Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adjust vs. Change

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Last week I was having lunch with Coach Kyle Kurz (@kylekurz14) of Christian Life School in Farmington, MN. We were talking about shooting and he brought up how you talk to kids about changing their shot. He said he uses the word "adjust" instead of "change". He mentioned how when you say "change" it has a negative connotation for players - and it sounds like it's going to be really hard to do. When you say "adjust" the connotation is that they are already doing things right and we are only going to slightly change it. Using the word adjust makes them feel more positive about the changes. I'm going to try changing "change" to "adjust" this season and am going to look at how players respond.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Communicated vs. Revealed Knowledge

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At our round table last Monday we were lucky enough to have Doug Novak of Bethel College (MN) speak. Coach Novak did an outstanding job of sharing his basketball philosophy. I came away very impressed with his approach to teaching the game - and got a lot of notes in the process. Among many things that he talked about was the concept of communicated vs. revealed knowledge. 

Communicated knowledge is the knowledge we get by reading it or hearing it from others. Revealed knowledge on the other hand comes from real world experience that you have applied. Revealed knowledge is far more valuable than communicated knowledge in the long run.

Coach Novak shared a story to outline his point. He talked about how early in his career he studied Dean Smith and ran the Carolina Break with his 4 man always taking it out. He did it because Coach Smith was successful at it. This was an example of using communicated knowledge. He then ran into a pressing team that forced the ball back to his inbounder (his 4 man) and then forced the four to bring the ball up. This didn't go well for his team. Because of his experience he started having his 2 man take the ball out so there was another ball handler in the back court. His knowledge went from communicated to revealed.

Another example he used to illustrate the point was how player's stop. Everyone has always taught the jump stop - as did he. But Coach Novak found that players had a hard time balancing when they stopped with a traditional jump stop. When he watched tape of NBA players he saw them using the "stride stop" method. Because of the film study (revealed knowledge) he started teaching the stride stop method instead of the jump stop.

I think it's important to examine what you teach - is it communicated or revealed knowledge? If it's communicated - then you'd better spend some time critically evaluating it so it becomes revealed knowledge. Ask yourself how you can tweak what you teach to make it better or fit your players better - that's how you turn it into revealed knowledge.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jump Switching the Dribble at Back Cut?

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As you can see by the last blog post, I've spent some time recently breaking down some of Greece's U19 offensive actions. As I did the breakdown, something that Serbia's team did defensively caught my eye. Greece runs some dribble at, back door cut actions within their offense. In this game they burned Serbia a few times early for layups. Serbia then did something that at first I couldn't believe, but it was clearly there on film. They were jump switching the back cut. Now I only saw it once so far - but am going to go back and look at this game and others to see if I can catch it again. Below is some video of them using the jump switch to defend the dribble at and back cut.

When you really think about it, it shouldn't work, right? I mean you are running away from the ball AND the cutter. That just smells like a disaster, doesn't it? Well at least in this situation it worked, I think because the guy on the ball took the passing angle away and the player running at the ball may have caused him to hesitate long enough for everyone to get into position. Either way it definitely has my wheels turning about how to defend this action.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Greece U19 Offense

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I've been watching a lot of U19 FIBA recently and one of my favorite Xs and Os teams so far has been Greece. They run a lot of really good set stuff, which I am going to share. Much of the offense comes out of Horns. One of the interesting parts of the horns sets that Greece ran was that a few involved a post/post cross screen. That in itself isn't weird, but they put a perimeter on the  block and screened for him to get open. That's a new wrinkle that I like.

Horns Sets
Horns Flair to Back Door
In this horns set, the posts screen across, one pops out, and gets the ball. The point guard comes back and gets a dribble handoff. The post who set the cross screen comes back and sets a flair for the player who just made the handoff.
The point skips the ball to the player coming off the flair screen. He dribbles at the wing then who back cuts for a layup.

Horns Iverson
Not entirely sure if they ran it out of Horns, but they could have so I'm putting it in! It's a very simple take on the classic "Iverson" set. The wings circle - one over the top and one under. In this set the post who's on the back side of the player going over the top steps out and catches the ball. As he does the player going over the top wraps his cut to the basket. 

If the player who wraps doesn't get the pass for a layup, the post on his side down screens for him and he pops out for the shot. 

Basic Horns Action
This was a basic horns action that they ran consistently. The elbow players would be one post and on guard. The post would cross screen for the guard who pops out and gets the ball. The point cuts and the post trails into a ball screen. The point comes back and back screens the screener on the ball screen. The point also could pop out, get the ball, and look inside to the big posting up off the screen.

Point Guard Corner
This set is pretty similar to the one above. The post cross screens the guard who flashes out and catches it. The point cuts to the corner, the wing moves up. The post who set the cross screen follows and ball screens. The guard dribbles across the top, the other wing rises and then back cuts. 

 If the back cut isn't there, the post re-screens and they come off the ball screen hard to the middle. It would be a great entry for a Euro Ball Screen team.

Double Down Screen
This might be my favorite set. The set starts with the high post down screening down for the wing. The point dribbles over to the wing on the screen's side. The wing cuts up to the top of the key. The point passes to the cutting wing. The opposite post steps out and the wing reverses the ball to him. As he catches the pass, the wing who made the pass now re-screens for the post who first screened for him. 

The post pops, catches, and does a dribble handoff with the point guard. The post on the other side of the floor follows his pass into a pick and roll out of the double handoff. 

One wrinkle they added, that I like, is to have their big read the screen and curl it if possible. 

Zone Offense
They ran a standard looking 1-3-1 with some tweaks. First, they would bring their guard to a lane line and they would pop their high post as a reversal man. He would reverse the ball and then either ball screen or cut into the open space. Below are a few clips of the offense at work. 

Zone Post Across
Another piece of the zone offense was having their post step across and post up the middle of the zone. They'd enter the ball and get action out of that. 

Inbounds Sets
Off Set Box
This set starts in a look that's an off set box. One post is on the ball side block and a perimeter is in the opposite corner. The other post is on the free throw line and the point guard starts on the ball side wing. The ball side block up screens for the point who cuts the the rim. The post pops and gets the ball. 

As he does, the post at the free throw line down screens the point who cuts up and gets the ball. The post who set the down screen trails and sets the ball screen.  

Box Set
In this box set one post starts on the back side block and the other on the ball side elbow. The player on the back side elbow cuts off the player on the ball side elbow. The ball side block sets a back screen for the screener at the elbow. The back side block then back screens the screener for either a flair or a curl to the basket. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Odds and Ends from the Dominican Republic's U19 Team

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The following blog is the odds and ends that I got from watching the Dominican Republic's U19 team play. They are a fun team to watch, have some good players, defend well, and if they can become a little less sloppy they could make some noise in FIBA down the road. Below are some of the Xs and Os they ran that I liked.

Down Screen into Pick and Roll
In the last post I talked about how Serbia ran actions into pick and roll - which I think is the way to go. The Dominican Republic ran this set a lot, and it's an action that I'm seeing quite a bit in FIBA right now.

The set starts by getting the ball to a wing - there are a lot of ways to do this but the Dominican Republic keeps it simple here in transition. The slasher is on the block. The screener is on the opposite block. The trail sets a down screen for the slasher who cuts up the lane line and gets the ball. As the catch is being made the backside post rises and sets the ball screen. The other wing in the corner (3) cuts through to really open up the driving lane. I would love to see the 3 stop under the rim or on the backside block and look for the ball if his defender turns his head.

Sideline inbounds sets are hard to come by and most look pretty similar. This one did a nice job of getting the Dominican Republic's drivers going toward the rim. The set starts with an inbounder, three across the top of the key and one down by the rim. A shooter is by the rim and your point guard is the third player in line - farthest from the ball.

The point guard cuts toward the ball across the two other players in the line. As he does, the player under the rim comes through the elevator screen to get the ball.

When the pass is made to the player coming through the elevator, the inbounder runs an Iverson cut across the top with the two players screening for him.

I would have LOVED to see the point guard curl a little and catch the ball going toward an unguarded basket. I also think it would have been more effective if the players lined up along the free throw line so the player coming through the elevator would have a three point shot.

After Time Out Lob Set
After a time out in a close game they uncorked this set. It starts with the point bringing the ball down one side and them getting into a 5 out look. The point takes it to a wing and the player you want to get the back screen fills the top.

The ball gets passed to the top and dribbled at the opposite wing who shallow cuts to the point. The corner back cuts right after the shallow cut. The ball is reversed the the shallow cutting player. As the ball is reversed to the top, the corner who back cut steps up and sets the back screen for the lob. 

This one almost looks like it was part of the read and react offense,but I didn't see them running much read and react in the half court. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why Serbia's U19 Team Runs Pick and Roll Better Than You...

The title of the blog is tongue in cheek, I am sure many of you run the pick and roll very well. But in watching the U19 World Championship Game  between Serbia and Greece I noticed the Serbians using some adjustments out of their ball screen game that made it much more effective than what I generally see. Below are some of the bullet points, with film.

1. The Serbian team short cornered their backside post. 
In most ball screen continuities with two posts, the typical action is one post rises to set a ball screen while the other stays on the backside block, or immediately rises up the lane line. Instead of doing that, the Serbian team would step their backside post to the short corner. This forced the player defending that post to have to actually make a decision on helping. If there was no help, the offense could take the inside shot. If he did help it would create a closeout to the short corner situation and the Serbian posts took advantage of that.

2. The Serbian team would roll to the short corner when the middle was clogged. 
Often, the rolling post would see the lane was clogged and roll to the short corner, again forcing a closeout and attack. To many times posts roll to the rim no matter what - this is a read that needs to be taught. 

3. The Serbian team would run actions into their pick and roll. 
I see this especially when I watch high school and AAU. The point guard stands up top, gives a signal, and waits for a big to come up. Everyone in the building knows when and were the pick and roll is happening - and can be ready to defend it. The Serbian team did some of that, but they also ran some good actions to get into ball screens. One of my favorite actions is below.

Obviously none of these things are new to ball screens, or basketball in general. But they are, I feel, important points that are being missed in a lot of our pick and roll action. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Who Breaks Your Biases?

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We all know I'm a Billy Beane fan, I've written about him before on here. Recently, I found a link to an article on Zak Boisvert's (@zakboisvert) amazing "Pick and Pop.Net". The article he shared is from the publication Farnam Street and is titled "Billy Beane on Making Better Decisions, Challenging Entrenched Thinking, and Avoiding Biases". The article stems from a talk that Beene gave during a recent RSA conference. If you want to see the video, you can find it here, but you have to fast forward about 8 minutes until Beane comes on. There are a lot of take aways from the talk and the article, but the one I want to write about has to do with biases. There was a quote in the piece that really stuck with me.

"When I hired, I made sure I looked outside at somebody who  didn’t have the experience bias with my first, and maybe even one  of the best hires I ever had was Paul DePodesta, who was a  Harvard Econ major, didn’t play sports, and really, was able to  come in and look at things with an eye that wasn’t biased."
This is a great point, and begs the question - who or what do you have around you to combat your biases? Who's someone on your coaching staff, in your circle of colleagues, or in your general life that will help point out your biases? If no one, then what statistical methods do you have to help you overcome your biases? I think it's a fair question to consider.

The tricky part is that you have to figure out what your biases are in the first place. Not everyone's are the same. My bias used to be that drills taught fundamentals and I would over drill things. I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine, Art Errickson, coach with me for a year. He was able to help me cut through my biases and truly embrace a much more effective games based approach.

Also, we need people or methods to help us deconstruct biases about our team. We all have biases when it comes to our players. Maybe we see something in a certain player, so we play him a lot even though he's not producing. Who or what is going to tell you that you need to play that player less because there are other players who are more productive?

The obvious answers to this are assistant coaches and statistics. I think it's important to find assistant coaches who will back you 100%, but think differently than you. You want the guy who's going to make 100 suggestions, get told no 100 times, and still be willing to make that 101st suggestion. You also have to be willing to listen to your coaches when you know deep down they are correct.

I also think statistics can help eliminating biases. Instruments such as effective field goal percentage or true shooting percentage are simple, yet effective, ways to cut through to who your most efficient scorers are. Lineup efficiency is another great way to see who really plays well with each other. Using statistics eliminates your "eye test" which could be a good thing.

Lastly, I think eliminating biases revolves around focusing in on what you want to accomplish. In basketball it's simple - score more baskets than the other team. The biases come in when we think about HOW to get things done. So I would suggest taking some time to analyze your HOW and determine where your biases lie.