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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Basketball: Separation Advice for Players

It's not rocket science. Every coach knows this information. I guarantee that young players don't

Listen up, Youngbloods. "Basketball is a game of separation." Offenses want it; defenses deny it. The ball is the gold in Fort Knox. Separation is your security system. Protect the gold or steal it. 

With our MasterClass theme, teach techniques to get (and overcome) separation. 

Five players, one ball. Sharpen your greed to score, create separation without the ball (the eighty percent) or with the ball (twenty percent). "Ball skills" demand more time to develop, so you'll overweight time with the ball. Either way, it starts with footwork and geometry with defenders. 

Think "change of pace and change of direction." 

Without the Ball

Read the defender. What is your relationship (positioning, vision) to the defender? And what is your position relative to obstacles (screens, officials) that collaborate with your goal? What does the defender see? 

Take high defenders higher and cut back. Take low defenders lower and front cut. 

When a defender helps up, relocate. 

"The ball is a camera." Open the driving lane and create opportunity for yourself. 

Another version of the same concept. 

Inhabit your defender's "headspace" walking lower, you become temporarily invisible. 

Defender plays off? Cut at her and react to their movement. Restated, attack the defender to get separation. 

Got a screener? 

Read the screener. 

Head-turning defender? Defenders must "see both." Make them pay when you become invisible. When baseline drivers beat their man, rotating bigs CAN'T see you...get to the open spot. 

With the Ball

Do you have the dribble or have you spent it? You attack with your dominant side, your non-dominant side, or combinations (e.g. double crossover moves). Develop a consistent move and counter. I saw one unstoppable freshman girl who only used hesitation, crossover, and combinations of both. 

Dominant side: 
  • Speed
  • Hesitation dribble
  • In-and-out (fake crossover)
Non-dominant side:
  • Crossover
  • Through-the-legs
  • Behind-the-back 
Ball screens are another discussion. Screening isn't "grunt work." The screener is the SECOND CUTTER. Screen to score. 

If you want the ball, work for it. 

Lagniappe: Via Chris Oliver @BBallImmersion 

Floppy into Stagger *(Multiple actions) 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Introduction to Your MasterClass, Basketball: Five Hearts

Basketball differs for each of us - challenge, distraction, obsession. Do what James Patterson says, "make the pages turn themselves" as you fit the puzzle together. Never forget why you love the game. 

Game understanding finds solutions amidst basketball symmetry. Pete Newell reminded players, "get more and better shots than your opponent." Offensively, that implies more points per possession, including offensive rebounding. Defensively that suggests:
  • disallow quality shots
  • "one bad shot" implies high defensive rebounding percentage
  • get more possessions via forced turnovers and steals
Five hearts beat as one. Winning starts with small victories in individual battles. As players 'discover' those keys, better results follow.

Constantly acquire new knowledge and concepts; edit and refine into useful bites. A Turkish proverb informs us, "measure a thousand times but cut only once." Clarify and simplify. We can't use everything, nor should we. 

Individual excellence competes with mastery of teamwork. Lao Tzu wrote, "Mastery of others is strength; mastery of yourself is true power." Spiderman's uncle echoed, "with great power comes great responsibility." 

Chef Thomas Keller says, "the techniques are the most important part of any recipe." We say it different ways:
  • Great offenses spread you out; great defenses contain you.
  • "Great offense is multiple actions; great defense is multiple efforts."
  • Win the battle of (achieving and preventing) separation. 
How we communicate, how we learn, how we practice, and how we play reflects our commitment to each other

Usher Raymond IV advises us, "study your mentor's mentors." For him, that meant studying Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly. For me, that means studying John Wooden and Dean Smith. But Shakespeare advised, "This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Be yourself. 

Master your footwork, balance, and maneuvering speed. Constantly acquire and refine your tools. How good is your footwork? 

Watching is not seeing. Reading is not learning. Hearing is not listening. Be aware about our thinking. Develop an eye for the long game. See something in a player that others don't see...the grinder who becomes your stopper or toughness in a future rebounder. Find the group that will...not...quit. 

Ask better questions. "What am I missing?" Keep looking for a better way. "What does our team need now?" Help them find their voice. Help them embrace a truth of style and substance that can wear opponents down

Director Mira Nair says the director (coach) needs "the heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant." Regardless of level, we face adversity and need resilience. Nobody gives you the best way. Keep searching. 

Good ideas come from everywhere. Capture the answers between the lines. But we have to get on the court to learn our craft as players or coaches. 

Lagniappe: Cut hard to get free...a matter of life or death. 
Lagniappe 2: The game changes...but only with our RAM - recognition, acceptance of change, and management of change. 
Lagniappe 3: Dated but discoverable (Carolina multiple defenses 1991)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Basketball: Philotimo...We Need More

Words matter. Basketball carries its own language - ICE, blitz, Iverson cut, zipper, drag, brush, hammer, floppy, lock and trail, and legions more. 

The world uses powerful words without precise meanings, like philotimo, the Greek word without clear translation. “Doing the right thing,” Pinelopi Kalafati, a doctor, told me. “Loving and honouring God and your society,” said priest Nikolas Papanikolaou. "Striving for perfection,” answered actor Kostis Thomopoulos. “Stepping out from your comfort zone to help someone in need..."

McArthur's speech to graduates at West Point references "duty, honor, country" another rough approximation. 

Philotimo in sport encompasses selflessness, honor, service, community, and sacrifice. "The saying “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind when trying to explain Philotimo, as it’s easier to give examples of when you have experienced Philotimo, rather than trying to define the word itself."

Bob Costas noted, “It’s the Greek spirit of doing what’s right and what’s honorable, even when one’s own interests and maybe when one’s own life are placed at peril.”

Philotimo conveys worthiness of spirit and tradition. We need more of it. 

Lagniappe: @BBallImmersion shares a variation ("wrap") off a dribble handoff with the non-receiver scoring off a basket cut.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Reciprocity Rings, "Basketball Is Sharing"

We might underestimate the otherishness of our peers. Adam Grant's Give and Take elaborates a world of givers, matchers, and takers. Effective coaching is a giving profession. 

In his Wharton class, he challenged students to form RECIPROCITY RINGS, to help others achieve one desire, for themselves or others. Reciprocity rings force communication and actions to benefit others. Some students said that wouldn't happen because Wharton students are all takers. 

But a funny thing happened; students collaborated, helping each other. Public exposure encourages takers to give. “Being altruistic is often seen as ‘good’ and being greedy or selfish is not,” according to Duke behavioral economist Dan Ariely.

Grant writes, "We have social norms against sounding too charitable," Wuthnow writes, "such that we call people who go around acting too charitable 'bleeding hearts,' 'do gooders'." We have prejudices against people who are too good.

Grant also writes that Wharton students don't want to look vulnerable, referring to a Dean's description as Game Face. To get help, even in a Reciprocity Ring, you have to ask for it. 

In the hospital where I worked, nurses contributed "paid time off" to coworkers, especially those with serious health problems like cancer. They sacrificed some of their vacation to support a colleague in need. 

We've all taken a practice or a game for colleagues with unavoidable absence or conflicts. Most coaches welcome other coaches at practice, camps, or simply to discuss their approaches and teams. But we have to ask. 

Outstanding teams sacrifice individual achievement for victories. I call this "letters over numbers." Some players take "discounts" to increase a franchise's chance of winning. 

Phil Jackson famously said, "basketball is sharing." 

Don Meyer answered questions at his web site, asking nothing. "The Reciprocity Ring is a vehicle for creating an environment where the natural impulse to help can be cultivated and supported." Reach out and help colleagues. 

Lagniappe: BOB toss back downscreen into three-pointer

Friday, July 19, 2019

Basketball: Bill Bradley Quotes from "Values of the Game"

Bill Bradley is one of two players to win an Olympic Gold Medal, Euroleague title, and NBA championship.* (other at the end of article)

Banker's son, Princeton graduate, NCAA tournament record scoring, Rhodes Scholar, twice NBA champion, Hall of Famer, author, United States Senator. Bill Bradley has the resume'. 

He wrote Values of the Game. Here are some quotes: 

"With his education and upbringing, he was committed to finding some way to serve other people." - Phil Jackson

"Winning was fun, but so was the struggle to was a clear example of virtue rewarded."

"The passion of solitary practice was matched by the joy of playing team ball." 

(On Rodman): He uses his body only after he uses his brain and his eyes, and then he makes a second, third, and fourth effort." 

(On Chamique Holdsclaw): "Her sheer love of the game becomes infectious." 

"I sensed that the deals were offered because I was a "white hope" and not because of my playing ability." (Bradley did not take endorsements.)

"I never wanted to lose simply because I hadn't made the effort." 

"I stacked chairs in towers to practice shooting hook shots (over a taller player)." 

"I kept shooting until I had made twenty-five in a row from each spot." (Both set shots and jump shots)

"The by-product of those countless hours of practice was a self-discipline that carried over into every aspect of my life." 

"The biggest myth in basketball is that of the natural player."

"They weren't beat physically; they were beat mentally." - John Havlicek

"Off-season is when major leaps occur in a high school player's abilities..."

"It takes real character to derive enjoyment from the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the basket." 

"The difficulty of preparation contributes to the sense of triumph."

"Mastery of others is strength; mastery of yourself is true power." - Lao Tzu 


Quiz answer: Manu Ginobili

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Basketball Podcast Notes: Will Voight on Basketball Immersion

Chris Oliver interviews Angola coach Will Wright, a product of NBA (video coordinator initially) and international coaching staffs. He's preparing his team for play in China in a tough grouping including Italy and Serbia. 

Tactics? "Your system starts...on your players...put those guys into a position to succeed." In preliminaries they play teams multiple times and make smaller adjustments with limited practice time.

G-league experience. "You can't be rigid in your approach (with a very flexible roster)." 

  • "Even the best players in the world have weaknesses...simplify it for your players." 
  • Take your opponent out of his strength. 
  • This puts accountability on players. You can't tell a guy to stop penetration and then yell at him when a guy makes a jump shot. 

"Five man shell is better." There's no four-man shell in the game. Where's your rotation on drivers (with a big) if he's not in the drill? 

"If it doesn't apply...why are we doing it?" 

Any defense...should be compact. Offenses try to spread you out. Five players are moving to the ball. Defensive anticipation can help keep players from getting out of position to react back/close out. 

It's a war of spacing versus shrinking. Where does the help come from? Is it really best to bring opposite side defenders to the ball, exposing the diagonal skip pass? For example, if penetration from the wing happens...the on-ball player (abandons) rotates one player over. 

"Peel switching." Think of a clock. Guards are looking "weak side." (My graphical representation) This produces shorter rotations (by more players)  and limits the skips. It works because of superior communication (an Angolan core strength). 

Voight explains that rolling out peel switching against Serbia (B teams) they produced 22 turnovers by challenging the natural outlets against penetration.

How can you compete against the teams in YOUR league? Find a competitive edge. Maybe you can be competitive when you have no right to be...

The NBA game is very different from college...size, skill, spacing. Trying to play NBA basketball without the core domain skills isn't so helpful. Expose yourself to more styles of play to generate more ideas. 

Key defensive realities. 

  • 1 GUARD YOUR MAN. We don't have to accept lesser individual defense. Today's defender mentality (may) allows being beaten. 
  • 2 Better technique matters. Do you "get fat" or "get skinny" on the screen? (We call that beating the screen, attacking into the ballhandler.) 
  • 3 Shorten rotations. 
  • 4 more rotation disadvantages rebounding.

Why are we doing what we do? In pro ball, coaches use timeouts to set offense and in college to set defense. Why? Do we have enough transition off free throws? 

"A bad shot in a two-for-one situation" likely still carries mathematical edge. 

Young players lack experience and know how but we can gradually introduce our ideas to build their game IQ. I'm thankful for the summer participation we have, realizing our players have many alternatives. 

Lagniappe: stressing the 2-3 zone defense

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Basketball: Core Concepts - Angles plus Lagniappe on Zone Offense

"You're in the arena." - Richard Nixon (on politicians) 

In his MasterClass, investigative journalist Bob Woodward asks what we don't know. Approach study asking ourselves what more can we learn? Have good evidence and information to support your story. That won't protect us from criticism. 

Play smart, play hard, play together, have fun. Angles frequently determine the outcome of action. Understanding angles shows your basketball IQ. Today, let's share simple concepts on angles. Young players don't know what we think they know. 

Run wide in transition. Running wide spreads the defense and creates better passing angles and good angles to attack the basket. 

Post entry from wing. Against the hard front, "swing and seal" gets and edge. 

Guards often must relocate to get a better angle for post entry. Dribbling to below the foul line extended usually accomplishes this. 

In every youth game and many high school games, defenders (e.g. x1) cheat out and steal "wing to top" passes. Offenses have clearing the post out (to drive) or better spacing and back door cuts for 1. 

Scorers finish from multiple angles with either hand off either or both feet. We practice "Hinkle Layups" during most summer sessions. Tip: starting players with just footwork (no dribbling), e.g. left-right-left for right-handed layups can help. This was especially valuable working on reverse layups from the left yesterday. 

Getting open on the help (weak) side. By sliding lower, 3 gets below the 'visual field' of x3 opening opportunity for a skip pass or back door cut. 

Run to a spot. Gretzky would say, "go to where the puck will be." We've all said it a 1000 times, "run to a spot" between the attacker and the basket. 

Screeners screen from the side, angle, or even flat (especially "drag screens" in transition). 

When players understand angles, it simplifies actions for teammates. 

Lagniappe: "Core concepts" zone alignment by Randy Sherman and Radius Athletics. 

Tom Izzo likes his "Fist Down" set against the Syracuse zone. 

Here's "Boeheim versus Boeheim"

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Basketball: Professional Approach, How Bill Bradley and the William Sisters Did It

Be professional.

Game 161, the Red Sox led 8-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning with a man on first. Revenue aside, it was a meaningless game. A sharp single to right sent the runner to third and the throw was wide. But left-fielder B.J. Surhoff backed up the play. Hustle didn't determine a playoff position, draft choice, or contract bonus. Surhoff embodied professionalism. Respect. 

Serena Williams' MasterClass described her childhood summer routine. Daily practice 9-11 and 1-6. Saturday workouts 9-12. Sundays were off. Twenty-three grand slam titles later, the effort shows. 10,000 hours or not, practice paid. Not everyone agrees. "Johansson argues that deliberate practice is only a predictor of success in fields that have super stable structures. For example, in tennis, chess, and classical music, the rules never change, so you can study up to become the best."

Not a great 'natural' talent, Bill Bradley created an athlete. "Managing to get his hands on the keys to the high school gym, he created for himself a schedule—three and a half hours of practice after school and on Sundays, eight hours every Saturday, and three hours a day during the summer."

Kobe Bryant took 1000 shots a day in the summer. Larry Bird shot 500 free throws a day before school. The road to success travels a four-letter path, WORK. 

The Coursera class on study advises the Pomodoro technique, twenty-five minutes of work and a five-minute break. That allows a mental 'recharge' before attacking the next segment. It also advises spaced repetition (not cramming) before the test and self-testing to prove knowledge. We regularly remind, "trackers are winners." 

Serena Williams recommends playing with superior players. UCONN and other college women's programs compete against a men's practice team, highly selected to challenge them. The men who compete against the Phoenix Mercury know they have to compete. "If you are not bringing it against the Mercury, you will get beat down."

The Williams sisters had a great teacher, their father. He knew his daughters weren't as strong as most men. He told them they had to throw "like boys." Serena says, "I can throw the ball just as far as any quarterback." 

Excellent players don't "go back to basics." They never leave. 

Maybe you won't need a routine with deliberate practice and lifelong learning to get to the top of your field. Do you want to bet your career on it? 

Lagniappe: "Confidence comes from proven success." - Bill Parcells

Lagniappe 2: High-low actions can open up interior scoring. 
Lagniappe 3: "Roll and replace" creates other opportunities.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Basketball: "Tunnel Vision" Is Real

Performance intersects vision, decisions, and execution (VDE). Great. How does that help us?

Advancing the ball, we employ wide vision to spot options and we use narrow vision (focus) to execute...targeting the rim, catching the ball, delivering passes, and so forth. 

Under duress, we get tunnel vision. Tunnel vision limits or alters our perception and exposes us to grievous errors. The death of Amadou Diallo in 1999 exemplifies tunnel vision. Officers misidentified him as a suspect in a serious crime, leading to his death in a hail of bullets. He was unarmed. 

Under stress, the brain's stress center triggers a series of events leading to an adrenaline (epinephrine, norepinephrine) surge increasing breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and focus on 'the threat'. 

It happens in basketball, too. Wide vision vanishes and narrow focus vision and behavior take over. Peripheral vision disappears and with it, our choices. Players force shots, take situationally-inappropriate shots, dribble or pass into traffic, or don't pass at all. 

How do we expand our vision and slow the game down
- Awareness that we are all vulnerable to stress-mediate tunnel vision.
- Employing techniques (e.g. conscious focus on breathing)
- Preparation for high stress situations
- Mindfulness that reduces stress hormones like cortisol 
- Basketball Decision Training (Chris Oliver) to speed recognition and execution
- Learning 'cognitive biases' that impact decision-making  

The Israeli Air Force developed software to improve pilot decision making. Intelligym programmers have modified a system for basketball training. The manufacturer contends that both performance improvement and less degradation over time, "money time effect" enhances play. 

The "poor man's version" might be asteroids

With even a limited number of players at summer workouts, we work on concepts from different spacing situations to help players recognize patterns and opportunity. Overcoming tunnel vision creates challenges and chances for big conceptual gains. 

Lagniappe: Legendary pitching coach Ray Miller advised, "work fast, throw strikes, and change speeds." 

Lagniappe 2: The extra pass. Via @HalfCourtHoops 
Lagniappe 3: via @HoopsSean Passing out of the roll. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Basketball: Mental Toughness with Serena Williams Notes

Everybody knows what mental toughness is. My definition: "Immersion in doing your best without worrying about results degrading your process." Don't let the moment become a distraction. Everyone won't like you or your best work. And sometimes our best work won't succeed. 

Championship teams and championship players have it. Everyone wants players with it. 

Resilience follows mental and physical preparation as night follows day. Lack of study and understanding spawn mental mistakes. Poor conditioning, fatigue, and lack of repetitions birth underperformance. Mentally tough players like Kawhi Leonard or Steph Curry earned results. 

Coaches want players who stay engaged, possession by possession, playing consistently regardless of the score or the opponent. As Don Meyer said, "It's not who you play, it's how you play." 

Pressure is unavoidable. Improve mental toughness through controlled breathing (mindfulness) and working on COTE skills (confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm). That includes an optimistic vocabulary. I can and I will, not I'll try. Mental toughness manages pressure. 

Notes from Serena Williams' MasterClass chapter on Mental Toughness:

"Tennis is 70% mental."

"How are you getting into your opponent's head and make them think they're not going to win today?"

Physical fitness is a prerequisite to mental strength. 

"Practice scenarios" (to build mental toughness). She pretends she's serving 15-30. 

She uses a mental trick, "In ten years, no one's going to remember this match."

"...Realize it's not the end of the world...take it one point at a time." (possession by possesion)

"Take it one moment at a time." ("Next play.")

Because she won a set ONE TIME down 0-5, she knows she could do it again. 

"Move on to the next match." 

Injuries have to get past it. She plays eleven months a year and knows that injuries and fatigue are part of the process. 

"For me, it's about how you recover when you're down."

She wants to show character and endurance constantly. 

"Someone with nothing to lose can be a very dangerous opponent." 

"What can I do better?"

"If you're angry, you're not going to think clearly." 

"Troubleshoot why you missed the shot. Don't get frustrated. Solve the problem." 

She admires Kobe Bryant and LeBron James for their mental toughness. 

Lagniappe: Which NBA players do you think are mentally tough? Do you gravitate to the stars or the dirt dogs (e.g. Marcus Smart)? 

Mental toughness questionnaire