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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Containing the Star Player

Defending the star has limitations. Acquiring three "stars" starts superteam construction. History reminds us of Chamberlain, West, and Baylor, or Russell, Cousy, and Heinsohn, or Reed, Frazier, and Monroe. The examples continue endlessly. It continues today, although Golden State has a quartet of stars - Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Green.  

Teams struggle to contain the "center of gravity" when offensive dispersion spreads the defense over a solar system of talent instead of focusing on the hub and dealing with the spokes.  

But at lower levels of play, stars can dominate. Do we accept "the star gets his" and defend the team or contain the star and challenge the 'cats and dogs' to beat us? 

First, review our defensive easy baskets, one "bad" shot, and "hard 2's." The amalgamation of team defense seeks to:

1) Pressure the ball
2) Deny the middle
3) Deny penetration (dribble or pass)
4) Challenge shots without fouling
5) Rebound assertively

Focus on containment versus stopping the star. Elite players 'draw 2' and pass to capable teammates create Scylla or Charybdis dilemmas. Substituting layups (2 points per possession) for contested shots isn't the answer.

LeBron James excels for many reasons, but he 'volume scores' in the restricted area. 

But he's such an effective passer that collapsing on him frees up perimeter shooters, eliminating an "easy" option. 

If we want to contain stars, we need to know where and how they score. The Celtics lead the league in perimeter (three-point) defense because of their willing switching and length. Even the best scorers have shooting degraded with pressure. One "universal" is that nobody scores without the ball. Total denial (chest-to-chest) will limit some players frustrated into offensive fouls or who don't cut and use screens well. Blitzing to force them to pick up the dribble sometimes helps provided a team has superior communication, help, and recover skills.   

Other options include zone defense to limit some drivers, doubling and digging the post for interior scorers, and 'junk' defenses (box and one, triangle and two) to provide additional help. We choose our poison. 

I believe that it's worth the effort to identify and develop defensive stoppers starting in Middle School. Reward them with additional playing time as incentive and commit to defensive mindset. As a practice, I reward the best defender with a starting position. That paid dividends at the high school level. 

One of the great upsets in college basketball happened in 1957 when North Carolina beat Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in the National Championship. The Tarheels fronted and surrounded the Jayhawk star limiting him to only thirteen field goal attempts. 

Randy Sherman shares his take on defending the star at Fast Model Sports

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