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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Basketball: The Blank Canvas

Imagine we walk onto the freshly resurfaced court with our returning players as a blank canvas. But they have blank stares because summer vacation magically erased their basketball minds, but not their athleticism or skill.

It’s like we received new computers with better processors and video cards but no software, but no bad sectors and no buggy programs.

Where do we start? We get on the same page with shared philosophy and culture.

Teamwork. The discipline of execution begins with collaboration. We’re listening intently and sharing ideas. The only bad question is the one not asked.

Process. We’re committed to focus, improving through better habits and repetition at the highest possible tempo. We come on time to work on form, flips, and consistency with purpose.

Separation. As a team, we’re together, but we play to get individual and collective separation offensively and to deny it defensively. That demands high levels of fitness, communication, and situational awareness.

Separation starts with footwork and cutting. That demands spaced repetition, self-testing, and constructive feedback. Note that we haven’t touched a ball yet.

Ball movement. There’s no point in cutting if you’re never getting the ball. We say basketball is a game of player and ball movement, passing and cutting. But you have to give up the ball. I say, “water the flowers” because the bigs stop running when you refuse to fill their cups. “Movement kills defense.”

Spacing and screening. “Spacing is offense and offense is spacing.” - Chuck Daly.  We add the ball. Force the defense to defend larger areas, open passing and driving lanes, and make it hard for them to double team, get deflections, and steals. Spacing with paint touches and ball reversal distorts defense, wears them down, and forces closeouts. Against pressure, screens and back cuts create mismatches and separation because of spacing. The screener is the second cutter. Screening means opportunity not drudgery.

The big picture. We haven’t added defense or dribbling or Xs and Os. We add individual offensive building blocks, because offense starts with winning individual battles. Teach one v one, two v two, and three v three (within constrained areas) after practicing finishing and shooting. We can have the most wonderful score but fail with players unable to play their instruments.

I want players to examine their canvas, their palette, and their intended subject. Then, we’ll create art.

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