Zone Offense in the R&R

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

Zone offense in the R&R is one of the greatest reasons to play using this style.  The ability to use the same concepts against both man to man and zone defenses saves lots of time and gives players less to remember.  Many people ask me what we run against zones defenses.  We do the same thing against zones that we do against man to man defenses with one adjustment. Coach Torbett calls it “hook and look.”

Let’s quickly define “hook and look” and how it is applied.  The phrase basically means that every cutter must cut into one of the six posting spots and “post up” looking for the ball. Against zones, they are not required to finish their cut to the basket.  The length of time that the cutter stays in that spot depends on the alignment that the team is using.  If the team is in a 5 out alignment, the cutter looks for the ball from the next 3 receivers and then finishes the cut if they don’t receive the ball.  In other words the cutter waits for 2 passes.  If the team is in a 4 out 1 in alignment, the cutter looks for the ball from 2 receivers and then finishes the cut if they don’t receive the ball. In other words the cutter waits for 1 pass. If a team is in a 3 out 2 in alignment, there are already two players in post spots and so no specific adjustment is necessary.

There’s a very specific reason I mention the number of receivers that the cutter should look at before finishing their cut.  It helps with the timing of the offense.  If we only talk about the number of passes, the tempo of the offense can be too fast.  Especially when teams are used to executing the faster tempo of the man to man offense, they can often rush the offense against zones.  The likely result is that open cutters are missed.  Either the person with the ball doesn’t see them or the cutter doesn’t take the extra split second to realize that they are open.

This adjustment creates a constant stream of players entering and exiting the middle of any zone. The zone can is always adjusting to the player movement and ball movement that this concept creates.  However, the zone offense must operate at a different pace in order to be successful. It cannot operate at the same pace as the man to man offense. It must slow down so that the zone must adjust to the cutters.  If the offense moves too fast, the zone must only keep up with the ball and doesn’t have to worry about the cutters as much.

Against zones, coaches may also want to adjust the location of their post players. We are typically in a 4 out 1 in alignment with our post player starting in one of the short corners.  From there, she can post up at any time.  She is also encouraged to set pin screens on the weak side of the zone.

I will expound on this more with diagrams and video clips.  I welcome any questions or comments that you might have. Here is one clip of us running the zone offense.

Promoting Unselfishness in the R&R

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series FAQs

Coaches say they like to call plays to make sure certain players get certain shots.  Or more generally, they want to get certain players the ball in certain situations or areas on the floor. Yes, ideally, that’s why coaches call plays.

If coaches call a play to get a player a certain shot, team can defend these calls through some decent scouting and preparation. If they want to get the ball in a certain players hands, that player still has to make a good decision when they get it which is no different than what happens in the R&R.

I’ve said multiple times throughout this blog that any defense can take away one or two things if they want to badly enough.  The question is how much do they have to sacrifice in order to take that thing away.

I can stick two players on your best player to keep that player from touching the ball.  But that means I’m going to leave someone else open.  So I can take away one thing, but I’m going to give up something else.  We saw that in the 2013 NBA Finals.  The Spurs were giving Lebron and D-Wade any open jumper they wanted in order to keep them from getting to the rim.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

To me, promoting unselfishness is the same in this style of offense as it is in any other style.  You have to define players roles.  They have to understand their strengths and weaknesses.  My experience is that most players are very aware of their abilities.  If you ask your players who your best shooter is, I bet most of them would agree on one or two players.  Ask them who they would prefer to take the last shot.  I bet many of them would agree on one or two people.

I think there are two keys to promoting unselfishness.

1.  Role Definition
2.  Demanding team play

We’ve never had a problem with a player being selfish.  Maybe that’s more of the nature of coaching women.  Maybe it’s the type of players we recruit.  Maybe it’s how they have been coached.  We have never said that 1 certain player needs to get more shots than another. We might emphasize getting the ball inside more, but that’s nothing new for any team.  Our better players take a majority of our shots.  If someone is taking bad shots, it’s a quick substitution and we move on.  They get the message.

Playing this style makes it harder for defenses to take away a certain player.  They never know where they are going to be or how they are going to get there.  If a defense wants to focus on a certain player, other players are going to have opportunities.  The question is can they take advantage?

Don’t You Need Good 1 on 1 Players?

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series FAQs

As with most offenses, I think it helps to have good 1 on 1 players, but I don’t think it is necessary with this style of offense. I know I talk a lot about attacking off the dribble. I do this for two different reasons.  The first reason is from a teaching perspective. The second reason is from an emphasis perspective. I believe teaching basketball in a progressive manner begins with what players do with the ball and how you guard the ball.  A lot of our offensive and defensive teaching is based around dribble penetration.  We want to be able to attack off the dribble as well as stop dribble penetration.  Since we want it to be a big part of our offense, we emphasize it a lot as well.  As a result, the blog probably makes things sound like you can’t run this offense unless you have good 1 on 1 players.  That’s not true at all.  I would run it with any team and any collection of players, because I believe it can be easily adjusted to maximize the talents of whatever players you have.  I believe that your personnel may change what you emphasize but not what you teach.

Let me explain.  I believe it’s always important to be able to attack defenses off the dribble.  Defenses who can guard the ball without help have a greater chance at being successful. They are less prone to fouls.  They can worry more about defending screens and cutters and less about helping and rotating to stop dribble penetration. Good offensive teams are be able to create pressure on defenses by use of dribble penetration.

While I think it’s important to teach the skills and concepts surrounding dribble penetration first, I don’t believe it’s something that every team should emphasize.  I think it’s important to emphasize taking advantage when these opportunities exist, but you may emphasize different ways of creating those opportunities. There a number of ways that offensive teams can create dribble penetration opportunities.  Your team will determine what you emphasize.

  1. Making a 1 on 1 move
  2. The Draft Drive
  3. Creating long or difficult closeouts
  4. Ball Screens/Dribble Handoffs
  5. Creating mismatches that make 1 on 1 easier

Let’s say your team isn’t athletic enough or skilled enough to create off the dribble.  You probably can’t change their athleticism much, but you can improve their skill.  I would say that  skills limit players’ abilities more often than their athleticism.  However, teaching skills does take time, and so let’s assume that creating off the dribble is not something you want to emphasize with your team.

The Draft Drive is a great way to help players attack off the dribble who might not be great 1 on 1 players.  The Draft Drive creates a larger driving lane.  The 1 on 1 move doesn’t have to be as sharp or as precise.  Moreover, ball handlers should know that they will always have receivers available if they can’t score.  This larger driving lane and the confidence that their teammates will be available may give some players the confidence they need to be aggressive when they would normally be passive.  This is still a bit of a 1 on 1 situation, so let’s pretend this doesn’t work well for you either.

In order to guard a player 1 on 1, a defender must be able to go from off the ball to on the ball without getting beat.  Many players can guard the ball once they are guarding the ball.  They just have trouble on the closeout.  If your players aren’t great 1 on 1 players, then creating long or difficult closeouts for the other team can put them in situations where attacking off the dribble is much easier because the defense is at a disadvantage.  The constant movement of the offense towards the rim tends to keep defenses from extending.  They tend to gravitate to the paint.  This can create long closeouts or can delay defenders in getting to the ball through the use of a variety of screening actions, which is upcoming in the blog.

There are a number of off ball screening actions, but the Pick and Roll or On Ball Screen is also a tool in the toolbox.  Ball screens can be incorporated in a variety of ways.  It’s really up to you based on your philosophy and your personnel. Dribble Handoffs can also be used as a way to get ball handlers going towards the rim off the dribble. Both of these can create opportunities for dribble penetration

Screening actions may generate mismatches as a result of teams switching.  If your team’s best guard can’t take the other team’s post player 1 on 1 and at least draw some sort of help side defense, then you are probably in for a long night.

I like to look at it like this. In order to be a decent perimeter offensive player, you have to be able to either dribble or shoot.  If you can’t do either one, then you become pretty easy to guard.  If you can do one of the two, then defenses have to at least respect one of the two skills which should help you be more effective at the other one.

2 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations

The following diagrams show how two players can combine two attack dribble actions back to back in 4 different ways.  In short, it shows the 4 possible combinations of players using the attack dribble to their right and to their left.

A number of different skills can be taught as a part of this building block.  Ball handling, 1 on 1 moves, passing, post slides, circle movement, shooting, finishing, pivoting, and spacing are all possibilities on the offensive side of the ball.  Of course if you put defense on the court, there are many other possibilities as well.

Keep in mind there are a number of other combinations as well with different players at different spots, but these building blocks teach players how to be aggressive with the ball as well as show them their different options when they are aggressive.  Placing defenders on the court forces them to learn how to defend a ball handler who wants to use their attack dribble.  It’s important in these situations to make the defenders be aggressive so they can learn how to keep a ball handler in front of them.

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Drill variables

Tangent Alert!!!

Most of what I’ve been talking about are what I call building blocks.  They are conceptual combinations of actions.  I talked about why I don’t call them drills in a previous post. The building blocks are applicable to all teams.  However, coaches must take these building blocks and design drills every day that accomplish their goal.  I wanted to take a minute to list a few of the “variables” that coaches may consider in designing drills.  These variables should be considered on a daily basis to create the type of learning environment that is appropriate for their team on that day. A drill changes every time you change a variable. The building blocks may be the same, but making slight changes in these variables can have an impact on how players think about the drill, which helps them grow.

Rotations
How do players rotate in the drill?  Offense to defense?  Defense to Offense?  Are there players watching the drill? Is it a reward to watch or a punishment to watch? Does the offense get the ball a certain number of times? Do players start themselves?  Do they have to wait for a command?  Who gives that command?

Length of time
How long does a drill last?  Til one player reaches a certain score?  Til one group reaches a certain score?  Til the whole team reaches a certain score?  For a certain number of repetitions/possessions? For a certain length of time? Until it’s done correctly once?  Until it’s done correctly a certain number of times?  Until a certain player or grouping does it right? Until everyone does it right?

Scoring the drill
How do you keep score in the drill? Do you award points for doing things right?  Do you award points for doing things wrong?  How many “things” are being tracked?  How much does each thing count?  Who’s keeping score?  Players?  Coaches? Managers?  You can count actual points, touches for a certain player, 1 foot paint touches, 2 feet paint touches, travels, good screens, bad screens, good cuts, bad cuts, good rotations, bad rotations, good hedge, bad hedge, good shots, bad shots, good execution, bad execution, good position, bad position, face cuts, box outs, second efforts, dives on floor, charges, deflections, or any number of other things.  You could choose not to keep score at all. Is there a winner and a loser?  How is it determined?  Are players competing against yesterday’s score?  Are they competing against each other?  Individually?  In groups?  Are they competing as a team against some standard?

Advantage/Disadvantage
Is it even or uneven?  Does offense have the advantage or does the defense?  How much of an advantage? Give offense or defense an advantage by restricting space, changing an alignment, or implementing rules?  (ie the offense can’t dribble or #12 is the only player that can score.)  Do you restrict the actions that players can execute?  Per group? Per player? Per drill?  Is there an action that must be included?  Is there a specific order to the actions?  Is there freedom to the actions?  The list of rules that can be created is a whole different post.

Participation and roles
Number of Offensive players?  Number of Defensive players? Managers? Coaches? Who’s live? Who’s not?  How do players sub?  On their own?  Never?  When a coach tells them to? Is the rotation set? How are teams/groups selected?  Do they choose their own?  Are they chosen on the spot?  Are they chosen before practice?

Continuity
Where does the possession start?  Where does it end? Where does the ball start? How do you start the next possession? How does it end?  How do you start the next repetition/possession? Does the offense rebound continuously? When does it end? What happens if defense gets possession?

Necessary Equipment
Number of balls? Cones? Chairs? Pads? Heavy balls?  Tennis balls?  Agility ladders? Ball Racks?

Is this a lot of work?  Yes I think it is.  As teachers, we must answer these questions as we develop our daily lesson plans.  There is value to consistency.  There is value in familiarity.  I would ask how many possessions in a game are the same? Shouldn’t we force our players to learn to deal with variety?  Shouldn’t they learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable?  

The question becomes, “What do you want to accomplish?”

 

4 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Dribble-At, Attack Dribble)

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series 4 player Combinations

4 offensive players (Attack Dribble, Dribble-At, Attack Dribble)

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If the initial attacker were to reverse pivot and pitch it back to the safety, these diagrams could look much different.  I have added those to the to draw list.

Pass, Cut, & Fill: Read Line

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Passing Actions

5 offensive players 1 defender 1 action
Since this is the first action that is not initiated by the ball handler, a defender is needed in order to initiate the action.  Locate 5 players on the court in 5 spots.  Place a dummy defender in position 1 pass away from the ball.  Have the defender step across the Read Line.  The player then cuts back door while the other players fill.  The defender can stay in one location and continue to step over the Read Line as players fill.  This dummy defender could be another player, a coach or a manager.

 

You:  WHOA!  Slow down coach.  What is the Read Line?
Me:  We use the college 3 point line as our Read Line.  You may choose use the high school line or the NBA line for your team.
You:  So you’re telling me that you use the 3-point line to initiate an offensive action?
Me:   Well sort of.  The line can’t really initiate an action.  Only players can initiate actions.
You:  I was wondering about that.  So who initiates this action?
Me:  This layer is initiated by the defense.
You:  But coach, I don’t want the defense to dictate what we do.
Me:  I hate to tell you coach, but they already do. When they play man to man, you do one thing.  When they play zone, you do another thing.  When they trap, you do another thing.  Defense always dictates to the offense in one way or another. Some defenses dictate more than others. Some defenses give up more than others. Some defenses give up exactly what they want.  Some defenses give up everything.  In any case, defense makes an impact on how we play offense, don’t they?
You:  OK. OK.  I still don’t like it. But I’ll entertain you for a second. What is the action?
Me:   It works like this.  When a player who is one pass away from the ball has a defender who steps over the Read Line, they immediately cut to the basket.
You:  That’s it?  It’s that simple?
Me:  Yep.  That’s it.
You:  Well that makes sense, except I want #23 to catch the ball on the wing every time.
Me: If defense wants to keep #23 from catching the ball badly enough, they will.  They might give up a lot in the process, but they can keep #23 from catching the ball.
You:  Coach, you can’t keep Lebron from catching it on the wing.
Me:  You’re right.  But you don’t have Lebron on your team.
You:  Don’t I wish I did.
Me: We all do. Now that we’re done dreaming, I’ll give you 3 reasons why this layer is important.

1.  We fight fire with fire.  If the defense wants to attack us by denying a pass, we will attack them by cutting to the rim.
2.  The action initiates offense without the ball handler having to do anything.
3.  It eliminates confusion between the ball handler and the receivers. Either the receiver is open or not.  Either they are going back door, or they aren’t.

You:  Those are 3 pretty legitimate advantages.
Me:  Not to mention the options that the cutter has that we will talk about later.
You:  I have one more question.  We emphasize playing in gaps defensively.  We are never in a denial position.  How can we practice this action if we’re never over the Read Line defensively?
Me:  That’s a tougher question to answer.  I hope to help you figure that out as I describe an implementation plan for this layer.

2 offensive players 1 defender 1 action
This building block is very similar to the 5-player building block with 2 players.  Players without the ball can start in a position one pass away. Coaches can also have them start more than one pass away.  In this situation, players fill up to the open spot in order to learn the Read Line action.  In either arrangement, a dummy defender steps over the Read Line.  Players without the ball must react quickly to the dummy defender with a hard cut to the basket.  Passers must learn to make the pass as early as possible and work on fitting passes into tight spaces or making the pass late when the defender has relaxed.

Defenders can be live in this building block as well. This may only be applicable to teams with defensive philosophies that have off ball defenders close to the line of the ball. This is a good start to teaching players how to defend the back door cut. For teams who play off the line of the ball significantly, this may serve no purpose as a defensive building block.

3 offensive players 1 defender 1 action
This is very similar to the previous building block except there is now a player to fill the empty spot. The dummy defender can stay in position and step over the Read Line for each new receiver as they fill.

3 offensive players 2 defenders 1 action
It’s important for the offensive players to cut when the ball handler “sees” them.  Receivers could make a great back door cut, but if the ball handler doesn’t see them it doesn’t matter.  Place  the defenders on the players off the ball.  The defenders can be over the Read Line or not.  The ball handler looks each way.  If the defender is over the Read Line, the player cuts backdoor.  If not, they stay.

A building block of any more than 3 offensive players is probably not worth very much until other actions are combined with it.  For teams that play on the line of the ball defensively, this will fit right into what they do defensively.  These teams should force their teammates into a steady stream of backdoor cuts by players one pass away. For teams that play off the line, coaches may want to have a manager or coach step in as defenders.  It may be difficult for them to learn this habit if they don’t play this type of defense on a regular basis.

Remember the Dribble-At?  Let’s say the player one pass away should be making a Read Line cut.  Maybe they don’t see the defender.  Maybe they forgot.  Maybe they never knew to start with. Well if the person with the ball recognizes this situation, they can Dribble-At this player and send them back door.

There’s another situation that may you may consider a “Read Line situation.”  This one is up to you.

Maybe the defender isn’t over the Read Line, but the ball handler still doesn’t feel comfortable making the pass.  Maybe they are in a position to to steal the pass without being over the Read Line.  Maybe the ball handler just doesn’t want to pass to that player right now. As opposed to that player standing still, they can cut to the basket.  So the rule can be stated like this.  If the ball handler recognizes you as a receiver who is 1 pass away but does not pass you the ball, cut to the basket just as if your defender is over the Read Line.

An Important Detail:
Keep in mind, we only use the Read Line for players who are 1 pass away. We don’t want to help the defense get in better position.  A player who is more than 1 pass away and who is over the Read Line is in pretty poor defensive position.  We want to keep that defensive player player there.  While I’m sure this offensive player could get open for a layup, if everyone follows the Read Line rule at the same time, they could all end up at the basket at the same time.  Now no one is open.  Limiting this rule to only the players who are 1 pass away is important to giving cutters who cut to the basket a chance at  being open.