NEW YORK – Erik Spoelstra calls it an “irrational confidence,” a player like Dion Waiters who, no matter the night, no matter the situation, is not afraid to let it fly with the game on the line.
“That’s one of his strengths for sure,” Spoelstra said. “He oozes with confidence. Where we can help is funnel that to help us in the proper context of team basketball. But certainly you want guys that have incredible, sometimes irrational confidence against good defenders and he has that.”
That side of Waiters was on full display Tuesday when he made a straight-on, 3-pointer to defeat the Warriors, 105-102. The shot went through with less than a second to play. Waiters took the inbound pass after Golden State tied the game with 11 seconds to play and never gave up the ball, breaking down Klay Thompson to free himself for the shot.
For Waiters that shot could come at the end of any game whether he has made 25 of his last 39 as he has his last two, or was going through a stretch in which he was 15-of-53 as he did earlier this month.
It is just something ingrained from the time he hit the asphalt while growing up in Philadelphia.
“Just growing up in the city, coming from that type of environment, having that self-confidence,” he said. “You need it no matter what you do and that’s what I got.”
Waiters, who enters tonight’s game at Brooklyn coming off back-to-back, career-tying 33-point games, has seen plenty of players through his years shy away from the big shot.
And he does not understand it.
“I’m pretty sure you can’t sleep at night knowing you had the opportunity to take that shot and you shied away from it,” he said.
But it takes a certain type of player able to deal with the consequences either way.
“That’s where names are made, taking that type of shot and even if you miss it at least you have confidence to take the shot,” he said. “You’re going to miss and make in this league as long as you have the confidence to take that last shot.”
Goran Dragic, his backcourt mate, agrees.
“Those shots are tough but you don’t have to be scared if you miss the shot,” he said. “There always are two sides, if you make the shot you’re a hero, if you miss the shot everybody is going to talk.
“That’s every guy’s individual persona. Maybe he’s not comfortable in that situation. Maybe his confidence is not high at that moment.”
Spoelstra has seen a handful of players during his 22 seasons in Miami, including Tim Hardaway, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, with that makeup.
“It’s a very fascinating fine line of will, of pride, of borderline irrational confidence,” he said. “Guys that can create shots against committed defense at the end of the game, the more I’ve been around the game that’s almost a requirement.”