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Sunday, April 1, 2018

PreGame Preparation: Observations from an NBA Walk-Through

Watching an NBA walk-through, I felt about as adequate as a bus driver trying to land the Space Shuttle. There aren't any secrets in the NBA, rather teams create preferences on mismatches and tactics they believe will work. 

In the training area adjacent to the court, Gordon Hayward was working out with heavy ropes. He is one huge man. 

I'll share some generic observations. Although a Geno Auriemma UCONN women's practice runs at a high tempo, the Celtics' activities operate in hyperspeed. You can't achieve that at lower levels, because the players lack the game understanding and experience. If Coach Brad Stevens feels "inadequate" after watching the Patriots practice, he's being modest. 

Players needed almost no individual correction during offensive and defensive activities. Professionalism speaks for itself, even on a team with a myriad of players under age 25. 

During modified 'Shell Drill', the players closed out with lightning speed. 

As Coach Stevens runs player groupings through offensive skeleton sets, the speed and power of NBA athletes shows up, as well as the major options dictated by today's NBA game. 

Assistant coaches conducted defensive segments directed against their specific opponent, pointing out the tendencies and necessities to counter them. I was interested to see how they would defend the pick-and-roll as well as off-ball screens on both the help and ball side. There was never any uncertainty as to the preferred defenses. Equally impressive was the 'power of habit'. Continuous, loud verbal communication prevailed for both the coverage and protection

The defense practiced not only the 'de rigeur' coverage but several counters. Assistants reminded players about 'tagging' cutters and high hands on the perimeter. Defensive fundamentals never depart basics. The Celtics success defending the 'three' recalls Pasteur's quote, "chance favors the prepared mind." 

Organizational integration was an obvious priority as ownership, senior management, and the coaching staff conferred regularly. 

After the formal walk-through, a number of players stayed to work on three point shooting. The success enjoyed by youngsters such as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Semi Ojeleye follows conventional wisdom. "The magic is in the work." 

Some of the Celtics' defensive adjustments worked, but DeRozan still got 32 during the Celtics 110-99 win last night and they struggled to contain Lowry off staggered screens. But their closeout work held the Raptors to sub 25% three-point shooting. That is no accident. 

Perhaps most remarkable, Coach Brad Stevens came by and thanked everyone for "coming out to practice" before he left. 

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