Monday was a day of highs and lows for Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale.
On one hand, his and Jazz vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey’s alma mater Baylor won the NCAA championship.
“Those guys worked hard all year,” O’Neale said. “I’m proud to be a Baylor alumni, and I’m just happy they were able to pull it off.”
On the other hand, the Baylor victory came not long after the Jazz were bested by the Dallas Mavericks in a game that saw O’Neale shoot 0 of 8 from 3-point range.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks on the shooting front for O’Neale. While he shot 41.6% on 3-point attempts through the first 43 games of the season, in the last seven games he’s shooting just 19.2% from deep and on Monday, the Mavericks didn’t seem to have any problem leaving him wide open at the arc.
Despite the cold stretch and his visible frustration as he walked off the court after the final buzzer in Dallas, O’Neale is not concerned with how things are going. After all, this slump comes after watching many of his teammates go through the same thing this season.
At different times through the 2020-21 campaign Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang have all felt the pain of a shooting slump, but the message has always been the same for every player: Everyone goes through this, so just keep shooting.
O’Neale said that the only thing that he can point to as a reason for the shooting woes are the expectations he sets for himself.
“Just me putting a lot of pressure on myself to make those shots,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I’ve been doing this my whole life so I just need to relax and have fun with it and be myself.”
It’s actually not that normal for O’Neale to take eight shots from 3-point land in one game. He averages about half as many 3-point attempts per game, with his services on the defensive end being the more valuable asset for the Jazz.
So when O’Neale looks at a stat sheet, he’s less concerned with his shot percentages and more concerned with how he impacts the game in other ways. Last season he told me that an assist can often get him a lot more hyped up than making a shot can. So it’s really easy for him to look past a bad shooting night.
“One game is not going to break a whole season or destroy my confidence or what I’ve built this whole time,” O’Neale said. “So, 0-for-8, 8-for-8, 4-for-8, I really don’t care. I’m going to keep shooting regardless.”
On to the next one.