Building Confidence in Your Defense

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series Practice

We have had significant discussion on this blog about the tangible parts of the Read & React. We’ve talked about different layers, different fundamentals, and how to teach these concepts and skills.  We have also talked about integrating offensive and defensive concepts in building a complete system. There are a lot more of things that we have yet to discuss.  Those are coming.

I think it’s important that we also talk about the intangible side of offense and defense and how the Read & React can mentally impact a team on both ends of the floor. As coaches we must be cognoscente of our players’ psyche and how the Read and React can have an impact on how they think especially when it comes to playing against other teams.

There are numerous qualities that make the R&R hard to guard.  Even in the early stages of implementing the offense, the unpredictability of the offense keeps defensive players on their toes. They can’t predict the actions of the ball handler or cutters.  They must always be ready to help on the drive.  They must always be ready to get hit on a screen.  They must be ready to defend the backdoor cut.  They can’t take a break defensively.  This is good for training your defense, right?  I think so.

Now if you spend 90% of your practices emphasizing offense, this might not be a big deal to you. However, the purpose of this blog is to describe how offense and defense can be taught together. This is a result of the importance and emphasis we place on defense. While we want to score, we believe that winning championships is really all about being able to keep the other team from scoring. We teach, preach, and emphasize defense.  This defense is playing against the Read & React every day.

If you run the Read & React, you don’t play offense the way a lot of other teams play offense.  It’s not about the play or the set.  It’s a different style.  As a result, your defense is challenged in a whole new way.  As coaches, we must use this to our advantage.  We must use this to encourage our players. We must remind them that we will be as hard to guard as anyone we face.  Especially with the constant attacking mentality that we impress upon our team, if we can guard ourselves, we have to believe we can guard anybody.

We must emphasize that we play defense the way we want to play defense.  We cannot let our offense dictate how we play defense.  If we do, we will not play defense confidently.  We must demand that we play defense the way we want to play defense even though the offense will likely expose the defense regularly. We must be reminded and we must remind our players that good offense will almost always beat good defense.

We always tell our offense to keep attacking.  We must constantly encourage our players to do the same defensively.  We cannot let offensive success in practice dictate our defensive mindset.  If you get beat off the dribble, work hard to not let it happen next time.  If you got hit on a back screen because your teammate didn’t call it, then get it right next time.  If you get beat back door, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the passing lane if that’s how we’re going to play.

We have to remember that we’re trying to guard players in a system that’s very challenging to defend.  While we hold our players to a high standard when defending ourselves, we must also remind them that most other teams systems will not be as hard to guard as this one. Of course the other teams’ systems are made up of different players.  Guarding those players may be more difficult, but their systems are more predictable.  Many of them will be tied to their set or their play.  We can use this to our advantage and maybe negate or at least lessen a personnel disadvantage.

Playing against the R&R on a daily basis can cause defensive players to play tentatively.  We must demand that players play defense the way we want to play it even through the challenges that our offense creates.

You Gotta Put the Ball in the Basket

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Practice

The game is called basketball.  The objective is to put the ball in the basket.  So simply said, yet for most teams, they achieve this objective on less than 50% of their attempts.  Mix in the occasional turnover and it happens on less than 50% of possessions.  The concepts, ideas, and philosophies presented in this blog are only meant to generate opportunities for players to take shots.  It does not mean the shots will go in.

A couple recent examples.

Game 1:  18-68 from the field.  Lose by 3. The other team shoots 46 shots.  We miss 50.

Game 2:  23-80 from the field.  Lose by 11.  The other team shoots 55 shots.  We miss 57.

Some of these were open shots.  Some were contested.  Some were good shots and some were bad shots. Could we have had fewer turnovers? Sure.  Could we have played better defense?  Sure.

At some point, players have to put the ball in the basket. It doesn’t matter how well they can create scoring opportunities.

Holding Shoot-around in Pre-Game Warm-up

This entry is part 3 of 20 in the series Practice

December 9, 2012

This blog post was going to be purely a story, but I decided I should turn it into a something that might help you out as well.

Our pre-game warm-up is basically a condensed version of a shoot-around.  I’m not sure how many of you actually have time for these types of “practices.”  You know, the kind where you come in the gym for 45 minutes or an hour, shoot a bunch of shots, run through your offenses, and go home?

Well that’s what we do for our pre-game warm-up.  We do our dynamic stretching routine and break a sweat with some light running.  Then we go through a series of 2 on 0 drills so players can handle the ball, pass, shoot, and finish, as well as work on the offensive reactions.  Then we combine actions 5 on 0 and shoot some free throws.  It’s pretty simple, nothing fancy, but the players can get the basketball part done in about 30 minutes.

Well, in a recent game, we were going through our warm-up.  The opposing coach was drawing up our actions on a board.  The coach then pulled the team in and showed them “our offense.”  I spent the next few minutes struggling to keep my composure.  If they only knew….

I love the fact that we can combine actions in a 5 on 0 setting in front of the other team’s bench before the game. We will show you exactly what we’re going to do.  The thing is that it will never be the same, ever. Even more, the combination of actions that we show in pre-game may never happen in the real game.

We know what we’re doing, because we do it every day, even though we may have never done it before.  Isn’t that fun?

A Quick Digression

This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Practice

I know everyone is ready to pass the ball all over the court and to take advantage of the actions that come as a result. Many of you start with this layer. Here’s a reminder why we start with dribbling actions.

I guess you’re thinking, “Why did he take so long to get here?” This weirdo spent forever on dribbling and then took another lifetime on one passing action. He’s just now getting to multiple passing actions. You’re thinking it’s not that hard to make a few passes while players cut and fill. I know it’s not. Maybe it’s all overkill. You don’t have to follow every single step in the progression. You know your team. You know how much time you have. Most of us don’t have time to go “step-by-step.”

Here’s my point. Don’t complain that your players won’t cut when they pass. Don’t complain that your players won’t jump to the ball on the pass. Don’t complain to me that your players won’t rotate on the drive. Don’t complain that you don’t have enough drills to provide variety in practice. There are so many possibilities and so many different ways to teach the same concepts on both sides of the ball. If your players get it, then move on to more layers, more concepts, and more actions. If they don’t, take one or two or seventeen of the building blocks, build a drill, teach it, and rep it until they get it.

There are more tools in the toolbox than we may ever use. We should never complain that we don’t have enough tools. They are all right in front of us.

Off the soapbox and on to multiple actions.

Practice #1

This entry is part 5 of 20 in the series Practice

Message of the day:  It matters.

TIME DRILL DESCRIPTION
5 Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
10 Conditioning 2 groups, 10 full court sprints, 10 far free throw line sprints, stationary ball handling for nonrunning group
3 5 on 0 Attack Dribble (5 out)  General Intro of single action
3 5 on 5 Shell (Intro)  No movement, basic positions and principles
2 Stretch & Water be at half court by the buzzer
3 Hustle Drill 2 lines going each way.  Throw the ball towards out of bounds.  Player must save it to O who finishes with power layup on the other end.
5 Ballhandling & On Ball Defense 1 trip w/out ball, 1 trip w/ ball, ball pressure (Crossover, Btw Legs, Behind Back)
5 2 on 0 Drive & Kick Attacker Finishes, Receiver gets pass from 3rd line
5 3 on 1 Drive and Kick D on ball, O can score or kick out.  If O kicks, Receiver shoots.  D must box out.
6 Guard/Post Guards 5 spot shooting, Posts (Mikan, Reverse Mikan, & Superman Drill)
5 Ballhandling & On Ball Defense same as before except now D must closeout to O.  On command O will take 1 dribble.  D must stay in front.
5 2 on 1 (offensive emphasis) Defender guard receiver, bluffs help to force kick out.  Offensive player shoots
6 2 on 1 (defensive emphasis) Same as above except defender must now closeout to shooter. Use both sides of the floor on both ends.
6 2 on 2 Full Court Receiver must stay behind the ball.  Defense must not allow middle penetration.  Defenders must be up the line and on the line. O does not score.
6 Guard/Post Guards (Penetrate/Kick, Reverse Pivot, Closeout to 1 on 1)  Posts (War in the lane)
5 3 on 2 Ball on wing, receivers on opposite top and wing spots, D guards receivers.  O drives baseline.  Baseline D helps.  Other D drops.  O kicks to either of the Receivers who have rotated.  D must close out.  Now 2 on 2 live.
3 Hustle Drill same as above except roll the ball so players must dive and save it
5 Ballhandling & On Ball Defense same as above
5 2 on 1 (defensive emphasis) same as above
5 3 on 2 same as above
5 5 on 5 Elimination 5 on 5 in 5 out spots.  All players with ball must attack.  All players without ball must rotate. Whenever a player passes they are off along with their defender.  Offense can shoot at any time.  Whenever a shot goes up, whomever is left on the court rebounds.  It could get down to 1 on 1.  Offense scores, they win.  Defense gets deflection, steal, or rebound, they win.

This was a pretty intense practice. The only dead moments were when we were teaching a skill or a drill. Lots of good teaching going on. Now that we’ve done the drills, we should be able to progress faster.

Circle Movement went pretty well.  Of course there were no other options, so that’s all players had to focus on.  We’ll see what happens when we add Dribble-At.  That will be the true test.  And of course when they are really allowed to go live.

We still need so much work defensively. We have players who can score. Overall, we rebounded fairly well today. We just have to guard the ball better. We have to. We don’t have a choice. We have to closeout better.  We have to defend the ball.

Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Practice #2

This entry is part 6 of 20 in the series Practice

Message of the Day:  It Still Matters

TIME DRILL DESCRIPTION
5 Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
10 Conditioning 2 groups, 10 full court sprints, 10 far free throw line sprints, stationary ball handling for nonrunning group
2 Stretch & Water be at half court by the buzzer
12 Stations Closeouts, On Ball Defense, 1 on 1 moves
5 2 on 1 (defensive emphasis) Defender guard receiver, bluffs help to force kick out.  Defender recovers and closesout into 1 on 1.
5 Ballhandling & On Ball Defense 1 trip w/out ball, 1 trip w/ ball, ball pressure (Crossover, Btw Legs, Behind Back)
5 Guard/Post Guards (Circle Movement Shooting)/Post (Finishing)
6 Zig Zag Teach and Drill recovery
5 2 on 2 Full Court Receiver must stay behind the ball.  Defense must not allow middle penetration.  Defenders must be up the line and on the line.
5 Ballhandling & On Ball Defense 1 trip w/out ball, 1 trip w/ ball, ball pressure (Crossover, Btw Legs, Behind Back)
5 3 on 2 Ball on wing, receivers on opposite top and wing spots, D guards receivers.  O drives baseline.  Baseline D helps.  Other D drops.  O kicks to either of the Receivers who have rotated.  D must close out.  Now 2 on 2 live.
3 3 on 3 Elimination same as 5 on 5 elimination, starting with 3 players
3 Post Slides 2 on 0 1 action Ball on wing, player in mid post.  Drive either way, post must react to ball
4 Post Slides 2 on 0 2 actions Two lines at slots. Every other player with a ball.  Drive and kick in direction of the receiver.  Receiver drives again.  Iniital attacker must react to the drive.
3 4 on 3 Same as 3 on 2 exept new players are at slot.  New offensive player will be the safety.  New defensive player will have to sprint to help on the pass.
3 4 on 4 Elimination
5 5 on 5 Elimination
5 Guard/Post 1 on 1 moves
5 5 on 5 Change Drill 5 on 5 starting from the tip.  Whenever the whistle blows, the O must put the ball down and get back on D.

Mentally we weren’t as good today.  As a result, we weren’t as good physically either.  However, I think we might have gotten better defensively.  I saw people closeout successfully.  It doesn’t mean we were perfect.  I think we might have gotten better.

We will see how tomorrow goes.

Practice #3

This entry is part 7 of 20 in the series Practice

Message of the Day: It Still Matters

TIME DRILL DESCRIPTION
5 Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
10 Conditioning 2 groups, 10 full court sprints, 10 far free throw line sprints, stationary ball handling for nonrunning group
2 Stretch & Water be at half court by the buzzer
15 Stations Closeouts, On Ball Defense, 1 on 1 moves
5 Ballhandling With & without a ball, sideline to sideline.  Cross, btw legs, behind back
5 Guard/Post Attack dribble shooting, emphasis on stationary 1 on 1/finishing
4 Post Slides 2 on 0 2 actions Guards (Circle Movement Shooting)/Post (Finishing)
Intro Dribble At
3 2 on 0 Dribble At Top/Wing on each side
5 2 on 0 Dribble At O has choice
5 2 on 2 Full Court Must try to split the D
15 Stations Closeouts, Zig Zag, 1 on 1
5 2 on 1 Defender off ball (Attack or Dribble At)
5 3 on 2 Ball on wing, receivers on opposite top and wing spots, D guards receivers.  O drives baseline.  Baseline D helps.  Other D drops.  O kicks to either of the Receivers who have rotated.  D must close out.  Now 2 on 2 live.
3 3 on 3 Elimination Same rules as 5 on 5 elimination from day 1
5 4 on 3 Same as 3 on 2 exept new players are at slot.  New offensive player will be the safety.  New defensive player will have to sprint to help on the pass.
4 4 on 4 Elimination Same rules as 5 on 5 elimination from day 1
5 5 on 5 Elimination Same rules as 5 on 5 elimination from day 1
5 Guard/Post 1 on 1 moves
5 5 on 5 Change Drill 5 on 5 starting from the tip. On switch, the O must put the ball down and get back on D.

After a not so great practice in which we might have gotten better anyway, the team came back really strong in Day 3.  Our on ball defense is getting better.  I think we have a chance to actually be a decent defensive team.

The closeout work was really good.  They were challenged, and tried to respond.  Maybe they didn’t always succeed, but they wanted it, and they worked for it. We must keep pushing to improve.

We have small details to clean up in the Dribble At action.  But I think they have the general idea now.  It’s just a matter of hammering out the little things.

2 on 2 Full Court was electric.  There was some really good competition on both sides of the ball.

5 on 5 Change Drill was interesting.  We still have work to do when it comes to conditioning.

Today is a new day.  We’ll see what happens.