Thursday, June 21, 2018

Basketball: The Basic Unit, One-on-One

We have many ways to practice alone - Around the World, Mikan Drill, Rick Pitino's Quarters, 251Beat the Pro (a.k.a. Bill Bradley), Celtics 32, Eldon Campbell, Flips, Bradleys, 90 seconds (total score of 3s, midrange, and layups in 90 seconds), and more. 

But basketball's binary unit is one-on-one. And James Harden or not, I'm not talking about 24 seconds of dribbling into a shot. Work on your one-on-one game from the spacing line (3 point line), midrange, and the post. One-on-one teaches defense, too. 

Operate best within your "circle of competence," what you do well. 

From Farnam Street. Circle of Competence - know it and grow it. 

Add constraints. "Good players need two dribbles, excellent players need one, and elite players don't have to dribble." Add constraints like playing off two dribbles or one dribble and playing off the stationary catch, off the moving catch, and attacking closeouts

Shamrock Shake. Frank Shamrock was an MMA fighter who believed in better, same, worse. Practice against someone better, compete against someone similar, and teach someone weaker. Many strong players grew up playing against older, better competition. 

Go To and Counter. If you can't explain and execute your 1) "Go To" and 2) "Counter" moves, they don't exist. 

Four Ways to Score. You want to become a scorer? Develop four ways to score. You can score at the three levels - inside, midrange, and perimeter. You can score off the catch or off the dribble. Putbacks and free throws are great; a putback with a free throw is even better, three points and a foul on your opponent. 

Read the defender. Are they off or tight? Are they showing you a front hand or foot to attack? Do they have the athleticism and/or size to guard you? 

First step quickness. Especially in girls' basketball, first step quickness wins. Expose the defender by beating them sequentially with the shoulder, hip, and ball. Play in an athletic, low position. "Low person wins." But separation isn't enough; you have to finish (score). 

You're on the Island. In one-on-one, you can't call for a lifeline or audience help. It's all you. Bill Parcells advises, "confidence comes from proven success." 

"Draw 2." Elite players "draw two," forcing another defender to help. Elite players find a way to finish or dish to the helper's assignment.  

Commitment. Be an exercise in professionalism every session. You're investing valuable effort and time. 

Quality beats quantity. Leverage your strengths (Don Kelbick) and minimize your weaknesses. Make moves your own, your signature skills. 

Rule of 2s. It takes two minutes to learn a move, two weeks to develop, and two months to use it productively in games. As Gregg Popovich says, "pound the rock." Frustration and skipping steps fail. 

Practical magic. Mix it up. Develop the jab, rocker, rip, combination moves, shot fake.

What's your (NBA) skill? In baseball, they say what's your OUT pitch. Teams will adjust to you and you must adjust to their defense. 

How good are our one-on-one skills...never good enough...

Lagniappe: One-on-one from half-court with 4 dribble limit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Truth Searching: Basketball Writing

"You're entitled to your own opinion; you're not entitled to your own facts."

Separate opinion and fact. "The Duke Blue Devils have the most passionate basketball fans in America." No doubt the Cameron Crazies believe. Most passionate or most annoying? That's opinion. 

Anne Lamott begins Bird by Bird, "Good writing is about telling the truth." Bob Woodward's MasterClass makes the same point. He tells the story of Washington Post writer Janet Cooke, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1981, later rescinded because she fabricated the story. The newspaper apologized. Tell the truth.  

Stephen King says there are four kinds of writing - bad, competent, good, and great. Shakespeare and Hemingway are great; we aspire to be good, which is possible. Hemingway shared, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Where do we start? Think back to our earliest basketball memories, Johnny Most on the radio with "tricky dribbles" and "fiddles and diddles," or grainy black and white of Russell and the Joneses and "Havlicek stole the ball." Remember the goal hung on a plywood backboard on a backyard tree or the only memory of sixth grade basketball (a fat lip).  Frame the great debates of Russell and Chamberlain, the miraculous UCLA 88 game streak, or Dave Cowens delivering a 'real' foul to Mike Newlin. 

Whether it's King or James Patterson, they say, "advance the story." King develops a situation, narration, and dialogue. LeBron James faces his next decision. He refuted the maxim, "you can't go home again" with a Cuyahoga championship. Will James change his address to LA, the foundation of a possible Superteam with LABron, Paul George, and thorny trade for Kawhi Leonard? We know how LeBron thinks; he tells us. “I always say, decisions I make, I live with them...Warren Buffett told me once and he said always follow your gut...All your life they will tell you no. And you will tell them yes.”

What's next? Decisions determine destiny. The NBA draft makes instant millionaires not instant success. NBA gurus seek windows into a prospect's soul. Patriots assistant Mike Lombardi used a less direct approach: "I had a girl in Cleveland that all her job was, was to call her sorority sisters from different campuses around the Southeast Conference and ask questions about the players. Her information was way more valuable than any coach. Guys will tell the girls... we’ll get to the story on that. She ended up being the number-
one resource for me in terms of character. Character assessment is the number-one challenge to the job."



James Patterson says, "the pages turn themselves." On the court yesterday, we walked through the "football" series. Other "page turners" stood out. Players write the story. 

-3 sets a backscreen for 5. 
-A pass to 5 at the elbow opens give-and-go with the 4. 
-4 has isolation from the wing. 
-An overplay on 4 opens a lob with the clear out.
-4 and 5 have the "two-man game." 


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Basketball: The Idea Factory

"Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up." - Stephen King in On Writing

One great reason to read a lot is cross-pollination. A cardinal lands on your garage, then RECALL the wild turkey that did. Why couldn't the next visitor be a pterodactyl or at least a turkey vulture? In Empire of the Summer Moon, S.C. Gwynne shares that the Texas Rangers learned to track Comanches by observing circling vultures. Are vultures circling OUR program? What would they be? 

The vultures could come from above (administration), within (selfishness, our own stubbornness, or weakness), or below (lack of fresh talent). Chuck Daly said, "the wolves are always at the door.

We've discussed the pre-mortem examination, the 'what could go wrong' look before the leap. Can we steal from other sports?

Nick Saban uses pilates to promote flexibility in his football team. Nothing stops us from doing the same. 

Prior to his Triple Crown "Impossible Dream" baseball season, Carl Yastrzemski began intensive training including lifting weights. In those days, many people believed weight training hurt flexibility. Yaz responded with an MVP season, lifting the perennial doormat Red Sox to an American League pennant. But Free Agency became the catalyst for both training and the Steroid Era. Weight training is a staple for every serious athlete. 

Mindfulness was the province of eastern mystics and other "snowflakes." Except that Olymic champions and NBA stars like Kobe, Michael, and LeBron adopted the practice for sustainable competitive advantage. Google's Meng Tan brought it to the public with Search Inside Yourself

Football uses a variety of pick plays from basketball. What signals can football send amidst the noise, realizing 1) we have three-level scoring (like the three levels of the passing game) and 2) defenses employ man or zone coverage? 

First, we aren't limited to one forward pass. And we can use a player as either a blocker or a receiver. 

Just as in football, we can put our receiver in motion, and then "leak" her out of the "backfield."

We can show the same formation, then run "rub routes" (brush screen). 

Or we can change the alignment (e.g. into horns) and run similar screening action and get a mismatch even if we don't get a free cutter. 

Brad Stevens discusses the impact of nutrition, weights, and the training room on Jayson Tatum. 

One of our jobs is leveraging the impact ideas that are right in front of us. Forget about Old School and New Age. Just find a better way. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Basketball: More on Editing Plus Double Lagniappe

"The movie is made in the editing room." - Ron Howard

In his MasterClass, Judd Apatow shares the nuances of editing comedy films using test audiences. In a feature film, he may have 200 jokes; half go bust. Some go too far, others not far enough. He replaces non-starters and maybe another fifty work. The producers constantly review and revise. Steal from other disciplines.

During a basketball game, we have sixty to eighty offensive possessions. Too many fail. They need editing...better transition, motion, sets, quick hitters, special situations. Sometimes we 'recast' and edit the portfolio. Too many defensive possessions lack concentration, anticipation, reaction, and execution. We may have to dump our favorite actions that aren't working.

Like Apatow, use data to our advantage. How efficient are we at scoring in transition, midrange shots, cutting, pick-and-roll, isolation, on baseline out of bounds plays, and free throws? What shot quality are we generating out of motion and sets? Measuring should replace feel

Two priorities rule:

1. Do well what we do a lot.
2. Do more of what works and less of what doesn't. 

Point Guard College has divided high quality shots. 

Researchers have exhaustively scored shot quality. We need easy.

Maybe there's something even simpler.

3 - open layup
2 - open jumpshot
1 - contested shot 
0 - turnover 

We want the highest possible average "quality" shot per possession. Fall in love with easy. 

Chris Oliver shares complex Spain action out of a BOB. There's wing entry into a zipper cut followed by ball and back screens. 

Double Lagniappe: Drill to beat the double team

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Basketball: Move the Needle with a More Professional Approach

Professionals find ways to MOVE THE NEEDLE. We can smash the glass and reset the gauge to full, but that doesn't make it so. 

What separates an amateur from a professional approach? Steve Kerr (eight rings) focuses on the trio of mindset, mentors, and culture. Don't sleep on the mental toughness of Kerr, whose father was murdered by terrorists. Kerr worked in broadcasting after his playing career, and developed a dossier of technical and tactical insights that he brought into coaching. 

Consider Kevin Durant, who awakens and asks himself, "how do I get better today?" Professionals seek continuous improvement, a learning mindset. Author Stephen King writes, "amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."

Professionals relish coaching and recognize that coaching is not criticism. Surgeon and author Atul Gawande hired an experienced surgeon to oversee his surgery and comment on his process. "Surgical mastery is about familiarity and judgment." Basketball mastery is about vision, decision, and execution. Becoming better at anything shared publicly demands growing a thicker skin while transforming coaching into excellence. 

Of violin instructor Dorothy DeLay, Gawande writes, "DeLay also taught them to try new and difficult things, to perform without fear. She expanded their sense of possibility." Professionals seek to extend what's possible. 

In his epic book, On Writing, Stephen King shares that his wife is his best critic. Writing and competition mean overcoming failure. "By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing." Keep going

In Legacy, James Kerr explains the success of the legendary All-Blacks rugby squad. They understand humility. "Sweep the sheds." They appreciate character. "Better people make better All-Blacks." They prepare. "Train to win." They build their legacy. "Plant trees you'll never see." 

During Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine training, we learned the "Bruce Jenner protocol." Jenner was an Olympic gold decathlete. What mattered?" To win gold, you need the right diet, rest, proper training (exercise/practice), supplements (medication), and motivation, an overarching purpose. Professionals do whatever it takes

In his MasterClass, writer David Mamet shares that he has a phrase engraved on any new wristwatch, "what hinders you?" What's keeping you from success? 

Farnam Street shares their ideas about professionalism. Key words include commitment, competence, consistency, probabilities, and reality


From a screen the screener play, mini-loop

Happy Fathers' Day to all the dads out there. Being a father takes little talent; becoming a day is a skill. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Basketball: Materiam Superabat Opus, Doing More with Less

Materiam superabat opus. “The work was better than the material.” Do more with less. 

Even Bear Bryant had setbacks. Alabama struggled in the late sixties after winning national titles in 1961, 1964, and 1965. In 1970, the Crimson Tide hosted USC and got embarrassed 42-21, as the Trojans rolled up 559 yards of offense. African-Americans scored all six USC touchdowns. An Alabama assistant noted that USC could have made the score "whatever they wanted." Some credit that defeat as promoting integration more than any politics. Alabama closed practices before the 1971 rematch in LA and emerged with the Wishbone and a 17-10 upset. 

Ryan Holiday discusses the "canvas strategy" where you make others look good by preparing the way. One of two Leonardo 'signature' paintings, the Mona Lisa, is an oil painting on wood. The finished product is greater than the material.

Master chef Gordon Ramsay became a co-owner of the restaurant, Aubergine, in 1993. As a young chef, Ramsay learned how to cook great food with inexpensive cuts like oxtail and lamb shanks. He says he didn't serve a filet mignon in his restaurant for three years, because he couldn't afford filets. His restaurants have now served over one million beef Wellingtons.

Former Marine LouAnne Johnson (Dangerous Minds) earned a Master's Degree in teaching English. She authored My Posse Don't Do Homework about the struggles and successes teaching underprivileged students in California. The Hollywood adaptation of her story became a blockbuster hit in 1995. 

McFarland, USA tells the story of Coach Jim White and his cross-country program in a poor farming community. Without prior track coaching experience, White earns the trust of local students and families and creates a cross-country dynasty. 

Coaches have the capacity to transform lives. Ideas get traction as action. 

As we learn, we appreciate what is possible. We succeed when our teams grow their game and overcome their limitations. 
Obstacles are unavoidable - segregation for Bryant, relative poverty for Ramsay, Johnson, and White, and lack of formal education for Leonardo. Success rewards us when we beat those barriers.

The ball screener does double duty nailing the defensive rotation. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Basketball: Cutting Remarks (Cut to Improve Your Options)

Better cutting and passing makes easier shots. Duh. But does the young player understand the delicate dance of cutting and passing? I contend that most young players know far less than we think they do, mostly because there is much learning available. Here's a 'survey' of cutting concepts. We'll always find more. 

Basketball is about helping your teammates. Cutting opens up space and teammates. 

90 percent of the individual game is played without the ball, so players must become effective without the ball. Great players like Klay Thompson economize on the dribble by getting open off cuts. Also higher points per possession belong to scoring off cuts and through scoring on shots off the catch

Play purposefully, knowing where not to go also matters. 

One of Jay Bilas' Toughness principles is setting up your cut, but that can also include 'running' into the cut off the pass. Here is the cutting excerpt: 

Set up your cut: The toughest players make hard cuts, and set up their cuts. Basketball is about deception. Take your defender one way, and then plant the foot opposite of the direction you want to go and cut hard. A hard cut may get you a basket, but it may also get a teammate a basket. If you do not make a hard cut, you will not get anyone open. Setting up your cut, making the proper read of the defense, and making a hard cut require alertness, good conditioning and good concentration. Davidson's Stephen Curry is hardly a physical muscle-man, but he is a tough player because he is in constant motion, he changes speeds, he sets up his cuts, and he cuts hard. Curry is hard to guard, and he is a tough player.

Think "change of direction, change of pace." You can do either or both; you can even walk into a cut. 

Read the defenders. They are likely to 'give' you something (see above). Be specific. When overplayed, take the defender higher then go away from the ball (back door, above, left).

Sometimes you go to the defender to get away from the defender (above). 

Use "obstacles" to open your path (teammates, other defenders, officials). 

Is your defender a head turner? When they lose sight of you, make your cut. 

The passer has to see you to complete the action. You can run all over the gym, but you won't get the pass if the ball handler doesn't see you. 

"The ball is a camera." You might be OPEN, but the ball has to find you through the traffic. 

You can "automate" cuts; if the defender moves above the 'spacing line' (above), then you cut back door and the passer should recognize this.

Real estate is about location, cutting about relocation (relocation, relocation, relocation) to get a better option. 

You can cut to score with a basket cut, cut to an open space, or cut and replace yourself or cut to move defenders. Sometimes a cut (above) opens you and moves the defender (above).  

I've noticed more NBA teams adopting this action (above), with a 'handback' after a pass, then cutting off the opposite post. 

Coaching the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau liked this action, high ball screen with the drive pressuring x4 (4 relocates high for the elbow jumper) and x3 (help off the corner 3).

Put defenders to sleep by doing nothing, then cut hard. 

Don't gum up the works. NEVER cut to an occupied post. Do NOT cut and obstruct a driver. Finish your cuts, especially back door. The perfect pass can be a turnover because you deceived the passer.