Ball Handling and Shooting: “Mental Aspects”

[Brent: This is a post written by @acbc, earlier this year. Chris Palmer of the ESPN said Lin is quietly having a top 15 NBA handle in one of his tweet. Lot’s of people disagree with it, including the fomer LAL PG Kendall Marshall, and PFV. The following is the exact words by acbc:]

I was listening to PFV’s comments on the Lakers game and he talked about lin’s handle and how it could be a combination of both physical and mental problems. This is a long piece I wrote last winter and may have posted on the other site. It can maybe explain why LIN continues to struggle until he finally nails down the working patterns of play for his teammates. Like I’ve said in the past, athletes all fear “paralysis by analysis ” because once you start to think while playing, you interrupt the flow of muscle memory. Hopefully everyone will better understand this after they’ve tried the parlour trick below to see how slow our cognitive brain operates.

I also amended this piece with something else I wrote about stress and how and why shooting 3s as a main weapon could be fatally flawed at crunch time.

Warning.. It’s very long

January 27, 2014
Lin’s handle and shooting has been coming under fire lately. I’ve talked already a bit about how the Rox mind games has affected his shooting but I think the handle part is mental as well. Coach Lin often is thinking too much. At this level, athletes all work with patterns of many sets of automatic movements.

Sports Psychology of Mental Stress and ‘Choking’

I’m no expert but I’ve studied sports psychology for many years to understand the causality between mental stress and choking to help some of better students. Last year I talked a bit about proprioception and the body awareness of interconnecting movements by lower brain functions. Kinesthesia is another key component in muscle memory and hand-eye coordination, and training can improve these 2 senses.

An example of this type of learned action is walking. People who have had a stroke often find it very hard to re-learn how to walk again. The multiple tiny muscles and receptors in the feet and toes needed for balance alone is difficult enough to relearn, never mind managing the actual awareness of where and which big muscle groups to use in action. Often teaching ourselves how to walk includes too much upper brain interference. This is the root cause of stunted movements.

Trick to Learn how Understand How Slow Our Upper Brain Works

There is parlour trick I use to teach how to serve in tennis. It is to illustrate how slow our upper brain works so that students will learn to trust their hands to feel for the face angle in order to find the target. Take a business card and ask a friend to try and catch it between his thumb and index finger as you let it go. Your friend will never catch it unless he starts closing his fingers before you actually release the card. The reason is that by the time your friends eyes sees you release the card and sends the command to up his fingers to close, it’s already too late. It takes that long for the commands to be sent from the brain to the fingers.

This is the reason an athletes actions gets stunted once they start feeling pressure. They start by getting out of the moment away from playing with autonomic actions and executing with set groups of actions. Choking is caused by sudden realization of the magnitude of a moment; what it means to win or lose, what it means to self esteem and how the expectations will become magnified. Proprioception allows a player to dribble without thinking about it while making decisions about making moves to pass, shoot or drive. Kinesthesia requires autonomic sequential operations of fine twitch muscle groups that allows that hands to feel for the ball while dribbling and shooting. Once it gets interrupted, it can go out of sequence and actions gets jerky.

Walking across a board put between two chairs on the ground is easy so we can do it with no interruptions from our upper brain. If we put that board across a couple of skyscrapers, our upper brain will disrupt our movements because we have the real fear of death. What if we make a mistake! It’s when fear grips you that the upper brain tries even harder to command the body to make the correct movements thereby interrupting the smooth flow of operations. Just like the slow reaction time it took to close the fingers, it takes too long to react to mistakes of balance if the upper brain starts to choke with fear. It’s in this type of situation that a well trained action can go off badly. Shooting and dribbling or any fine twitch muscle memory can be disrupted to a point that shots will miss and handles can be fumbled. Dribbling or handles especially requires proprioception skills and kinesthesia because we are not ever looking at the ball. It is something totally done by the lower brain.

A Battle of Mental Strengths

The game of poker appears to be just a game of chance, but in reality, it’s far more than that. Once you add the human element, it becomes a battle of mental strengths. Winning at poker requires a personal belief in controlling your destiny. Then you must have conviction to accept the percentages and know that your hand will come. Believe that the flow of luck will come your way and take advantage of it when it does. Losing small pots is part of the flow. Remaining cool and unfazed by small losses is having a poker face to keep opponents from feeling your uncertainty. In all sports, the battle is won when the opponent starts thinking about what you are doing to them and not what they need to do to you.

Winning in basketball is not just physical. During the regular season, you can get away with winning by pure physical skills. Once you come to playoffs, the best come to the top and then the battle must be sort out by much more than physical skills. Accepting the stress factor in crunch time and playoffs is to use this human factor to create the right risk and rewards percentages of winning. As the screws get tighter, you must create ever higher percentage shots. Most players can shoot FTs with over 50-80% range of success. That distance has a very high probability for success to force your opponents to match. This is why midrange shots are so important to win championships and this is why HOUSTON will always struggle in playoffs and crunch time.

Good Coach’s Responsibility to Prevent Players from Thinking Too Much

I’ve often talked about how a good coach’s responsibility is to make the players able to play comfortably in the roles assigned to them. In this way the player doesn’t have to think too much or often and merely execute automatically to game situations. This is the unique ability LIN has to make his teammates play within their comfort zone. It is also why LIN has struggled because he has had to play out of his comfort zone, play out of position and have been jerked around with his minutes in such a way as to create as much fear and doubt in him as possible. Often, he has had to think as a coach to find solutions to defences while playing. Mchale has done everything possible to disrupt Lin’s mind and this is why Lin’s play has been below what he is capable of. Is it any wonder that Lin has shot and dribbled poorly.

By acbc


  1. Hehehe

  2. this is one sneaky ‘first post’ when acbc is the official author but you helped to create it LOL
    Well done 🙂

    Note: let me also add some formatting for easier reading

  3. I agree it can be a combination of both physical and mental. In my opinion, if you take away any mental factors, then Lin can have decent/average handles. But if you add in mental factors like fear of being benched at the first turnover, then Lin can turn into a below average ballhandler.

    In most sports, overthinking during a physical action (golf swing, basketball shot, baseball swing) often leads to worse performance. Like you said, you need to trust your muscle memory, and a good coach will encourage that in their players.

  4. What did PFV say in his video regarding Lin’s handle and shooting?

  5. Dang, I wish I could upvote an OP.

    acbc … this is what I mean, but you’ve said it way better, when I say Lin is not going to look good on box scores until he gets his team in shape because it’s his job to organize the team. If there is one guy out of 5 who is playing like crap, Lin will always have 20% of his brain on to solve that guy’s problem. That is actually very important in bball, more so than QB because in football, every person has a job unless it’s a broken play. If a broken play, like high % of NBA plays, it falls to thinking by the QB/PG. But, in football, you still only have a narrow set of options. In Bball, you have maybe 2 min, 3 if you count yourself.

    So, the resolving brain is always busy for a guy like Lin. That’s why he can make the Fields, Novaks, Parsons, Davis’s, etc. look elite. He takes away the thinking for them, and it’s a rails pass like how a good QB throw a diving catch that causes the receiver to go out of his mind into a world class diving play. It’s like a clothesline – you have to make it and you do from adrenaline and muscle instinct as you said.

    A lot of people don’t get this simple thing, that a floor leader has to handle a lot, and when a team is in disarray when Kobe is taking over and it gets worse, Lin’s job just got harder even though he’s standing behind Kobe thinking … “Crud, how am I gonna get Boozer into this for down the road?”

    Many fans think Lin is sitting back there being passive, but the competitive mind is all consumed trying to figure out the balance between Kobe ISO and the rest of the team and the run up to come. So, when Lin dishes it to Kobe, instead of thinking “oh, he’s deferring …” I’m thinking … “Oh, crud, what’s Lin going to do now … whew, Kobe is still hot, we have one more series to figure it out.” And so on … and then the game is lost in crunch because the rest of the team is cold.

  6. Nothing bad, just that it could be physical or mental, or maybe a combination of both. I just wanted to stress that it can’t be helped by the fact that lin is trying to mentally recognize and think through every teammates strengths, weakness and tendencies to best create patterns of play for them.

    Just wanted to explain how hard a task it is that lin is trying to accomplish.

  7. I think Brent should get co authorship for the fine work he did on the edit…but since he is a troll, I won’t let his name stand next to mine. Lol.

  8. FWIW, the edit was done by @Psalm234, but I will take all the credit! lol

  9. What could be? You said “it could be physical or mental”?

  10. Thanks for clarifying my ideas JT. Exactly my points. This why lin is so amazing to me. I tried to Be a playing coach on our college Chinese club Baskeball team and failed miserably. I actually sat myself down as a player because I just couldn’t do both. What lin is able to accomplish in creating patterns of play for his teammates is nothing short of amazing, this while also playing at a high level. Lin’s spacial intelligence is off the charts.

    There was one game against the Raptors in NYC (not theToronto last second 3 one) that showed how the Knicks players were starting to flow with multiple fast passes to a easy open dunk under the basket. Chandler even threw an awkward over the head backwards blind pass to a cutting Lin.

  11. I don’t think there will ever be a time for Lin to have his team sorted out, there will always has changes, and there will always has somebody do not follow the plan. I think the biggest challenge for Lin is to read and react, rather execute a plan.

    One could not formulate a plan, and hope things develope as the plan, then there will always be a surprise if something is not as planned. However, that might not be “wrong”, it is only “different”. Basically Lin will need to learn to accept the “difference” and react according to the situation. He is smart, and has been rely on his brain process too much. So when his teammates execute correctly, he looks excellent, but he will looks lost if somebody on his team don’t behave as he expected.

    I think when he had more experience, and when he learned to take the changes not as a surprise, he will be improved greatly as he don’t need to be “comfortable” to play great, and he will be more consistent that he would not rely on outside environment to perform. I guess it might be harder for a PG as part of their role is to organize the whole team, but to some point, he will need to learn to forget about his teammates.

    Not sure whether you guys read traditional Gongfu novels, there was a theory for those developing Gongfu masters, they learn some skill sets, they spend time to memorize it, then spend more time to forget about it, till then, they will become a true master, and they will respond to attacks with instinct rather than a memorized skill.

  12. Yes, when the team is in flow, that’s when Lin gets his.

    So as a Lin fan I see it like this for his monster games:

    1a. team in flow AND relying on him, Lin does >20, >5 assists
    1b. team in flow, not relying on him, Lin gets 15-20. Not burdening him with thinking.

    2. Crunch time with game in sight, Lin goes Linsanity if given the chance and team is near flow.

    3. if game is in control but team not in flow, Lin gets maybe 10-15.

    4. game out of sorts, Lin spends his time puzzling the Rubik’s cube. Sub 10.

    If the coaching staff and others are not supporting his ‘brand’, he looks like he sulks, but really, he’s hurtin’ and cannot hide it. That’s because his brain is killing him trying to solve the Rubik’s cube according to his experience, and an org like Rox are just irrational, dysfunctional so he’s trying to figure that out too.

    Greatest thing this year could bring is rational support form home office.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing that out in discussion.

    (for me personally, now it’s clearer why on all teams, I never got my stats, but we usually won if the game was close. I was ‘puzzled’ most of my sports career lol.)

  13. to your Gongfu masters story, the difference between theoretical math and organic chemistry (rote).

  14. haha.. we’re only the Editors so sometimes we provide trolling entertainment values :]

    Absolutely an eye-opening brilliant piece about Proprioception, acbc!
    Now I know how to spell it ..haha.. Keep them coming!

    If Brent and I tried to share the authorship, we have to part with some millions of our poor brain cells! lol

  15. np 🙂 you owe me 1 lunch. ha!

  16. #trollhard

  17. lol. Not exactly rote.

    Not sure whether you have ever encounter a person, that they like to follow schedules, and if things fall out of schedule, they are very very uncomfortable? If they had in their mind they need to do certain things that day, they planned it out the time, and route and sequence they are going to do those things, and all in a sudden, you ask them to pick up something somewhere, they will hate you?

    Yeah, that kind of person, they prefer planned out and structured environment, and surrounded by people and things they familiar with, it don’t even need to be nice people or good environment, as long as he knows what to expect. Then they will find a way to behave there.

    I some how think Lin is that kind of personality, given time, he will for sure to be able to figure out, even the team don’t really completely sorted out, if he got enough time to find his teammate’s pattern, if he play long enough with them and would have an expectation, he will find a way to utilize them. That’s when he is “comfortable”.

    However, there will always has changes, and he might not always got time to get to his comfortable stage, so he will need to learn to play when he is uncomfortable more.

  18. Yes, I know what you mean totally. I call that ‘tolerance for ambiguity’. I get along with people way better now when I can see that lane people want – clarity instead of ambiguity. I personally like the confidence of a posse and take what the D gives me. In life too, see how it goes and win-at-will with friends. I have a friend where if we are going anywhere, he has to know down to the 3rd right turn how we are getting there. GPS has helped us 🙂

    If you are right Lin likes order, then he cannot be at peace. I tend to think he can handle ambiguity, as he often says ‘take what they give us’. And, he’s good at creating. The people who nail order are great for execution, but they cannot easily find non-linear breakthroughs.

    So, if you are 8 on Lin needing order, I’m probably 3. How do we meet? Well, I think Lin’s Christian life helps him accept the unknowns, because there’s a body of teaching on letting go. So, if he is at an 8, then he will have many resources to accept change, chaos, and ambiguity.

    As to what’s going on with his team, I think it’s a mess right now so I give him a pass and let him have a few hot games and some busts, in the framework of what I said below. That is, depending on how the team and his coaching is set, Lin will allow certain levels for himself else he’ll just put his mindset to team glue guy. Also, as a Christian, he cannot feast for himself until he’s done his best to help others eat first, to lead. When that fails and it’s crunch time, he let’s go of that and then there’s a chance. That’s why I love a close game with Lin on the court. If he’s able, warm enough, he’ll let go of brain as acbc says and let the Kraken out for UCONN.

  19. “Proprioception”? LOL, sounds like an ad: “Ask your doctor if proprioception (TM) is right for you”

  20. Side effects include……………(in a super quick speaking manner)

  21. agree.

    i think jeremy is watching too much over kobe and finding a way to give him the ball like he did in houston. but this team still doesn’t have chemistry. i think, though, jeremy’s ability is still there. in fact his assists his quietly going up if you take a look. what i don’t like is if he starts to miss shots he stops shooting. and that’s bad.

    anyway lakers problems are in defence. they score 100+ points per game. Problem is they concede 120+. They committ too many mistakes on errors (switching the defensive assignments or they concede too many offensive rebounds for example). Some could be fixed with time just like the switching of their men, some with coaching and some changing players. Ok, hill is scoring lots of points but he’s conceding to many easy baskets. they need a defensive center

  22. From Sam Amick. Kobe Bryant says of Lin : “He’s got so much potential.

    Will Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant become a formidable backcourt?

    The Lakers’ 0-4 start isn’t as disastrous as it might look, as their last two losses (to the Clippers and Warriors) were far more competitive than their first two (Rockets and Suns). Yet if they’re going to start finding a way into the win column, they’ll need Bryant to only be back when it comes to his individual game but to find a way to mesh with the newly-acquired Lin.

    Rest assured, they’re trying.

    For Bryant’s part, he’s averaging 24.8 points per in four games while shooting just 40.4% from the field. Lin (nine points per game – on 34.5% shooting – to go with 5.5 assists) has mostly struggled, with his latest outing an 0-for-6 shooting night against the Warriors.

    It’s no secret that Bryant can be tough to play with, but Lin said their shared desire to get it done will pull them through.

    “We’re always talking,” Lin told USA TODAY Sports after the Lakers’ loss to the Suns on Wednesday. “It’s not where we want it to be. It doesn’t look like what we want it to look like. The good thing is we’re talking and we’re trying to figure it out. I’m confident we will. I want to win. He wants to win. I feel like I want to win just as badly as he does, so I think the intensity is mutual.”

    Bryant, who has talked at length about Lin’s vital role in their undermanned group, said he’s confident Lin will make all the necessary strides.

    “He’s got so much potential,” Bryant told USA TODAY Sports. “He really does. But he’s never had a teammate or an organization push him to be that. I want him to be that, but he’s got to go for it.

    “He’s probably a little shell-shocked by it all, but I think the most shocking thing for him is understanding that we want him to go. I want him to progress and to be a floor general, because he’s capable of doing it.”

    See :

  23. JLin practicing with starters. Finally !!!

    Los Angeles LakersVerified account‏@Lakers
    Monday practice

  24. LAL is The only team in the WC without a W. The other teams without a win are Magic.76ers and pistons. I think LAL are desperate for a win.

    All it takes is the first Win to spark a revival.

    Linsanity! When you least expect it.
    Only Believe!

  25. Mike BresnahanVerified account‏@Mike_Bresnahan
    Ryan Kelly is a maybe for tomorrow’s game vs. PHX. He’s been out almost a month with hamstring issues. Practiced today for an hour.

  26. No rest days?

  27. proxy for tweet … the Lakers are like the Raiders. Who will break through first?

  28. They rested yesterday. (Sunday)

  29. Any plans to celebrate after Lakers’ first win?

  30. lol. No doubt Lakers in tomorrow game:-)

  31. vid from Medina from today’s practice:

  32. Looks like Lin got his legs back:)

  33. they have to share a practice facility with the d-league team?

  34. maybe 10 pushups to get rid of my stress lol …

  35. madison bumgarner style

  36. Thanks I like JLin’s smile in the post practice interview.

  37. On the surface, I can not think of a better support for Lin than this, except maybe his family and God.

  38. what about

  39. Basically just noise to him……TBH….lol….what the ___ is that website anyway? LOL

  40. Sources tell me that Jeremy actually secretly reads jlinportal every day to carry him through the season. He likes it because they don’t have trolls so he can actually read the good content.

  41. I think that post practice interview was 9 days ago. Only the 1st scrimmaging is new.

  42. The idea of learning and unlearning is more about trusting your process. Once you’ve acquire the skills to do something, you must trust it in real time and not question it. That trust is the instinct that you talk about. It’s why I talked about how thinking about doing is too slow in competition. People talk about being in the zone, that only happens when the instincts are so perfectly ingrained that execution is automatic. The eye becomes directly linked to the hands and feet so that absolutely nothing interferes with the sequential firing of muscles.

    A lot of athletes fear using their brains because they get paralysis by analysis. But in fact football players do it all the time. They’ve been trained since childhood to use their brain to program a series of movements in set plays. The thing is to set the program in and then let it flow.

  43. Patterns are not necessarily ordered in a linear fashion. That’s the thing I’m trying to say about LIN’s spacial intelligence. Being comfortable not necessarily makes you able to create the permutations of flow of movements of 9 other people on the court. It’s the difference between seeing in 2d as opposed to 3 dimensions as well as a 4 th dimension of space time. This however must begin from a set of permutations already programmed in by LIN for each of the variables (teammates).

    It’s like playing jazz or doing abstract Art. First, you must know the rules of the game before you are able to break them. A jazz musician that doesn’t know how to play the scales is just making random noise. An abstract artist that doesn’t understand the foundations of art doesn’t know how to splash colours or lines to organize an idea.

    LIN needs to first learn the players as if he is learning scales before any creativity can happen.

  44. Ok, I will wait for the first 2 mos lol.

  45. Helps relieves verbal constipation or flatulance

  46. That should go to 100! not 10

  47. I had this posted on another thread previously…the actual quote from Palmer

    Jeremy Lin quietly has a Top 15 NBA handle.— Chris Palmer (@ChrisPalmerNBA) October 24, 2014

  48. Really. Ok. However, I saw the post-practice interview (long one on the pregame thread) he did have a smile toward the end:-)

  49. 100 for you youngsters ha ha.

  50. It’s dated Oct 23rd, as you know. What does he base this on, may I ask?

  51. Kobe needs to pass to Lin more instead of talking. Lin may have potential, but if he doesn’t get back the ball, he isn’t going to reach his potential. I rather Kobe stop talking about Lin and start passing back the ball to Lin more often.

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