Confidence is an enormous aspect of basketball. When a player has the hot hand, all of a sudden the basket looks huge. He stops thinking about missing and just plays, acting aggressively and simply doing everything he’s practiced for so many hours in the gym.
On the other hand, when confidence isn’t high, a player hesitates. He takes a split second too long before letting fly with that open jumper, or forces a drive because he doesn’t have faith in his shot. A player without confidence can look woefully lost and meek on the court, even a player with the talent to be a difference-maker.
But defensive confidence? Is there such a thing?
Luol Deng thinks so. (Via the Chicago Tribune):
“We’ve lost confidence defensively,” Luol Deng said. “Our energy isn’t the same. We fight for that stop and when we don’t get it, it seems like it affects both ends.”
Kirk Hinrich played in his second straight game against the Warriors after missing six with a sprained left thumb. And Tyrus Thomas missed his 16th game with a fractured radius in his left forearm.
Those two represent two of the Bulls’ better defenders.
“Not to take anything away from them — we’re definitely better when they’re here — but I don’t think we’re 30 points worse without them,” Deng said.
In my experience, defense has nothing to do with confidence. It has to do with heart, determination, and attitude. A gritty player will step in and take a charge on an out-of-control penetrator. He’ll get into passing lanes and deny his man the ball. He’ll pressure a ballhandler into miscues, and slide his feet to help a beaten teammate. And, in my eyes at least, he’ll do all that regardless of his confidence level.
But I guess Deng disagrees. He seems to think the Bulls are lacking confidence in their defensive abilities, and it has affected their performance.
If he’s right, I hope their confidence stays low, if only for tonight.