Daye Dealing with Slump

‘Even if I Miss One, I’m Going to Shoot the Next One and Try to Make It’

Austin Daye's signature shooting touch has been elusive so far this season.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
HOUSTON – Lawrence Frank has simple advice when a player’s shot isn’t falling: “You’ve got to think, ‘OK, even if I’m not making shots, how can I impact the game?’ You may not make shots, but there are other areas of your game, for all of our guys, to understand how you can be impactful.”

The advice might be universal, but the application is more difficult for a player almost wholly defined by his shot-making. Austin Daye, for example.

It’s been a ghastly start to the season for Daye, who averaged 18.5 points in two preseason games but has managed 27 total in 13 regular-season games. He hasn’t made a 3-point shot yet, missing 13, and if he misses his next attempt of any type he’ll be shooting 20 percent. He’s also dealing with the effects of a sprained ankle, still an ugly purplish-red though less swollen, suffered Jan. 6 at Philadelphia that sidelined him for a game.

“I have a shooter’s mentality, so even if I miss one I’m going to shoot the next one and try to make it,” Daye said after Tuesday’s shootaround at the Toyota Center, where he had gotten in a complete enough workout to have soaked his jersey with perspiration. “I try not to dwell on it too much. I know I’m in a little slump right now, but I’ve gone on streaks where I’ve hit 11 (3-pointers) in a row, so missing 13 right now is not a big deal. It happens to everyone. I’m just trying to stay mentally focused and stay ready.”

For what, or for when, he can’t be sure. Daye got an opportunity to play in Sunday’s game with Golden State when both Damien Wilkins and Will Bynum were out. He missed his first three shots, all perimeter jumpers, before converting on an offensive rebound late. That could be the best remedy of all for Daye – get one of those easy ones out of the way upon entering the game rather than letting the anxiety build, so that when a shot finally presents itself it feels like Game 7 of the NBA Finals rides on its outcome.

“That’s exactly what it is,” Daye said. “I’m always getting two or three jump shots missed and then I’ll make one. Hopefully, if I can get one to go early, then I’ll feel good about myself and I’ll get back in the rotation and hopefully help the team win.”

But that’s the Catch-22. He can’t get back in the rotation until he starts producing in some ways, and the opportunities to produce, he knows, will be limited until he starts turning in productive outings.

“It is limited, but when I get the opportunity again, I have to be ready,” he said. “I feel like I’m pressing a little bit. I’m not playing as relaxed as I was before. It’s frustrating, but it is also something a lot of players have to deal with. I’m not an excuse type of person, so I don’t have any excuses. But I should be able to find some other ways to stay on the floor.”

Advice has come from Ben Wallace, who told Daye he might have been passing up shots he’d normally take and make. Well, he put it more bluntly than that: “He said get my head out of my butt and start knocking down shots,” Daye grinned. He also talked with Frank on Monday night, he said, and together with extra shots and some videotape study in which he said he spotted a few things that needed tweaking, he thinks a breakthrough is at hand.

“You’ve got to realize and recognize the problems you’re having with your jump shot,” he said. “If you’re leaning back, coming too far forward, not snapping your wrist enough. I’ve been watching tape and seeing things I’ve been doing kind of wrong. I’ve just been trying to correct it. … I think when I’m out there, I’ll be able to play relaxed.”