the standings and the Oklahoma City Thunder a mere two games back.

The Dallas Mavericks have taken a huge leap this season behind Luka Doncic, who is rapidly becoming one of the best players in the league. They currently sit in seventh place in the West and a return to the postseason is in the cards for the Mavericks.

The rest of the teams in the Southwest is where things get a little interesting. The Grizzlies have been one of the surprises of the season, as they’ve defied expectations and are firmly entrenched in the playoff race out West. They have a three-game lead on the Portland Trail Blazers and a four-game lead on the San Antonio Spurs.

Out of the Grizzlies’ final 26 games, 15 of them come against teams over .500, more than either the Blazers or the Spurs. 14 of those final 26 are also on the road, again, more than the Blazers or the Spurs. They also play both the Spurs and Blazers one more time this season. If the Grizzlies end up making the playoffs, it will be very well earned.

The Spurs are knocking on the door, and they have one more game against the Grizzlies which could prove to be very meaningful. This is a team that has been one of the standard-bearers in the league for success over the past decade. Their streak of playoff appearances is in serious jeopardy.

They’ve won two of their last three games, however, and out of their final 26 games, 15 of those are at home, where they are 14-12. Based on how the Grizzlies are playing though, a close to .500 record at home probably isn’t going to cut it. They’re going to need to pick it up a bit over the next month if they want to keep their playoff streak intact. A lot can happen between now and then, and the Grizzlies do have a tough remaining schedule, but it looks as if San Antonio will miss the playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

The final team in the Southwest is the Pelicans, boosted by the return of prized rookie and No.1 draft pick Zion Williamson. Prior to the start of the season, the Pelicans were looked at as a team that could possibly contend for the eighth seed in the West. Then Williamson got hurt and things changed.

But the team managed to stay afloat in his absence, and as it stands, they’re only three-and-a-half games back of the Grizzlies with 26 games left to play. Out of the bottom three teams in the division, it’s the Pelicans who have the easiest schedule.

Out of those 25 games, only seven of them come against teams over .500. They are, however, just about split with home and away games. New Orleans is 8-2 over their past 10 games, better than the Grizzlies and Spurs. If Memphis falters down the stretch due to its tough schedule, and the Pelicans start gaining a little bit of steam, things could get interesting in the final few weeks.

In all likelihood, the Pelicans probably won’t make the playoffs as not only do they have to catch up to the Grizzlies, but the Spurs and Blazers as well. But it certainly will be fun to watch them try.

There are some big storylines in the Southwest Division worth following as we begin the final run to the postseason. Can the young Grizzlies defy expectations and make a surprise return to the playoffs? Will the Spurs get their playoff streak snapped and finally look to hit the reset button after nearly two decades of excellence? Can the Pelicans, buoyed by Williamson’s return, make a strong final push?

Tune in to what should be fun final stretch in the Southwest.

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NBA Daily: The Stretch Run — Southeast Division

With the All-Star Break behind us, the final stretch of NBA games has commenced. Quinn Davis takes a look at a few teams in the Southeast Division that have a chance at making the dance.

Quinn Davis

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Well, that was fast.

With the NBA All-Star break in the rearview, there are now fewer than 30 games to play for all 30 NBA teams. In other words, time is running out for certain teams to improve their seeding in the conference.

Here at Basketball Insiders, we will be looking at a certain subset of teams that are right on the border of making or missing the playoffs. In this edition, the focus will be on the Southeast Division.

The Southeast features three teams — the Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards — operating in the lower-middle-class of the NBA. These three will be slugging it out over the next month-and-a-half for the right to meet the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.

The two remaining teams are the Miami HEAT and Atlanta Hawks. As this is being written, the former is comfortably in the playoffs at 35-20, while the latter is comfortably gathering more ping pong balls at 16-41.

In this space, the focus will be on the three bubble teams. The Magic are currently frontrunners for the eighth seed, but the Wizards and Hornets are within striking distance if things were to go awry.

Led by head coach Steve Clifford, the Magic have ground their way to the eighth seed behind an eighth-ranked defense. Lanky wing Aaron Gordon is the standout, helping the Magic execute their scheme of walling off the paint. The Magic only allow 31.3 percent of opponent shots to come at the rim, putting them in 89th percentile in the league, per Cleaning The Glass.

Following a post-break loss to Dallas Mavericks, the Magic sit at 24-32 and three games up on the ninth-seeded Wizards. While a three-game margin doesn’t sound like much, that is a sizable cushion with only 26 games to play. Basketball-Reference gives the Magic a 97.4 percent chance to make the playoffs.

The Magic have the third-easiest remaining schedule out of Eastern Conference teams. They have very winnable games coming against the Bulls, Hornets, Cavaliers, Knicks and Pistons. They also have multiple games coming against the Brooklyn Nets, the team they trail by only 1.5 games for the seventh seed.

The Magic are prone, however, to dropping games against the league’s bottom-feeders. It can be difficult to string together wins with an offense this sluggish. The Markelle Fultz experiment has added some spark in that department, but his lack of an outside shot still leaves the floor cramped.

After a quick analysis of the schedule, the most likely scenario appears to be a 12-14 record over the last 26 games, putting the Magic at 36-46 come season’s end. A record like that should not be allowed anywhere near playoff basketball, but it would probably be enough to meet the Bucks in round one.

If the Magic go 12-14, that would leave the Wizards, fresh off a loss to J.B. Bickerstaff and the Cleveland Cavaliers, needing to go 17-11 over their last 28 games. They will need to finish one game ahead as the Magic hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Wizards finishing that strong becomes even more farfetched when you consider their remaining schedule. They have the second-toughest slate from here on out, per Basketball-Reference.

The Wizards do have a trump card in Bradley Beal, who is the best player among the bubble teams in the East. He has now scored 25 points or more in 13 straight games and has been the driving force behind the Wizards staying in the race.

He has also picked up his defense a bit following his All-Star snub in an effort to silence his critics. The increased focus on that end is nice, but it would’ve been a little nicer if it had been a part of his game earlier in this season when the Wizards were by far the worst defense in the league.

Even if Beal goes bonkers, it is hard to see a path for this Wizards team to sneak in outside of a monumental collapse in Orlando. Looking at their schedule, it would take some big upsets to even get to 10 wins over their last 28. Their most likely record to finish the season is 8-20 if all games go to the likely favorites.

The Wizards’ offense has been impressive all season, but injuries and a porous defense have been too much to overcome.

The Hornets, meanwhile, trail the Wizards by 1.5 games and the Magic by 4.5 games. They have won their last three in a row to put themselves back in this race, but they still have an uphill climb.

The Hornets also may have raised the proverbial white flag by waiving two veterans in Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The goal coming into this season was never to make the playoffs, so they are likely more interested in developing young talent over these last 27 games.

If the Magic do play up to their usual levels and go 12-14, it would require the Hornets to go 18-9 to finish the season against the sixth-toughest remaining schedule in the East.

Devonte’ Graham and his three-point shooting have been a bright spot for the Hornets, but it would take some otherworldly performances from him and Terry Rozier down the stretch to put together a record like that. Basketball-Reference gives this a 0.02 percent chance of happening (cue the Jim Carrey GIF).

Barring a miracle, the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference are locked in place. The only questions remaining are how seeds 2-6 will play out, and whether the Magic can catch the Nets for the seventh spot.

The Wizards will fight to the end, but it is unlikely they make up any ground given the level of opponents they will see over the next six weeks. The Hornets, meanwhile, are more likely to fight for lottery odds.

At least the playoffs should be exciting.

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