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Friday, May 31, 2019

Basketball: Twitter Video and a Nerdfest Breakdown That Wins

Twitter users provide education. Don't worry about ranking. Visit and learn. Some monetize parts of their content; I can't fault anyone for feeding their family. 

I am grateful for their knowledge and willingness to share. Surely many other sites add value. The doctoring thing keeps me pretty busy. 

This is a 'twofer' - Twitter feeds to bookmark and recent shares...some in-depth presentations to study (lots for me to learn). 

Chris Oliver @BBallImmersion
This is more than a nerd-fest. It doesn't necessarily apply for youth ball with lower percentage shooting. Five topics:

1) Mid-range inefficiency (0.72 points/possession NCAA)
Bucks went from 11th to 29th in mid-range shots taken.
Fewest mid-range shots taken? Houston Rockets. 
Each 5% absolute decline in mid-range equaled one win. 

2) Corner 3. NBA corner 3 made at a 4% higher rate than 3s above the break. At NCAA level, 2.5% higher rate than other 3s although no break. More often less contested, more often catch-and-shoot shots. For every 3% more corner 3s taken vs allowed, another win. 

NBA defenses are reducing corner 3s

3) Postups. Postups are declining but shots out of passes FROM the post are another 0.25 points/possession gain. 

The "inside-outside" game works! Draymond, Horford, even Capella do this. But it also allows for "inverting" with passing guards in the post...Jalen Brunson who can pass or win at the rim. 

4) Ball screen options. What works and what's done?

Take away what works and concede the lower percentage actions. 

The NBA playoffs dramatically change the actions rendered. 

But Mr. Isolation Ball Screen Switch is James Harden...and the defensive target was often Steph Curry. 

5) Nonconference scheduling. Iron or cupcakes? Scheduling tougher nonconference opponents resulted in more conference wins. "Iron sharpens iron." 

SeanBillermanHoops @HoopsSean 
Coach Liam Flynn @CoachLiamFlynn
Radius Athletics @RadiusAthletics 
Gibson Pyper @HalfCourtHoops 
Wes Kosel @HoopsChalkTalk
Coach Nick @BBallBreakdown 
Coach Daniel @IamCoachDaniel 
ZakBoisvert @ZakBoisvert

A previous omission, Coach Boisvert absolute belongs in any list of Twitter hoop video. 

Lagniappe: I'm not a poker player, but the Phil Ivey MasterClass informs deeper thinking, bets, and reading opponents. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Basketball: The Thin Veneer of Worshipping Old School

"Do more of what works and less of what doesn't." 

Sport changes with training, coaches, athletes, and their intersection with technology. Some reminisce about better days and "Old School." 

Art informs old school failure. Dehydration spawns muscle cramps, low blood pressure, fatigue, impaired concentration, and elevated body temperature via reduced sweating. Old school underachieved or worse. Gatorade arrived in 1965 but took years to achieve widespread distribution. T.C. Williams won in 1971 with "water makes you weak" whatever. 

I remember walking home from late summer scorching soccer practices with leg cramps severe enough to cry waterless tears. 

Do we celebrate old school "run until you drop" or until you puke? Or is old school metaphorical for another time where history empowered coaches? At times, it was an era for  unfettered dictators to players and parents. 

Do we favor old school training methods, cinder running tracks, 16 mm film and reel to reel grainy black-and-white movies processed by labs ninety minutes away? Or mimeographed playbooks instead of PDF files on tablets, cellphones, or laptops? 

Or maybe we prefer vintage basketball scoreboards. Or believe that Chuck Taylors outperformed Nikes

The Information Age hadn't arrived. We had no Internet video or easy access to information from coaches and teams around the globe. 

African-American players were forced into separate eating places and lodging. Racial epithets flowed freely and "Only the Puck Was Black."  Unacknowledged quotas limited the number of African-American players on the court at one time. 

Not everyone could hear the wisdom of Newell, Wooden, or Auerbach. Old school pearls lacked affordability, reliability, and indexing. 

There's nothing wrong with nostalgia. But pining for overt racism, inferior facilities, equipment, training methods, medical treatment, information, and data management is a fool's errand. 

Lagniappe: Nobody apologizes for his criminal acts or hometown gyms. 

Lagniappe 2: A reminder from Ken Burns (MasterClass) about documentary filmmaking. 

"Nobody...does it alone." - Ken Burns, MasterClass 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Basketball: Give and Take

Life and basketball balance give and take. We celebrate givers. Takers? Seldom. 

When I think of philanthropic sports figures, I think of Bobby Orr first. Orr is famous for his charity. But numerous NBA players have high profile charities, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Dwayne Wade. I'm sure there are many more. 

Reciprocity is a core influencing strategy, investigated by Robert Cialdini in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Top-rated Wharton professor Adam Grant argues in Give and Take that we develop a primary reciprocity style - giving, taking, or matching. 

Anthony Hopkins' conversation with Jody Foster in Silence of the Lambs serves as a memorable matcher, quid pro quo. Some doctors distribute consultation requests on a quid pro quo basis (and make no bones about it). That's much less with the decline of private practice.

Among first-year medical students, engineers, and salespeople, givers were judged as less effective and less productive. 

Yet Grant writes, "So if givers are most likely to land at the bottom of the success ladder - who's at the top, takers or matchers?'s the givers again." Givers are both the leaders and the laggards..."By operating as a giver, (David) Hornik created value for himself while maximizing opportunities for value to flow outward for the benefit of others." As medical students become upperclassmen and physicians, givers gain in success and stature, because support, service, and teamwork matter to patient care. 

Givers rejects the label of doormat or sucker, favoring giving in a way where others recognize the contribution attached. Publicity-seeking giving with "look at me" intent doesn't foster admiration. 

Kevin Eastman counsels coaches to say "yes," to career development activities like giving extra time at practice, speeches, clinics, and interviews. 

Some players rep astronomy monikers - "black holes," if you pass them the ball, you'll never get it back. 

Selfless teams "share the ball." Don Meyer preached servant leadership as a primary value. Dean Smith credited non-starters and non-scorers for their contributions to wins, and Phil Jackson summarized the game, "basketball is sharing." 

Conversely, players shun labels of selfish, ball hogs, or Huns, hunting shots. Remind players, "there are no MY TURN shots."

Lagniappe: another form of misdirection

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Basketball: Misdirection to Score

Where's the joy? Everyone finds joy in different experiences. If solitary activity brings you the most satisfaction, then why play team sports? I celebrate variety. 

Relative to other NBA teams, Golden State scores a higher percentage of points in transition and off cutting. Why not copycat success? 

"...what the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes." 

The movie Swordfish emphasizes "misdirection" as a critical tool. Use misdirection to 'steal' points. Simple works well. 

Ryan Pannone shares here:
Carla Berube's Tufts' women use misdirection out of a spread formation

The same action (below), triggered out of 1-4 with a middle dribble into a reverse pivot provides good deception. 

Another example of misdirection during a 2-3 zone:

Attacking the front of the zone and passing against the grain opens the corner. 

The Spurs ran a set to isolate the 5 and set up a middle backdoor cut from a 1-4 set. 

Another BOB we've worked sends bigs away to back screen into screen-the-screener action away. 

Lagniappe: This GSW game winner SLOB is reminiscent of Dame Lillard's three but with additional screening (via Tony Miller @ 

Lagniappe: the first 14:23 of the video, Rick Carlisle reviews (his) footwork for threes, including dealing with flybys and sidestep threes. 

Lagniappe 2: Horns actions from Coach Lason Perkins 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Basketball: Design and Build SLOB Series

Play design pales in comparison with execution. Finding personnel capable of understanding "time and space" and finishing is key. 

Choose to run similar actions from different sets or different actions from the same sets

Here are three actions from "horns like sets" that offer quality chances. 

1. Diagonal screen into cross-screen slip. 
2. Cross screen into elevator screen. 
3. Zipper like action into screen-the-screener 

Lagniappe: via Gibson Pyper, "Screen and screen again" ATO 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Basketball: Second Helping "Thinking in Bets"

Former World Series of Poker champion Annie Duke wrote Thinking in Bets. It's not a poker book, but reveals how decisions and chance interface. Thoughts and quotes from TIB help us understand the process. 

Instinctive and programmed bias impair judgment and outcome. Every individual and community benefits from skilled decision-making.

"There are exactly two things that determine how are lives turn out: the quality of our decisions and luck.

We cannot extrapolate back from results to judge the quality of our choices. Of Pete Carroll's Super Bowl goal line pass she shares, "The play didn't work. He had control over the quality of the play-call decision, but not over how it turned out." 

"I never seem to come across anyone who identifies a bad decision where they got lucky without the result, or a well-reasoned decision that didn't pan out." 

"Valuable information remains hidden..." (in making decisions)

"When someone asks you about a coin they flipped four times, there is a correct answer: "I'm not sure."

"Thoroughly conscious ignorance is the prelude to every real advance in science." 

How can we exploit better decisions? Better decisions inform better opportunities.

Statistics define which types of plays work best (and least) re: points per possession. Note how GSW does more of what works and less of what doesn't. We can, too. 

"When the chances are known, we are tethered more tightly to a rational interpretation of the influence of luck." 

"...making explicit that our decisions are bets, we can make better decisions..."

Our default state is to believe information (data input), which makes us susceptible to deception. She tells a story of a noise in the bush to early man, who had to presume danger lurked and urgent response (fight or flight) kicked in. That's how I view anxiety, a conflict between two different realities, real or illusory danger. 

We are not open-minded..."altering our interpretation of that information to fit our beliefs." We choose to accept false confirming or true disconfirming evidence to maintain our beliefs. I live with the cognitive dissonance that we forfeit a higher chance to win now, believing that man-to-man defense gives our young players a better chance to win later. 

"The potency of fake news is that it entrenches beliefs its intended audience already has, and then amplifies them." She points out that Nobel Laureate Danny Kahneman points out that being wrong doesn't fit with our positive self-narrative. She notes that smart people have higher blind-spot bias.

"We stubbornly refuse to update our beliefs." We all know people who discount the power, the social proof, of social media. I read a tweet that Alabama was last in public education and healthcare in the United States. I simply asked, "is that true?" while suspecting it was ballpark accurate but hyperbole. It was on the cusp of the bottom ten percent in both but NOT the bottom. We don't have to lie to score points. Credibility and truth intersect. Why accept bad information and mediocrity? 

We have a tendency to blame others for our misfortune. "in single-vehicle accidents, 37% of drivers still found a way to pin the blame on someone else." 

Duke advises us to "substitute the routine of truthseeking for the outcome-oriented instinct to focus on seeking credit and avoiding blame."

Getting 'right' starts by seeing "I'm not sure." 

I highly recommend Thinking in Bets for readers committed to make more informed decisions leading to better outcomes. 

Lagniappe 1: "This is defense..." from Chris Oliver 
Lagniappe 2: Good teams execute high percentage half-court actions. "Great offense is multiple actions." 

1-4 wing clear into post entry and cut. 

Simple high-low action off mid-post off-ball screen. Worst case scenario? 1-5 ball screen. 

1-4 wing ball screen with screen away. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Basketball: 2-3 BOB Zone Offense, Concepts and Simple Actions

Many teams zone baseline out of bounds (BOB) plays, often with 2-3 defense. Core offensive concepts of space, cut, screen, and pass expose weaknesses. 

Figure 1. General principles.

Concept 1. (left) Overload the baseline if x1 and x2 don't drop. Defensively, I teach "bigs away come back to play."  The chickens come home to roost. 

Concept 2. (right, below) Make x3 decide coverage and screen the middle x5. A third option is to extend the zone against more aggressive zones (below).

Figure 2. Overload

Low shooters pop to corners and 4, 5 cut to the blocks...4 offensive players versus 3 low defenders. 4, 5 can stack or start at the elbows. Inbounder needs to read low defenders and be patient. Plays ALWAYS start with the official handing 1 the ball. 

Figure 3. Inside PnR

The primary action here is entry to 5 with a handoff to the inbounder into an inside pick-and-roll. There are options at the top and opposite block. 

Figure 4. Screen the middle.

Pressure the ball side low defender and screen the middle defender. 

Figure 5. Open the middle. 

Offense decides whom and where to pressure. The action begins like the entry to 5 shown earlier, with a delayed attack from a driver into the middle which is drive and/or kick to the opposite corner. 

Lagniappe: via @BBallImmersion (Chris Oliver)
Beautiful actions with "2 second rule", drive the gaps, zone distortion, and ball reversal. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Basketball: Game Planning

"Have a plan, be ready to make mistakes...document your mistakes. You only learn how to make good barbecue by making bad barbecue." - Aaron Franklin, MasterClass

Principles translate across disciplines. Act for the greater good. Franklin explains that when trimming meat, a piece (fat, cartilage, whatever) goes if it's "for the greater good." That translates to tryout strategy, selection, practice planning, practice, and games. Act for the greater good

But what is the greater good? In high school varsity and above, it's winning. In youth basketball, everyone likes to win and wants to win, but it's development. That means opportunity, teaching, and repetitions...the Wooden EDIRRRRR...explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition times five. 

Location, location, location. If I were coaching high school varsity with experienced players I'd developed, I'd play to the personnel. With the players I have now, that would mean, winning the middle over the ends (speed game). If we had elite size, then dominating the ends (power game) would play better. Every team should want the shots they make. 

Defensively, I believe in multiple defenses, trapping, and rotation. Create harder decisions for offensive players. That's not appropriate (in my view) for middle school, because of limited practice time. We play almost exclusively man-to-man, except defending baseline out of bounds. I'd want to play full court man-to-man pressure full time if I had twelve players with enough speed and doggedness to do so. We're working on it.

And anyone who wants to be good has to score in the half-court because so many teams play zone and the better teams won't give up too many scores in transition. And I want to implement offensive concepts as part of development...spread offense, ball screens, isolation, off-ball screens (simple, staggered, elevator, screen-the-screener, screen-the-roller) and so on. 

Film and prior experience with teams helps.

We had game film on a team that ran this "primary" sidelines play to set up corner 3s and had scored twice on threes against us. Young players won't counter with an "over-the-top" pass to the opposite corner. We simply cheated over the screen and took that away. 

Another team had a player that had scored almost 30 points against us the previous year and dominated us. We forced other players to beat us. They also used "America's play" on the BOB and we switched and took that away. 

Last year they still beat us, but their 'star' had seven points and we led by two at halftime. Their 1 made a bunch of 3s in the second half, credit to her. 

As players learn the game, they should make sight adjustments. 

It's not so easy...the Pistons ran a cross screen for Drummond against the Celtics early in the year. Drummond against Kyrie is two points for Drummond. 

Lagniappe: Defenses make mistakes at every level. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

What Advice Would You Share at a Commencement Address?

Some of you earn the privilege of giving commencement addresses. What wisdom, emotion, and humor shines from your palette? 

(Get engaged.)

Congratulations Class of 2019. No more books, no new loans; no more Game of Thrones. 

Mister Rogers tells us to "look for the helpers." I'm here for you. Awaken daily to be there for others. Take out your phones and start recording. (Pause.) And now you've got a way to pretend you're listening while surfing 

You need a job. Be the person they want on the team. Start with a strong handshake. Sit up straight. Hold eye contact. Look the part. Lose the blue hair, nose rings, and exposed tattoos. Flip flops are not shoes. Don't sell a stream of "yeah", "you know", and "like." Ya know?

(Keep the story moving.) 

Do your homework. Know the team and your role. Study your professional playbook. So much for "no more books." Teacher, nurse, lawyer, shooting guard. You will always have homework. 

You will make mistakes. Persist. Starbucks trains their employees in LATTE. The letters stand for:

Listen to the customer.
Acknowledge the mistake.
Thank the customer for bringing it to your attention.
Take care of the problem.
Explain the problem to your coworkers so it doesn't keep happening. 

Anticipate the unexpected. You'll hear questions about your goals, your dreams, and your plans to climb those hills. Share examples of your success and be ready to explain a failure and how you kept moving forward. Failure is not final

(Tell a compelling narrative.) 

Engage your interviewer. Remember the acronym SUCCESS*. Develop a conversation which has depth: 


Julius Caesar wrote a letter to the Roman Senate in 47 B.C. "Veni, vidi, vici." "I came, I saw, I conquered." Know that success only crosses the terrain of hard work. "The magic is in the work."

(Deploy humor strategically.)  

I was driving in the country and saw a sign, "TALKING DOG $25". I stopped and asked to see him. "Tell me your story." The dog answered, "When I was a puppy, people learned I could talk. The CIA trained me and sent me on missions around the world. I could listen to any conversation. But I got old and they sent me back here."

"That's incredible. Why are you selling him so cheap?"

"He's such a liar; he never did any of that stuff." 

Whether you plan to be a unicorn or a talking dog, be authentic. As Kafka wrote, "everyone is necessarily the hero of their own imagination." Be the real deal

(Ask insightful questions.) 

President John Kennedy said in his 1961 Inaugural address, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." As you leave today, how you will make a difference for your teams...your family, your workplace, your community? 

Many of you made it here today because family, teachers, and mentors intervened along the way. Appreciate them. Ask yourself, "how will I improve today?"

(Network, network, network.)

How can we be terrific and yet get along? Remember the legendary Lego movie, 

Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome, when you're living out a dream. 

Add value to the team and get value from being part of the team. Work for the team not on the team. Keep the success of the team your daily priority. It's more likely you'll create disruption as part of the team than on your own.The main thing is the main thing. 


"Brevity is the soul of wit." You won't remember much of this speech, much less who gave it. If you remember two things, be your best self and share something great every day. Congratulations! 

Lagniappe: Spread options with off ball and ball screens.

Lagniappe 2: Free throw attack? 
Lagniappe 3: Greatness and change. 

*The SUCCESS acronym comes from the Heath Brothers' Made to Stick

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Basketball: Eye Test

"Coaches see everything." I don't. And our vision filters through a personal lens distorting reality.

See more. Expand our sight with a panoply of tools - experienced assistants, young 'relatable' assistants, film, reading, analytics, after action review (AAR), mentors, and the Personal Board of Directors. 

And perception is non-linear. We rely on inputs from emotional libraries, mental models, and real-time working memory (focus). But distractions (thoughts, earbuds, cellphones) overtake us. That's literally how pedestrians walk into traffic. Diversions abound and with limited working memory (focus), catastrophes happen. Just using a cellphone when driving creates a hazard approximating drunk driving. "Texting and driving at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with eyes closed." We will all know someone who died from distracted driving. 

And you know of inattention effects, where focus on one action causes us to miss another...the gorilla walking through basketball practice. 

We suffer the Rashomon Effect, flawed interpretation of inputs with perception-dependent reality. We don't always see our teams or ourselves accurately. Finding the truth takes openness, real work, and the will to do so. 

We can't always trust what we see. We mistake people and events. Eyewitness testimony fails. 3 of 4 DNA exonerations involve mistaken identification. And recall the scene from My Cousin Vinnie where the eyewitness who saw the boys had her already poor vision obscured? 

Film study helps us see who lost containment, who didn't see open players, turnovers and root causes, help and rotation issues. 

Further complicating our vision is "resulting" or interpreting play strictly by outcomes. Don't neglect how the game was played or the influence of luck. We may do a lot right but run into an opponent who makes key plays or we get a few bad breaks. But blaming poor outcomes consistently on outside factors shows overdependent attribution bias

Multiple sets of eyes improve scouting and tryouts. Other coaches have called my attention to contributors I might have overlooked. 

We see with our eyes and our hearts.

Lagniappe: Legal guarding position...or not? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Basketball: Fairness

- George Orwell, Animal Farm

A woman, her husband, and her mother cross a river in a boat which capsizes. The woman is a strong swimmer and can save one. Whom does she save? 

As beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, then so does fairness. Fairness crosses the lines of sport. Basketball fairness includes communication, time, recognition, publicity, officiating, and more.

We send fairness messages in time, quantity, and tone. Players keep score. Do our best to believe in and value each. After a limited open practice, someone asked UCONN's Geno Auriemma if he didn't yell at players because of guests. He answered that he didn't yell because "players are babies." If he yells, a player says to herself, "Coach hates me." And that doesn't work for their program. 

In The Politics of Coaching, Coach Carl Pierson shared that he measures speed, strength, and vertical jump during tryouts. When a parent questioned why his daughter had not made the team, Coach Pierson pointed out that she finished at or near the bottom in each area. 

Players measure fairness during practice, repetitions, and minutes. Sometimes tracking helps coaches assure more equality. At other times, people keep score to prove inequality. Group substitutions simplify measurement but can't assure that all players will be happy with minutes, roles, and combinations. Quality and equality are not identical but not fully separate either.  

Fairness is personal. Fairness is perception. We can treat two people exactly the same and be seen as unfair. For example, if the top player and twelfth man play the same minutes, is that fair or unfair? Is it fair to the fans, the team, and the individual? 

Some communities make every effort to avoid parent coaches because of concerns about fairness, especially about minutes. But finding enough capable, committed volunteer coaches is hard. 

Fairness goes public. An area girls' coach winning multiple championships was run off in part by a parent who claimed that the coach had not publicly promoted her daughter enough. 

Fairness challenges us and our values. Fairness balances the desires of the one with the needs of the many. Can everyone get what they want or what they need? Who benefits the most from the most repetitions, the best players or the willing needy? 

Fairness fails with unequal discipline. I've told the girls, that when the star football players get caught with some infractions, they were historically treated more leniently than girls playing other sports. 

Fairness withstands transparency. Are we objective and do we have agendas? We can be objective (share verifiable facts) and still have agendas. We decide which facts and opinions to share and which to omit. Communication informs and seeks to give or get something from the other actors on life's stage.  

Throughout sports, players (high draft picks, "bonus babies", or relatives of management) get more opportunities to rise and to fail. 


This former Red Sox player had tastes of five seasons in MLB. He never hit .200 with more than ten at bats in a season and a career negative WAR (wins above replacement). Let's just say he was connected. 

Few officials approach a game intending to be unfair. But there are venues that are especially hard to win at. An NCAA D1 basketball official told me that you will be disinvited to return to referee at a school in northern New York if you are impartial. 

Nobody is perfectly fair but most coaches try. The MomsTeam blog informs, "One way to spot a good youth sports coach is that he teaches, models, and demands respectful behavior, fairness and good sportsmanship." In his letter to players, John Wooden wrote, "You may feel, at times, that I have double standards as I certainly will not treat you all the same...I know I will not be right in all my decisions, but I will attempt to be  both right and fair." 

Fairness, we know it when we see it.