On Kwame Brown and confidence

Via the Washington Post, Kobe Bryant had a little anecdote from his time pre-Pau with Kwame Brown:

The game before we traded for Pau, were playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed [Wallace], Chauncey [Billups] and those guys, so we had no business being in the game. So down the stretch of the game, they put in a box and one. So I'm surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket, all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds.

"So we go back to the timeout and I'm [upset], right? He goes, ‘I was wide open.' ‘Yeah, I know.' This is how I'm talking to him, like, during the game. I said, ‘You're going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.' He said, ‘Well, if I'm open don't throw it to me.' I was like, ‘Huh?' He said, ‘Don't throw it to me.' I said, ‘Why not?' He said, well, ‘I'm nervous. If I catch it and they foul me, I won't make the free throws.' I said, ‘Hell no!'

"I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.' He's like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.' So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I'm steaming. Steaming. I'm furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that's happening with Pau.' I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.'...That's what I had to deal with the whole year."

Let's discuss this after the jump.

This shouldn't really shock anyone. Kwame's confidence, or rather the lack thereof, has been easily-discernible. You could see it in Washington, you could see it in Los Angeles, you could see it in Detroit.

But if you watched Kwame this past season, his confidence seems to be mending since his time in Charlotte began, especially with the hiring of Paul Silas.

Silas is huge believer in fixing mindset as well as mechanics in his players and with Kwame, both were big obstacles on which they had to work. But Paul is nothing if not an encouraging mentor. In Coach Silas's system, it's well-known that the offense runs on a "shoot if you're open" strategy. But looking at Kobe's story, this would seem like a deterrent for Kwame's resurgence. However, Paul's insistence on taking the open shot and understanding that missed shots will happen, eases the pressure on players' minds. It's no different for Kwame, who is allowed to play within his limitations without the pressure that comes with playing alongside some of the most intense players in NBA history (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant).

Kwame's confidence can grow if pressure lets it, and the outside factors often play a part in this. In Washington, the pressure of living up to a number one pick drafted by the greatest player of all-time while performing inadequately undoubtedly had a negative effect on his confidence. And then he went to Los Angeles to play with Kobe Bryant where you have movie stars, models, millionaires sitting courtside - if they have good connections. And his confidence continued to dwindle. By the time he got to Detroit, it would take a ton of work to get his psyche right. He was overpaid and could not live up to the expectations the salaries he was awarded would bring.

Coming to Charlotte offered his the opportunity to turn over a new leaf (though teaming up Kwame and Larry Brown could have gone dreadfully wrong if Larry spent more time with the Bobcats). At the time, it was hardly seen as such. I remember seeing the news of the signing and scratching my head, trying to understand the risk Michael Jordan was taking on his credibility by signing the player who had soiled it the most already. But underneath that, Kwame had quietly signed to the league veteran minimum salary. The pressure of living up to a large salary was mostly alleviated. The Bobcats fell into the dregs of the NBA and trades and injuries forced Kwame to the forefront of the Bobcats' frontcourt.

Since that time, he has flourished, at least as much as Kwame Brown realistically can. The offensive load on last year's Bobcats squad was shared more or less equally, especially with Stephen Jackson sidelined with nagging injuries. Ball movement forced everyone to contribute and Kwame's increased confidence amid lessening pressures allowed him to do what he does best.

Confidence in professional athletes is not the most well-understood thing by sports fans. Champions are said to have untouchable confidence, even to the point of arrogance. Anything less and you could be seen as a wuss or just simply, a failure. A player is expected to carry the weight of cities and huge fanbases with the aplomb of Atlas. They become more than human: nearly godlike. Any moment of human weakness is scrutinized to the point of eviscerating an athlete on one point. The loss of confidence for athletes is not much different from normal people losing theirs. Injuries, events in one's life and shrinking from a moment can crumble a person.

Granted, yes, no one wants a player on their team afraid to play. But extreme confidence is not a constant condition. Some may be able to carry themselves as super-mighty day in and day out, but the rest are still human and can't be constantly attacked with the expectation that crows picking at them will force them to grow. Some respond well to the poking and prodding. Other respond better to positive encouragement to build themselves up.

Adam Morrison's confidence and psyche were crushed after injury and harsh coaching that led to self-doubt with the expectations of a city's burgeoning fanbase wanting to hitch themselves on his back. 

As for Kwame? Yes, his hands are still extremely dubious. But after watching him play last year, it seems he's no longer afraid to take the ball into his hands and challenge defenders. His confidence is on the upswing. I think he recognizes how much playing in Charlotte has helped him and I'd be extremely shocked if he went to a bigger and better team over sticking around where he can play with mentoring coach. Casual fans probably won't understand and they will indubitably hate it because of the perception that will follow Kwame around for his life, but I think it's the best decision for Kwame.

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