Team Workout #2

This entry is part 20 of 20 in the series Practice
MESSAGE OF THE DAY Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.
Emphasis of the Day Doing it Wrong vs. Failing
  Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
2 Dribble At Dribble 2 on 0 one dribble at and layup
4 Fast Break Drill Be better than we were yesterday (Right side)
2 Ball Handling Player leads: 2 balls stationary
4 Post Slides Dribble 2 on 0 with two attacks
4 Drive and Kick Dribble 2 on 0  one attack
3 1 on 1 w/ shooter Dribble 2 on 0 with on ball defense. Defend and box out (3 dribbles max)
4 2 on 2 Dribble 2 on 0 with 2 defenders. Start at half court with  dribble (5 dribble max)
2 Ball Handling Player Leads: 1 ball motion
3 5 on 0 Teach Baseline drive
4 3 on 0 Ball on Wing  drive either way
4 3 on 3 Ball on Wing (must start with dribble)
4 Fast Break Drill Be better than we were before (Left Side)
2 Ball Handling Player Leads: 2 balls motion
5 Dribble Test 5 on 0 (3 attacks or dribble at)
3 1 on 1 w/ shooter Dribble 2 on 0 from different spots
5 3 on 3 ball starts at top must start with dribble
4 FTs 1 and 1  must make 75%

Everyone was better today. It’s not surprising. The second day of doing something new is always better than the first day. Our attacks were better. Our rotations were better. The defense was better. Our passing was better. We need to improve our shooting, but that will come with time. Our team works really hard. Lesson learned is that we should have done 2 on 2 on the first day. I don’t know why I didn’t practice what I preach, but even I can learn. I will do it better next time.We improved from day 1.

Team Workout #1

This entry is part 19 of 20 in the series Practice

I wanted to share the team workout that we did yesterday. We had 1 hour. Our purpose was simple. Get better. To do that, I knew we had to do things differently. We needed to get out of our comfort zone. So we did. We failed. We failed a lot. We didn’t let the failure stop us. We used the same drill over and over again. Every time we used the drill, we tweaked it. It was never the same twice. We didn’t spend very long on any one concept. We worked hard. We had fun. We got better. We will try again today.

MESSAGE OF THE DAY If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
DATE: 4/11/16
TEAM WORKOUT #1 Stretched and ready to go at 3:00
Emphasis of the Day What happens when somebody dribbles
  Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
4 Fast Break Drill sprint, make good passes and layups
2 Ball Handling PG Leads  1 ball stationary
5 Teach Attack Dribble Odd & even front, drive right rotate right, drive left rotate left
4 Circle Movement Drill Dribble 2 on 0. Must attack one direction. Progress to attacker chooses direction
4 1 on 1 with shooter 3 dribbles from red line to score. Dribble 2 on 0 with defense. Emphasis on beating defender first. If we kick, block out and finish to rebound.
3 3 on 3 Out of transition (make two people guard you) Progression from last drill with extra defenders and receivers.  Should have probably done 2 on 2. Will play 2 on 2 next time.
2 Ball Handling Player leads  1 ball motion
3 Baseline Drive 5 on 0  (skipped this today)
3 Baseline Drive and Pitch 2 on 0 (skipped this today)
3 Teach Dribble At 5 on 0
3 Dribble At Dribble 2 on 0 with only Dribble At. Progressed to ball on wing.
5 Dribble Test 5 on 0 (5 out) attack or dribble at either direction. Each player gets 3 actions. Lots of failure here. Great learning opportunity.
2 Partner Passing Player calls dribble combination into pass to teammate
3 Post Slide Single attack (skipped this today)
3 Teach Post Slide Dribble 2 on 0 with two actions. Double attack (what happens somebody drives after drive and kick) or dribble-at attack.
7 3 on 3 Half court (must start with dribble) Same as above
4 FTs 1 and 1  (must shoot 75% as a team)


Dribble 2 on 0

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations

What happens when somebody dribbles? Most players know that when a teammate shoots, you’re supposed to rebound. You might rebound if your job is transition defense, but you get the idea. When a player passes, most coaches tell the players on the team where to go and what to do.  What do we tell them when a player dribbles? How is this not just as important as shooting and passing?  In fact, it’s probably more important. Many players don’t know what to do when their teammate dribbles. They become observers instead of active engaged participants in the action. They wait to see what kind of play their teammate is about to make instead of preparing themselves for what might happen.

This same drill can be used at different instances.  We used it after we taught attack dribble and circle movement. We used it after we taught dribble at. We used it to test the two concepts together. We used it to put two actions together. You can run it from an even front or an odd front. You can move the lines anywhere you want. It’s the same drill. But there are lots of things you can tweak to make the same drill completely different.

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The Power Dribble: Offensive Points of Emphasis

The Power Dribble has a few different points of emphasis that should be part of teaching this layer.  Among other things, the Power Dribble is a great way to turn an uncomfortable situation into an attacking situation. No matter what it is used for, but these points of emphasis are vital to its proper execution.

Imagine your guard picks up his/her dribble at an inopportune time. The other perimeter players are being heavily denied and your post player comes to the perimeter to relieve the pressure and receive a pass. So what happens now? This probably isn’t a very good shooting opportunity. You may not want your post player attacking the rim off the dribble. This player may not be a very good passer either. Their post player may be coming up to pressure this player as well. You may be saying to yourself, this situation has gone from bad to worse. This is where the power dribble can be helpful. The post player can turn their back to the defense and make a power dribble in the direction of a perimeter player. Normally this would be a dribble at and this player would go back door, but because the player has their back to the basket, the player will start in a backdoor cut and then come back to the ball for a hand off. This dribble hand off can send the perimeter on an attacking dribble with the post player’s defender having to switch out and help on an attacking guard. Now our story has taken a turn for the better don’t you think? The post player can roll to the basket or pop to the perimeter. More importantly, pressure has been relieved and the offense can run freely again.

The Dribble

The dribble must take the ball handler towards their teammate.  This helps close the gap and helping the handoff occur more quickly.  The dribble must be strong and protected. If the ball handler needs to take more than one dribble that is fine but they must be sure to keep the ball away from the defense.

Setting up the Handoff

The receiver must set up the handoff well in order to maximize the effectiveness of the power dribble. Since this action is similar to a dribble at, the receiver should take a step or two towards the rim just like they would if it actually were a dribble at.  Then they should come back to the ball to receive the handoff.  If the defensive player doesn’t respect the cut, they should be wide open.  If they do, the handoff should be able to be executed simply and cleanly.

The Handoff

The ball hander must allow their teammate to take the ball from them.  The ball handler should not try to pass or flick the ball to their teammate. This handoff must be practiced properly to insure a solid transfer even under heavy pressure.  If the ball handler doesn’t feel like the handoff can be completed safely, they can take the ball away from the cutter. The ball should be well protected by the ball handler.  It should be held close to the body and in a position where only the offense can get to the ball.

After the Handoff

The new ball handler should look to get to the basket on the handoff.  Similarly to a ball screen, it is very possible that the ball handler’s defender gets caught up in the handoff. This could leave the ball handler an attack lane or the opportunity to shoot if the defender goes under the handoff. As the handoff is occurring, the other players should be filling spots. However, they should be anticipating that the new ball handler will attack which would mean they would rotate back in the opposite direction.

The player who initiated the power dribble has the freedom to roll to the basket or to pop to the perimeter based on that player’s skill set.  The coach may dictate this decision, or the coach may let the player make this decision. Either one can be very effective if it is matched to the player’s skill set.


Dribble-At: Defensive Fundamentals

This entry is part 24 of 24 in the series Dribbling Actions

The Dribble-At is a very sneaky way to generate offensive scoring opportunities. It can be used in its most basic sense as a way to generate movement and release pressure. However, as players improve their skills it can be a way to create scoring opportunities. While overuse of the Dribble-At can cause your offense to be stagnant, using it occasionally will cause catch undisciplined defenses sleeping and is the trigger for a lot of different secondary actions. It is not difficult to defend the Dribble-At as long as defenders are alert and disciplined, but defenders can easily lose focus.

  1. Staying between the ball and the basket
    In the case of a Dribble-At, the ball handler isn’t going toward the rim. It is important that the player guarding the ball stays between the ball and the basket. In many cases, the defender will over pursue the ball handler in an attempt to cut them off. When they do so, they open up a lane to the basket if the ball handler can quickly change direction.
  2. Defending the cutter
    If you’re defending the cutter, you just can’t get beat back door. It’s really that simple. This can be a result of being too focused on the ball. It can be a result of over playing the receiver. It can be simply a matter of losing focus. However, defending the backdoor cut is only step one. It’s important to maintain good defensive positioning even if the backdoor pass is denied. The cutter can post up at the end of the cut. The cutter can decide to screen. The cutter might react to penetration. They might fill to the weak side of the floor. The key is to maintain sound defensive positioning relative to the ball no matter what the cutter does.

The Power Dribble: The Overview

The Power Dribble Layer is really just a dribble handoff. It is called the power dribble because the action/reaction by the offensive players is signified by the use of a power dribble by the perimeter ball handler.

The Power Dribble Layer involves the ball handler starting a dribble-at action toward the player 1 pass away, and then turning their back to the basket, protecting the ball from the defender, and making a power dribble. This action cues the player who was dribbled-at and started a back cut, to come back to the ball handler, use the ball handler as a screen, and take the ball. In most situations, the new ball handler should look to attack the paint following the handoff while the teammate can look to either roll to the basket or space to the perimeter.

The other perimeter players should be reacting to the movement as well. Just as with the Dribble-at action, the players behind the ball should be filling the next spot. As the handoff occurs and the new ball handler starts their attack dribble, they should circle move back in the other direction. The reactions to this movement can really keep the defense off balance if they are executed properly.

In a way, this layer is a combination of the dribble-at and attack dribble layers. The difference instead of sending a cutter to the basket initially, this action may or may not happen depending on the defense plays the action. Regardless, the actions of the other perimeter players remain the same.

The Power Dribble Layer can be executed by any two players who are in adjacent spots. The most typical situation for players to execute the Power Dribble Layer are with the ball starting at the top and being dribbled toward the wing. However, as the diagrams will show, the Power Dribble Layer can be executed anywhere on the floor.


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1 starts the action by dribbling at 2. 2’s initial reaction is to go back door but then they see 1 turn their back to the basket and power dribble.  They come back to 1 for the handoff and look to turn the corner. 3 and 4 on the initial dribble at start to fill the next spots.  When they see the power dribble initiated, they prepare to circle move right away.  For now, 5 doesn’t do anything.









Page 250As 2 attacks the basket, players 3, 4, and 5 circle move in the other direction. 1 rolls to the basket and fills out.


2 has the freedom to attack the lane and make a good decision.  They could pull up and shoot.  They could attack the rim and finish. They could pass to any of their other teammates. They could stop their attack and back it back out to the top of the key. Any of these options are available to 2. None of them should break the continuity of the offense. If 2 backs it out, they are free to execute any action as long as they keep their dribble alive, including another Power Dribble.




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32 Split Low

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

32 Split Low is the next call that we will explore.

“32” specifies a 3 out 2 in alignment.

“Split” specifies that the post players must be opposite of one another at all times.

“Low” specifies that the ball side post player should be in the low post.

***Side note: Remember the post spots are the Short Corner, Mid Post and Elbow. While the short corner is “lower” than the mid post, I’m referring to the mid post.

Remember these diagrams are not actions that are set in stone.  These are just possibilities. Your players will come up with more if you let them. I had fun with this one. I would like to see what other people come up with.


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The point passes to the wing. Boring right? You’re right it is, but I had to start somewhere. The screen for 2 from 4 is optional because 2 can just fill, but while 4 is there, they can make themselves useful. This could turn into a back screen or fade screen as well. For now we will keep it simple and have 2 fill the top spot while 1 fills out to the opposite side. Later, you’ll see what happens when this player fills to the ball side.








Page 637Of course, 5 is posting up and looking for the ball. If 1’s defender stops in help, like they are probably taught, 5 may not be open. That’s ok, because 1’s defender just set themselves up to get screened. If 1’s defender follows them out of the lane then 5 should be open for a post entry.  Of course if 4’s defender is helping off on the post then they should be open in the high post.

In this situation, let’s just say 1’s defender is in help side on 5. 4 can pin in 1’s defender. 1 lines up with 4 and 3 throws the skip pass. 2 cuts because they were skipped. In this case, they fill to the ball side. Since 5 is now opposite the ball, they fill the high post while 4 fills the low post.

4 may not be able to receive a pass off of a seal from the pin screen, but 4’s defender is going to have to make a choice.  Little do they know that behind them the other post player is moving to the high post and taking away help side defense.  3 is filling the top spot which brings the last help side defender 1 pass away. If 4’s defender plays behind, we should be able to get 4 the ball. If not, the lob should be available.



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If you’re Phil Jackson, this might look familiar. There’s a strong side triangle on the left side of the floor. We could have had this alignment on the first pass if 1 had cut to the ball side corner. Of course there are dozens of actions in the triangle that start from this alignment.

For the sake of continuing the offense, let’s say 4’s defender plays behind and we’re able to get the ball to 4.  1’s responsibility is to Laker Cut. Now they could Laker Cut and screen for 2, 3, or 5, but for now we’ll say they just fill out. Notice how turning the Laker Cut into an X-cut or into a back screen as a NBA would make things interesting.

Again 1’s defender should stay in help, which sets them up for a nice little pin screen from 5. 2 fills up from the corner. Of course 5 may be open on a dive to the basket, but that probably turns into a lay-up so let’s keep going.



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Notice if 4 puts the ball on the floor to the baseline side, 1 would fill the corner spot following the Baseline Drive principles.  If 4 drove middle, everyone would circle move. The question might be what about 5. I would encourage them to circle move to the right and be available around the low post/short corner.

However, 4 doesn’t feel comfortable trying to score or put the ball on the floor so they decide to kick it out to 2. They could kick it to 1 or 3 as well. The best option is the open option, and for now we’re going to say 2 is the open player.

4 could repost.  They could sprint into a ball screen, but in this diagram they screen away for the other post player. 5 knows their job is to go low since they are on the ball side.  4 has to stay high.  Notice we look a lot like we did in the second diagram.



Page 640This time instead of a skip pass, 2 passes to the top to 3 and cuts to the basket.  5 steps up and back screens 2’s defender on the cut. As 2 exits the lane, 4 back screens 1’s defender as 1 cuts to the basket.  Then 5 sets the second screen for 1 to either flare to the wing or curl to the lane. You might be thinking, there’s no way I could get my players to do all this.

I say, why not? Let’s keep moving. I will address that in a minute.










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1 and 2 have basically switched sides of the court. However, these actions were not predicated. Who knows what kind of match-ups we have right now. It’s quite possible that the defenders have switched at some point along the way or that a defender has gotten themselves out of position.  However, let’s say they’ve played great defense on actions that they couldn’t foresee, because our own players aren’t following a prescribed set of actions.

Now 3 decides to dribble-at 1 for a dribble handoff. 2 fills just as they would if it were a dribble-at.  4 and 5 wait patiently and prepare for the next action.






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As 1 turns the corner, 2 circle moves while 4 and 5 slide away from the penetrator to either open up the lane or open up themselves.








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Now 1 has a decision to make. Does the action have to stop on this penetration?  Of course not. 1 might dribble back to the top of the key and pass to a wing.  They might kick out to 2 who makes an entry pass to 4 and Laker Cuts.  The action could continue as long as the clock is running and the offense doesn’t give up possession of the ball by either shooting it or turning it over.

The point here is that this is just one combination of actions that are based on this one alignment.  Yet, the action could look very different at any number of points along the way. In each frame of the action, the ball handler could have chosen any number of different actions to take with the ball. Then as a cutter, what they do when they cut changes things. Even which side of the court a player decides to fill makes things different as well.





This may seem complicated. Remember all the players are doing is executing one simple action and then reacting accordingly. They don’t need to know what action to execute next. They just need to focus on executing the next one correctly. The action of the post players is not predicated either. Remember they have two rules to follow in this case.  The first is that when the ball is driven towards the basket to move out of the way.  The second is based on the call that we made at the beginning, “32 Split Low”.

You might wonder how post players know when to set these screens. You’re right, there are no rules, but they can be taught. These screens aren’t being set by them going way out of their way.  All of them “make sense” based on their location and the cutter’s movement. All they really need to do is see the cutter coming prepare for the contact. The cutter just needs to use the post players as they cut off of them.

The good news is that the offense doesn’t break if someone forgets to set a screen. Maybe a post player is busy posting up instead of screening.  Well this can be just as effective. Maybe they decide to set another kind of screen somewhere along the line. That’s good too. This single possibility has a number of others built into it. The way I see it there are no wrong answers as long as players remain spaced, move themselves with a purpose, and move the ball with a purpose, including attacking the lane off the dribble.