Basketball and the Night Watch.
Run and gun style of basketball has become one of the most common features on the American sport’s scene. It is a style that usually produces a lot of points and excitement among the fans. Yet, it has also become somewhat of a justification for the acceptance of a lot of sloppy play and terrible shot selection. Because of this, the great potential that the style of play possesses is often obscured by a plethora of basic errors and just poor overall play. It has also caused a general decline in the defensive abilities of a lot of teams as they become more and more willing to give up two-point baskets in exchange for threes. This doesn’t have to be the case because the short-comings of the fast-paced style of basketball can often been attributed to the failure of many coaches to grasp a complete understanding of how to obtain all of the benefits of a quick strike offense without the need for sacrificing solid basketball principals.
When I was a high school coach and had to decide if we should play man or zone, I did a comparison of the two defenses and decided it would be a smart thing to emphasize the areas where they overlapped. I then selected three areas where they were similar and made them our daily points of defensive emphasis. They were the following:
I would give this speech and talk about these three principals where I would ask one of the players to repeat what I said back to me. They would invariably come up with three things I mentioned, slow the ball down, not allowing straight line passes, and keeping the ball out of the high post. Then I would ask the others if they agreed or disagreed, and usually they would all concur.
I would then inform them they were wrong.
This would cause a great deal of confusion because they were all dead certain that I had in fact stressed those three key points. Having gotten their attention, I would tick off those points on my fingers, and ask them what they had forgotten. I would then continue counting the following points on my other fingers, to stress quick ball movement on offense, the need for direct line penetration, and for getting the ball into the high post.
This is not a facetious point. Too many players and their coaches regard basketball as being two things, offense and defense. In reality, the game of basketball is one thing only and teaching your players to think about how the two different aspects of the game are actually integrated has a lot of benefits, and it will help coaches to better define their roles and therefore help the players to better understand those roles.
Defense starts the offense
All offense begins with the procurement of the ball. There are only four ways of doing this and Coaches only need to emphasize the three that make your team better defensively - forcing turnovers, creating steals and getting the rebound. Having the players fully realize that your offense can only start when you gain control of the ball will help them to better understand the need for carrying out their defensive assignments. We have played pressure defensive exclusively for several years and have always had problems teaching our kids the importance of recovering to the gaps, and putting so much pressure on the ball that the offensive player will feel the need to put the ball on the floor (where we have help procedures in place) and not just allowing the ball to sit and think about what he/she needs to do. They need to make the ball nervous because it is always the calm and composed players who cause your team the most problems. Nervous players make mistakes. They fumble the ball. They let you steal the ball. They make bad passes and take bad shots.
Most players do not like to box out. Coaches waste a lot of time doing box out drills that never carry over to the game. Teaching defensive rebounding as the part of the offense allows the coach to stress the idea that procurement of the basketball is the first and main requirement of any offense. It is therefore irresponsible not to box out your player if he/she attempts to move toward the boards. It is the player’s job to understand that every time the other team shoots, the ball belongs to us. Any qualms about the courtesy and politeness in forcefully placing your rear-end into your opponent’s body need to be forcefully dispelled. What is socially acceptable in everyday life often does not apply when it comes to procuring the basketball. Your players need to consider it the height of rudeness for the other team to even consider that a rebound of their missed shot belongs to them. In other words, they need to be disciplined and taught not to be so rude. (Of course, the rules reverse again when you are on offense. In that case, boxing out and trying to keep you from procuring the ball is becomes the rude behavior.)
This also require a rethinking on the part of the coaches about what they need to stat. Coaches need to know who on their team is allowing the other team to gain second chance opportunities, which player is allowing straight-line drives to the basket, and also which player allows is allowing easy passes to be completed. There needs to be a perfect understanding that a coach has a responsibility to the player to put him/her on the bench and keep them there until they learn to both properly defend the dribble and the passing lanes and to keep the offensive player that they are defending from getting a rebound as they will never become the best player they can be if they are continually allowed to shirk their responsibilities.
Offense should benefit the defense
There also has to be an understanding that the offense needs to help the defense carry out its duties. Too many teams get ran off the floor without having a slightest clue as to what they were doing wrong, or how often they abetted their own destruction. For example, continuing to shoot three pointers when they are not falling is the quickest way to go from one point down to ten down when long rebounds leading to run-outs occur. Many teams will start forcing up bad shots or making risky passes when they are trying to cut a lead when the situation actually requires the opposite, better ball movement, valuing the basketball, only taking wide open shots, and an effort to get the ball inside to draw fouls.
One problem is that a lot of people feel that the value of ball possession goes out the window when you are playing an up-tempo offense. This need not be the case. There will be some sacrifice as you will allow the other team a lot more possessions than you would if you slowed the game down, but there needs to be compensations in place to counter the negative effects. There is no need for sloppy play. The need for good ball-handling, good passes and good shot selection needs to be strictly enforced. What needs to be done is actually a speeded-up version of ball possession, that is don’t turn the ball over and don’t take bad shots.
There are several things can help your team mitigate what you lose by going faster. For example, besides the things just mentioned, you should attack the rim hard and open up the post for the drop-off pass. This is not only the easiest way to score, according to NCAA study it also gives you the most points per possession. According to the study, inside shots are valued at 1.2 points per possession while free throws produce 1.4 points per possession.
Wide open three pointers produce 1.02 points per possession compared to the .86 ppp produced by mid-range jumpers. A recent NBA study states that 3s created by a solid assist are made about 15% more often than self-created shots. Analytically, this means that coaches need to emphasize getting fouled on lay-ups and shooting 3s off inside out passing and while not totally disallowing the self-created 2-point shot, at least minimize those shots. These studies emphasize the fact that quick, hard and direct-line drives are needed along with great passes to produce great shots. Doubling or flooding the weakside boards, as most shots on the side end up on the opposite side at a sizable margin, will also help your increase the efficiency of your offense and help to offset, what you might expect by simply hanging on the ball to keep it out of your opponent’s hands.
Playing fast does not mean playing stupid
Playing fast never means to play foolishly. Too many times when a coach emphasizes the quick strike, the players hear that it is okay to force up shots that should never have been taken and think that it’s ok to take a lot of unnecessary risks with their passing. A real emphasis should be laid on the idea that attacking quickly does not mean to force up bad shots and make dumb passes. Attacking the rim helps because your team will be able to get to the foul line and use the stoppages to help control the pace of the game. Playing basketball quickly doesn’t have to be a risky endeavor where all structure is thrown to the winds. Teaching guidelines where it enforces the idea that there is a method to the chaos you are trying to create in the other team’s huddle is of the utmost importance.
It is actually kind of like playing ball possession basketball at 78 speed as ironic as it may sound.
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