Thursday, January 12, 2012

Delivering an outlier great performance

One thing that strikes you in seeing Brandon Paul do post-game interviews - he has his head screwed on right. Having the game of his career, he starts out talking about his early turnovers.  They were dreadful.  He had four in the first few minutes.  That he could play in a truly divine state thereafter is a lesson.  You have to take the bad with the good.  Suppose you do that.  What should you expect moving forward about future performance? 

If the outlier great performance sets the norm for future play, Brandon Paul is the next incarnation of Michael Jordan.  Supposedly, there were many NBA scouts in the stands for Tuesday's Illini-OSU game.  They were there to look at other players.  If Paul can replicate his performance yesterday, and do so with some regularity, he is a lottery pick, perhaps the number one choice in the draft.   The scouts have to be thinking that too.

In one of the interviews I watched, Paul talked about forgetting entirely the last play, or the last game.  It will have no direct impact on what's immediately ahead.  To always be in the moment, and perform admirably on a consistent basis is something well beyond ordinary human capacity.  Most of us can't do it.  To always be in the moment and perform admirably on occasion is still remarkably high quality stuff.  Staying in the moment instead of getting ahead of ourselves or waxing nostalgic is very had to do.

There is a question on a team of how much the individual should just blend in and how much he should assert himself.  This question has been vexing for Paul.  He clearly has the most athletic ability, evidenced by his vertical leaping.  But he has been rather inconsistent.  DJ Richardson has been the more consistent shooter.  Sam Maniscalco is the only senior starter and the point guard.  So both of them should be leaders on the team.  Recently, Joseph Bertrand has produced outlier excellence.   On that basis he too should be a leader.  These are reasons for Paul to blend in.  But Maniscalco and Richardson have been hurt and Bertrand started to look over matched in the game.  On paper, Ohio State was the better team.  It definitely was Paul's time to shine.

Were you to forecast what's next for Paul, you'd be right to include his entire performance this season as the basis, not just the Ohio State game.  On offense he's been erratic.  His defense, however, has been more consistently good.  His defense keys his offense.  Excellence on one end of the court allows him to relax at the other end.  The good offensive performance comes after some defensive excellence, seemingly allowing him to no longer feel he has to prove himself so he can just play.  It would be great if he could do that at the start of the game.  Alas he's human and thus too self-conscious at the outset.  He's apt to make bonehead plays that way and one bad turn leads to another.

A sensible forecast predicts regression to mean. Paul must intuit that.  And yet he's also witnessed the full upside of his own potential.  It will be fascinating to watch how he deals with this the rest of the season.    There are probably basketball skill things he can improve on to increase his consistency on offense.  But I suspect for him most of this will be a mental battle, the outcome of which will be determined by what he really wants and how he learns to live with himself when he is unsatisfied with his own performance.

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