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Monday, February 17, 2020

Basketball: Mastery, Do Well What You Do a Lot (Cooking with Curry)

"I shoot a hundred threes to end every workout." - Steph Curry

What do the most successful teams in sport or business do well? They dominate their space, becoming category killers

"Do well what you do a lot."

Seek mastery. Dan Pink, author of Drive, reminds us that motivation flows from autonomy (self-direction), mastery (extreme competence), and purpose (service of a bigger picture). Money motivates, but it isn't the greatest motivator. 

Pink writes, Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

Apply what you learn to what you do. 

Steph Curry advises understanding that hip loading is suboptimal if your knees are too far forward.

Some shooters have trouble getting the ball off the palm and onto the finger pads. 

Curry targets the flanges on the front of the rim, getting the ball over them.

Curry starts with "perfect makes" in front of the rim...just inside the back volleyball line. He makes five in a row and takes a big step back, repeating four times, making twenty-five from each radian. He then repeats aligning with the wings and corners. 

Study others but study yourself, too. Take video (cellphone) and study your mechanics - footwork, balance, quickness, shot readiness, release point, follow-through. 


Become a category killer. "Do well what you do a lot."
Motivation flows from autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
The greatest motivation comes from within.
Study others but study video of yourself.
Own your mechanics.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Basketball: Style Never Goes Away

"Style never goes away." - Marc Jacobs

Great players and teams have style, flair, duende, signature play. The 1986 Celtics, "Showtime" Lakers, and great Spurs teams won with skill and style. Style connects teams to fans. 

Leverage your skills to produce style - whether power, balletic grace, or combinations. 

Style has to work. Style flows from substance

Style worships wearing the frock of fundamentals. Flash without finish, excitement without execution is empty. 

Pete Maravich's habits, his hardwood obsession created mastery. The points, the passes, and flair, not the floppy socks and hair were the style. Pete Maravich didn't initially win over teammates but fans embraced him. 

Style starts with habits. Style demands study.  Know the past and the present. James Clear's Atomic Habits aligns habits with identity, working through systems to get results. Style needs process to get results. 

Stephen Curry wasn't always 'Steph'. An undersized guard says he had an inconsistent and troublesome low release. Relentless focus on his ballhandling, shot mechanics, and game study made him. 

Young players, find a few actions to master rather than the mediocrity of many. 


Style connects teams to fans.
Style needs study and process.
Style doesn't replace skill, it augments it.
Style links to fundamental mastery.
Master a few techniques first over the mediocrity of many.
Style never goes out of style.

Lagniappe: Chris Oliver @BBallImmersion shares 'ghost screen' concepts

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Basketball: Better Process Cuts Mistakes - Point-and-Call and Habit Scoring

Reduce errors via process. Japanese transit developed a system of pointing and calling to enhance safety. It engages multiple senses to overcome 'unconscious' behaviors and reduce errors. Operators 'point' at targets like speedometers and verbally confirm data.

Transit errors fell dramatically. In Atomic Habits, James Clear shares how accidents reduced 30 percent in Japan and 57 percent in New York with pointing only. 

I do something similar prior to leaving for work, checking for wallet, keys, and cellphone, the latter needed for an Electronic Health Record (EHR) Security Access Tool. I can't work in the office without EHR access.  

But basketball? Errors occur with blown assignments, with free throw defense, substitutions, and offensive and defensive inbounds plays. 

Free throw defense

Don't trust, verify. Have x2 point to the free throw line, saying "shooter" and x3 point to the biggest rebounding threat, saying "pinch." 

Substitutions. We can't afford missed assignments. After each substitution, have players "point" to their cover and say their number. 

BLOB defense

One of our core principles is to cover the blocks and elbows. But players still forget. We can do better by having players point-and-call, eliminating all chance of initial misalignment. 

The additional advantage of point-and-calling is habituating communication. 

Habit Scoring. We can score habits as positive, negative, or neutral (+, -, =). Habits, like shot selection, can be great, poor, or so-so. Call attention to a player's habits, like their intensity during a drill. Have a coach or injured player score focus - high, low, or average on a given drill, like box drills. This could encourage better average performance or as Alan Stein, Jr. says, "average speed." 

Do the same for other habits with apps like Fabulous (image above) or track your morning routine. "Win the morning; win the day." I study (MasterClass), write (blog), read (at least a chapter), and work CME (continuing medical education) every AM. 

We make our habits and our habits make us. Take control of our habits.
Reduce errors consciously with point-and-call low tech. 
Don't trust, verify.
Track habits and their effectiveness-plus, minus, neutral.
Maintain a higher "average speed."

Lagniappe: What is your edge?

Lagniappe 2: Ask, "How can we do this better?"

Lagniappe 3: Signature moves to score from three levels. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Basketball: Write and Edit Ruthlessly (Junk the Junk)

The coach is the keeper of the story. Excellent teams get on the same page. And the coaches edit the narrative and continually rehearse better possessions. Our script must: 
  • Edit out poor shot selection (quickest path to improvement)
  • Reduce turnovers
  • Stop fouling bad shots and perimeter shots (no free stuff) 
  • Minimize transition points    

Find your voice as a team. Developing an identity is a must. 

The Avengers are a team not a "hub and spokes" design around one character...although Captain Marvel stands out.  

Unexpected combinations leave an impression in many domains - writing, art, or sport. For example, in Firefly, Joss Whedon combines cowboys and space. What if we reconfigured Hansel and Gretel as the predators and the witch as the victim? 

Blend unexpected fabrics as "great offense is multiple actions." NBA teams can struggle defending the pick-and-roll. It gets harder defending screen-the-roller action below (Spain pick-and-roll). 

Art teaches us to expect the unexpected. 

Deliver unexpected twists to our story (e.g. backdoor cuts, slips, screen-the-screener)

Screen-the-screener lob SLOB. 

Junk the junk. When stuff that doesn't work, abandon it. Along the way this season, we've shown that extending our defense has often hurt more than it helped. 


Find better offensive and defensive possessions. 
Make excellence the only agenda.
Build unexpected combinations. 
Deliver the unexpected.
Junk the junk (kill your darlings).

Lagniappe: Basketball maturity isn't only about age. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Basketball: Overcoming Fear

Fear changes us. Pressure degrades performance. Nervous players drop passes, fumble, and travel. They struggle against pressure defenses. They throw the ball away. They forget assignments, rush shots, and miss free throws. 

Courage balances fear and recklessness. How do we get there? 

Get better. In his MasterClass, astronaut Chris Hadfield says, "the best antidote for fear is competence." Coach Bill Parcells believes, "confidence comes from proven success." 

Change our hardware. Strengthen resilience with mindfulness - shrinking the brain's stress center, the amygdala. In Legacy, James Kerr writes about player response to pressure. "Switch from ‘Red head’ — tight-inhibited, result-oriented, anxious, aggressive, overcompensating, desperate; to ‘blue head’ — loose, expressive, at the moment, calm, clear, accurate, untasked."


Find personal tools. Tangible methods to reduce pressure, from Performing Under Pressure:  

- Think of high-pressure moments as a (fun) challenge, not a life-or-death threat (Be excited, not nervous).
- Focus on the task, not the outcome. (Trust the process)
- Practice, practice, practice. (How do you get to Carnegie Hall?)
- Be positive before and during high-pressure moments. (Attitude matters)
- Listen to music — or make some. (Activating or calming music)
- Create a pre-performance routine. (Have your warmup)
- Squeeze a ball with your LEFT hand. (Stress ball)

Survey the list and pick two that attract you en route to building your COTE of armor (confidence, optimism, tenacity, enthusiasm). 

There's no magic formula for stress-free play. As a player, control the time and effort input for your athleticism, skill, game knowledge, and resilience. Unless you change, it's unrealistic to expect change. 

Points of emphasis: 

Decrease fear to enhance performance.
- Practice builds competence to degrade fear. 
- Mindfulness changes brain structure and function. 
- Choose simple tools like music or a stress ball to relax. 

- If you don't change your habits, it's unrealistic to expect better results. 

Lagniappe: Coaches, what's your share? 

Ken George has a YouTube channel. 

Lagniappe 2A: Adjust to changing defensive coverage.
Lagniappe 2B: Practice with purpose. 

During last night's "offensive development segment" we worked on pick-and-roll, including giving some post players opportunity to be PnR ballhandler. We also spent time on creating and identifying mismatches to get "Mouse in the House." Third, we continue to work on getting separation with staggered screens. 

Lagniappe 3: Identity parallels behavioral change. Don't let selfishness become normal.

"The more deeply a thought or action is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change it. It can feel comfortable to believe what your culture believes (group identity) or what upholds your self-image (personal identity), even if it's wrong. The biggest barrier to positive change at any level - individual, team, society - is identity conflict." - James Clear, Atomic Habits 

If a player believes that excellence is her identity, she commits to confirmatory behaviors (practice). Excellence reproduces itself. 

Lagniappe 4: Newellesque (Big Man Moves) reverse turn into jumper via Don Kelbick

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Basketball: Design a Series of Creative Choices - Offense, Defense, Tempo, ATOs

Everything starts with fundamentals. Use them for a series of creative choices. 

Creative choices build off vision, decision, and execution. Coaches put players in position to succeed by prioritizing actions advantaging their skills. The video shows Sabrina Ionescu's ball screen reads. 

Creative choices appear in a myriad of situations - offense, defense, tempo, ATOs and special situations. 

Offense. "Be good at what you do a lot" and "run actions that are hard to defend." Combine them to run a lot of what is hard to defend. Here's my short list: 


I like actions that create multiple options. This Tom Thibodeau "Bulls" set starts with a high ball screen and creates two other viable choices, an elbow jumper for 4 and a corner 3 if x3 helps. 

Back door cuts

Here are my favorite two back door actions. 

Staggered screens

This Iverson cut launched a run to the state finals, generating 5 points on two fourth quarter possessions. 

Screen mismatches (small screens big) and get "mouse in the house"

Pistons 15

Box 25 / Box Quarter

Defense: Defense has many options to create confusion. Here are just a few:

- Changing defenses
- Showing one defense, running another (show 2-3 and run man from it)
- Choice of how much to extend the defense (quarter to full court)
- Whether to trap out of the base defense
- "Man within zone" - Some players "confuse" zone with passivity. For a couple of possessions, we've run Man 2 from our 51 defense, which is 'simplified' triangle and 2 to "force" stronger coverage of 3 point shooters. 

50 series defense (board game die 5 looks like a 2-1-2 zone)

Tempo. Many coaches like to change both defenses and tempo out of timeouts. If we show zone for a possession and the opponent takes a timeout. We often will show zone and play man for a couple of possessions. If we had multiple zone defenses, that might be a better option. 

ATOs. ATOs often lend themselves to using actions that have either worked earlier in a game or that we haven't used at all. We invest fifteen minutes of our ninety minute (twice-weekly) practice on ATOs/Special Situations and it's time well-used. 

Lagniappe: The "Hesi" 

"Basketball is a game of separation." Hesitation moves have the advantage of not having to change hands, while lulling defenders into a second of indecision. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Basketball: Shrinking Performance Gaps

Sport and business coach Alan Stein, Jr. shares a wealth of life changers. I'm on my third listen to this podcast. 

Shrink the PERFORMANCE GAP between our best self and our current self. We know how to eat, how to sleep, and how to exercise. That guarantees nothing. Eclipse where know how crosses our know that. 

Honestly self-evaluate and work "action items," the realistic dos. If I say, "exercise more" and choose run five miles a day, I'm setting an impossible bar (for my joints). Walking two miles is possible. 

Stein suggests three points that I shorten to PICK, STICK, and CHECK. He says to pick one habit, do it at least 66 consecutive days, and keep an accountability log - "shine a light on it." He modifies it using the suggestion, "never miss twice," giving us some leeway. 

Our best requires better self care, better listening, and better communication. Leading others demands we be our best. 

When I was in Pulmonary/Critical Care Training (1980s), we talked about The Bruce Jenner protocol (now Caitlyn Jenner). Becoming an Olympian requires five key inputs:

1) Exercise/training (skill)
2) Rest (sleep)
3) Diet (healthy)
4) Supplements 
5) Motivation (will) and people who care about us

That applied to lung disease rehabilitation patients, but also to us. 

Why can't we all get there? Stein argues "comfort level." We're comfortable where we are. Author David Mamet engraves a slogan on the back of a new watch, "What hinders you?" It reminds me of the famous Walt Kelly Pogo cartoon, "we have met the enemy and he is us."  


- Shrink performance gaps...KNOW THAT vs KNOW HOW
- Use action items.
- Be specific in followup. PICK,STICK, CHECK 
- Be our best to lead others.
- What hinders you?


Practice what seduces you.
- Pick-and-roll
- Staggered screens
- Mismatches via screens "mouse in the house" 
- Back door plays

Lagniappe 2: What about BOB? 

Speed dribble to half court, return 2 on 2

Lagniappe 4: Find a model to copy. Aim high. 

I loved Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier as a kid. I wasn't crazy enough to think I could carry Jerry West's shoes (or any NBA player). Reminder: Shrink the gap between KNOW THAT and KNOW HOW. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Basketball: "Coach What Needs to Be There" - Change is Hard

Judy Blume, MasterClass

Coach what needs to be there. How do we know? Self-scout. 

Probably a quarter to a third of points allowed occur because of defensive mistakes and errors. 

Strong opponents take advantage of our turnovers, lazy transition 'D', poor on-ball defense, and weak help and rotation defense. When we cannot contain the ball, it forces help and rotation. 

Find recurrent themes separating success and failure
- We allowed too many layups against the press. We reduced and pulled the press back.
- We had too many turnovers after defensive rebounds. 
- We shot poorly; we increased shooting practice even more.  
- We're still missing too many three point shots. We need to be more selective. 
- We can't contain the dribble. We're mixing in some zone defense. 

Be flexible. 
Although we are second in our twelve team league in scoring, we are in the bottom half defensively - excessive fouling, too many transition points, inadequate help/rotation, and stubborn overcommitment to man-to-man defense. But we're trending better regardless of the strength of the opponent. More players are giving more. 

Make your game art
- Spacing is art. 
- Ball movement (paint touches and reversals) is art. 
- Cutting and passing is art. 
- Attacking the basket is art. 

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs shares (coaching well), "It's about looking at things and transforming them into something else." 


- Coach what needs to be there.
- Self-scout.
- Find recurrent themes.
- Be flexible.
- Make the game art. 

Lagniappe: Better understanding, better playmaking. 
Lagniappe 2: When do you 'greenlight' three-point shooters? UNC's Roy Williams required sixty percent makes in practice. Setting a threshold makes sense for players who don't get, "It's not your shot, it's our shot." 

Lagniappe 3: Here's a paragraph from Marc Jacobs' MasterClass workbook. Do we have parallels? 

"Select an old article of clothing from your closet or a local thrift shop. It’s time to deconstruct it! We suggest trying this first with a button-up shirt. Use a seam ripper (or a similar household tool) to remove the collar and any pockets, then separate each panel. How many pieces of fabric went into constructing your piece of clothing? How were the pieces connected? Was the garment constructed by machine or by hand? What did the seams look like? Understanding how your clothes are constructed will help you design new clothing thoughtfully."

Deconstruct a player on your team. What's the material (finesse, power, blend)? Examine her footwork. Check shot mechanics and shot selection. Can she score off the bounce? How durable is she? Does she play both ends of the floor aggressively (casual, formal)? Can she make her own shot or need a lot of accessories? Does she make everyone around her look better? 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Basketball: "I Don't Know" (Film Study Is Always Revealing)

"I don't know." That wasn't so hard, was it? Have the humility to say, "I don't know." 

A player throws the ball away, looks over and says, "I know." If you knew, why make that choice? Or misses three after three and wonders about playing time. We call a baseline out of bounds play and a player lines up in the wrong place. Sometimes not knowing is not okay. Knowledge is the quickest path to improvement

Fundamental defensive mistakes and errors hurt. Here we're defending a BOB and don't allow an initial shot against "America's Play" (which wasn't well executed). But we can't contain the ball, the big slides to stop the drive and there's not a hint of rotation (help the helper). Ultimately, we had to change to 2-3 zone (my bad) because we got burned over and over because of lack of rotation. Two problems - containing the ball and help and rotation...the things that kill you in the regular season bury teams in the postseason.
I taught medical students and young doctors critical answers, "I don't know" and "that's a good idea, we should do that." Earn credit for admitting ignorance not for feigning omniscience. Nobody knows everything. 

"Catch people in the act of doing things right." #33 locates beyond the "spacing line." Our defender (middle) has a foot in the paint, ready to react to her assignment. Good positioning. 

Pete Newell reminded coaches to teach players to "see the game." Many times, we have no right or easy answer. 

Line this up, ask players what they think will happen. Initially, not so clear. We could run a triangle offense after a pass to 4. Or envision the 2 clearing through and the 5 setting a ball screen. But when we relocate the 1, the 5 immediately sees the cross-screen/mismatch opportunity. Her eyes light up. 

Seeing the game is a lengthy process. 
Lagniappe: Special situations make special opportunity. 

I discussed this last night, but here's the evidence. 

Lagniappe 2: "Fear is the mind-killer." - Frank Herbert, Dune

Astronaut Chris Hadfield, MasterClass. 

Fear paralyzes feet. You cannot succeed when fear gets into your head. 

Quickness helps you with every sport. Work separate those who want from those who do. Jump rope. Wear the weighted vest. Run stadiums. Don't tell me you can't. Show me you will. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Basketball: "Our Brand Has a Soul"

"Our brand has a soul." Every part of culture has meaning. Collaboration equals seamless work creating a million dreams. 

Filmmaker Werner Herzog considers a bank camera. It records comings and goings in a bank for fifteen years, but it tells us nothing. Does our basketball create and inspire or stand lifeless, soulless, empty? 

Study a game for spacing, separation, teamwork. 

Horns, FIBA, multi-options Respect follows culture. During a game before ours, we're not a sideshow. We're not dribbling, going on the court, or distracting others. Model excellence. 

Don't leave empty bottles, wet spots, tape balls, or energy bar wrappers when you leave. In Legacy, James Kerr explains the All-Blacks value, "sweep the sheds." 

Let the officials officiate. Play the game well and the officiating is a non-factor. 

Don't be robots. Let actions unfold and take advantage. 

Tigers and lions

Become a kaleidoscope of possibilities. 

Lagniappe: "Everybody wants to be the beast. But not everybody wants to do what the beast do."