Deni Avdija avoids overthinking in bounce back performance against Warriors

Mar 15, 2022 | Deni Avdija

The start of the Wizards’ West Coast road trip was not kind to Deni Avdija as the 21-year old went scoreless in the first three games shooting a combined 0-for-10 from the field. It was the first time Avdija had gone scoreless in back-to-back games, let alone three in a row, in his young NBA career. On Monday night in San Francisco, Avdija had a decent bounce-back performance against the Warriors with 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting including two 3-pointers to go along with four assists in 29 minutes off the bench.

“I want him to relax. I think he’s kind of in his own head right now, hasn’t played well, puts a lot of pressure on himself,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. desired before the game. “Just let the game come to him. Stay aggressive, but don’t overthink it. I think he needs to understand that we have confidence in him, his teammates have confidence in him, and I want him to have a level of confidence in himself.”

Avdija opted to go to the Chase Center on Sunday night, an off day for the team, to get shots up with player development trainer Joe Ajike. He was also the last player on the court still shooting after the Wizards’ morning shootaround the next day and essentially Unseld asked him to wrap up to catch the last bus back to the team hotel. The extra time Avdija put in, paid dividends on this occasion.

“My best psychologist is the gym,” Avdija explained after his double-digit showing. “That’s what relaxes me, that’s what brings me my calm and gets me back on track. It’s something that I do and it helps me.”

“He was a lot better, he was more relaxed,” Unseld evaluated after the game. “I don’t think he was pressing. He shot an airball and that happens, but he didn’t let it affect him. He came right back and stayed the course, which is a good sign. Continue to play with confidence, play your game, and you’ll be alright.”

The second-year forward alluded after he was figuratively dragged off the court following morning shootaround that he was overthinking things in previous games compounded by being too hard on himself.

Deni Avdija Fans – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

“It’s all in my head,” Avdija shared. “Sometimes, stretch like that happens. You got to push through, it’s part of the business. It’s a long season, sometimes it can happen, but I just keep working. I was here shooting the night before, the coaches do a great job of really giving me confidence and believing in me. Sometimes, that’s all you need. I told myself, ‘Deni, that’s what it is, you got to keep going and just play hard, just compete.’ I’ve done that for so long so it feels good to be back.”

“It’s hard, I’m coming from a culture that’s really tough on ourselves,” Avdija provided background. “I’m half Serbian and let’s say we play with a lot of emotions and sometimes it gets to me. Sometimes I’m overthinking and it happens and you play bad and you think to yourself, ‘what did I do wrong, how do I improve it?’ Sometimes we go out there and just play and play hard and not thinking too much. Being hard on myself is still part of my growth as a player and I’m way better than what I was.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Although it may seem counterintuitive, Avdija credits breaking out of his scoring slump to not thinking as much against the Warriors, which is a common obstacle for younger players as they adjust in the NBA. Recently acquired Kristaps Porzingis could already readily make similar assessments about Avdija. As someone who had to make a similar adjustment in playing in the NBA after starting overseas, Porzingis could be a fine resource for Avdija as the former starts his second month with the Wizards.

“He’s a young player and you tend to overthink things and get in your own mind and get in your own way,” Porzingis reasoned about Avdija’s recent stretch. “At the end, you have to simplify everything. Put in the work behind closed doors and then when you play, play free, as free as you can. Try to make the correct play, the right pass, just keep it simple for yourself. Trust your instinct and trust your skillset. Then live with the result, both good or bad. Once the game is over, you want to look at film and see things that you can do better, do that, but you also have to disconnect your mind. You cannot be 24/7 on this game otherwise you will just drive yourself crazy.”

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