It’s often said that the talent differential between an NBA superstar and a 12th man on the bench is tiny.
The bigger factor that separates great players from benchwarmers is confidence.
A lack of confidence can destroy a player, even really good players. Look no further than the problems in Brooklyn with Ben Simmons.
Josh Green didn’t reach any such depths.
But he admits that the start of the 2022-23 season has brought with it an upgrade when it comes to feeling like he belongs where he is, which is solidly in the Mavericks’ playing rotation.
More than that, he feels like he’s more than able to be a strong contributor.
“I’d say confidence is the biggest (difference),” Green said before Saturday’s meeting with Oklahoma City. “I didn’t really get drafted to a team that was going through a development stage, throwing young guys out there. The moment I got here, we were trying to win a championship.
“So for me, it’s hard to come in as a rookie and think: don’t mess up. We’re trying to win this year. Over time, you grow confidence with the people you’re around and the coaching staff. Every year I feel more and more confident. And opportunity will continue to come. I still feel like there’s a lot more steps to be taken.”
Green came in against Brooklyn on Thursday and made all three of his 3-point tries, but more importantly had four rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes and was a plus-3 on the court.
That came after a somewhat less than auspicious first few possessions, coach Jason Kidd said.
“Josh was big for us,” he said. “When you look at the way it started for him, in the first (few minutes), he was minus-10. And so there was a chance to take him out but we left him in. And he got back to neutral, so that means he was doing something well. And he ended the game at plus.
“I thought Josh played an incredible game for us. We talk about the 50-50 balls, but he was shooting the three at a high clip and hopefully we can get him more minutes.”
Green came back with a similar role Saturday against the Thunder. He entered late in the first quarter with the Mavericks trailing 21-17. By the time he checked out seven minutes later, they were up by a point.
But his biggest contribution came at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. He had two steals, one that kept OKC scoring machine Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from a likely bucket before the third-quarter buzzer. Then, in the first minute of the fourth, he picked off another steal and raced on the break for a three-point play.
He would finish with four steals to go with six points and five rebounds in just 15 minutes. The Mavericks were a whopping plus-24 when he was on the floor.
He just looks like a more comfortable player early on. And nothing like the player who couldn’t make a shot and essentially was benched in the playoffs last season.
And though Saturday was an ugly loss to the Thunder, Green and the Mavericks are fortunate to have another game coming fast on Sunday evening against Orlando.
“This league is all built on confidence,” Kidd said. “If you start doubting yourself, things can go bad in a hurry. For him, I think he just started overthinking the situation last year. And that happens.
“I’ve always judged Josh on the 50-50 balls and his activity – getting his hands on deflections and rebounds, giving us second opportunities. I’ve never judged Josh on scoring. (But) he’s worked extremely hard on shooting the ball. We also want him to be able to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim because he can do that, too. And being able to find the open guy, we trust him with the ball. So he’s doing everything for us and hopefully we can get him more minutes.”
Most players judge themselves on scoring and everything else is just a bonus.
But Green knows his game has to be about more than points. He’s also learned that he is playing the game at a different RPM these days.
“In my rookie year, I was 110 miles per hour with no brake,” Green said. “I feel like I slowed down, but I want to play with a pace that’s fast enough. As far as slowing down goes, I still feel like I’m fast in a good way now because it’s controlled.”
And while he can score if needed, he’s not focused on that – at least not as much as he used to be.
“We’re trying to win a championship,” he said. “We have a team full of scorers and a great scorer in Luka (Dončić). So there’s going to be days when I score and days when I’m not scoring.
“I know I can score, but at the time, it may not be the best thing for our team just because we’re so deep with scorers. But all the little stuff, that can help a team more.”
That’s what having confidence in your abilities is all about.
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