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Archive for May, 2012

Sins of the Recreational Basketball Player (3rd in a Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 12, 2012

When playing pick-up basketball, do not play zone. It is a sin. There. You have been warned. To protect yourself and who you are as a basketball player, you must not play or agree to play zone.

Playing Zone in a Pick-up Game is a bad idea, sinfully bad, because – simply put – players do not know how to play zone, either offensively or defensively. You walk onto an outdoor court somewhere, 7 players, 8, 9 are shooting around. It is getting a little hot out, a couple of the heavier, hairier dudes take their shirts off and fling them against the fence. A guy on a bike with headphones on is pedaling by. Harry, who is friends with the bike guy, shouts once, and then a second time a little louder, and, there you have it, the guy on the bike becomes Mr. #10. You have got a game. FTs are taken, sides are made. 5 drift off together one way, 5 another way. Someone in your group says, “let’s play 2-3”. STOP! You cannot flinch. You cannot waver. You must face the devil head-on. You say, “we are not playing zone”. Shirtless says, “why not”? You know that the reason, the only reason pick-up game basketball players play zone is because they are tired or lazy or they have simply lost their way in life. You could tell the guy that he knows nothing about taking away the lane, the slides, the bumps, the communication, the pressure on the ball and fronting the post. You could tell him about keeping your hands up and staying in a stance and that playing zone is every bit as taxing as man-to-man. Rather you say, “Zone? I mean why not just go play a round of golf instead?”

When playing pick-up and zones are suggested, I’ve always been able to talk everyone out of it. But what if you couldn’t? (You may not possess my power of persuasion.) What if the other 4 wanted to play zone? Well, you could just play man-to-man yourself, chase your guy around while your teammates were zoning their little hearts away. They’d probably never even notice.

Playing zones without knowledge of how to play zones (both offensively and defensively) is like wading around in the shallow end of the pool. The real game of zones, however, is in the deep end. My suggestion: don’t get in over your head. It’s a sin to drown in your own malaise.

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Sins of the Recreational Basketball Player (2nd in a series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 7, 2012

Sins, of course, carry different weight, come in many shades, stain the basketball soul, sometimes more, sometimes less, permanently. The first sin we identified was Not Running the Floor; the gravity of that sin cannot be overstated. You might as well excuse yourself for a bathroom break, secretly locate and turn on the sprinkler system and send everyone home. Who are you kidding: you don’t want to be there and are just spoiling the game for everyone anyway.

Our second sin, Not Getting the Ball Inbounds Quickly When the Other Team Scores, is related. It has to do with running; it has to with effort; it has to do with the sublime consciousness of outthinking and outdoing and surprising the opposition. (The opposition is, of course, both the other team and the sedentary you.)

Here’s what happens in recreational basketball games: one team scores and the team that was scored upon walks the ball out of bounds and slowly, mutely, listlessly, defeatedly, looks for someone to throw the ball to. But this dullness turns out to be problematic in itself because the scored upon team, your team, is walking up-court, collective heads down, watching the other team celebrate. This is a sin. This is an affront to the collective basketball soul. This is what is wrong with humanity. Somehow basketball became football in the sense that after a score, it seems to be a virtual time-out. I mean, let’s sub and line the ball up and kickoff and then, but only then, try to bring the ball up-court and score. (I like football but get it off my basketball court!)

Like I said in the first post, I’ve played a lot of pick-up basketball and it has always been for me that when the other team scores, I am in a rage. Enraged. And I cannot wait to avenge what just happened. What to do? Take it out and get it in and up-court as fast as possible, preferably, hopefully, while the other team is still gloating, feeling unjustifiably good about themselves. When the ball drops through the net, it’s like the starter’s gun has gone off and you are up and out of the blocks. Their guard is down, is it not? Wipe that smile off their faces. Is there not great satisfaction in that? What happens when you run the ball out and scream for someone to throw it into and sprint up court is your teammates see what is happening and they join the race that you have begun. They run with you. They sense the passion, the possibility, the transcendent nature of basketball as a fast-paced, non-stop game. They scored on you; okay, that’s not a sin. But not trying to answer right away, that sits heavy on the soul.

Posted in beautiful basketball, fast break, general improvement, team offense | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Sins of the Recreational Ball Player (1st in a series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on May 3, 2012

I’ve played a lot of pickup ball. And I’ve watched a lot of recreational level players play in the Never Too Late Basketball clinics and camps over the past twenty years. I like to think of myself as a tolerant person, one who can accept a mistake or an occasional lapse in judgment (though I’m guessing there are those who might disagree). Still, there are certain transgressions that occur on a regular basis on a basketball court during recreational level play that I simply cannot abide. To me they are sins (Definition: an immoral act against the divine laws of basketball). I’m quite certain the basketball gods (don’t ask me to prove the existence of the basketball gods because if you ask me to prove the existence of the basketball gods then you are saying you have not ever played or paid attention to the game) are on my side. Here’s sin number one:

Not Running the Floor
Basketball is a running game. James Naismith said that. And if he didn’t, he should have. If you play the game, please run the floor. It’s one of the things that you must do to keep your basketball soul pure. I mean, why are you out there? Partly, one would assume, to get in better shape (or stay in shape or some shape thing). Then run the floor. Not running the floor doesn’t help you get better wind or build muscle or do anything. Too tired? Sub out.

What does “running the floor” mean? A teammate steals the ball, chased by a defender, you run hard to trail the play. Ever see anyone miss a layup? Pros miss layups. You are not playing with pros. Your teammate misses, you put it back. Teammate is relieved; you can strut. Opponent steals the ball (or gets ahead); you run the floor. Ever see the other team miss a layup? You don’t run and they miss? They rebound and score. They miss? You rebound and turn up court, marking you as someone who knows how to play the game.

Run the floor to turn a 2-on-2 into a 3-on-2 for your team. All you have to do is outrun the defender who is loping along next to you. Usually a matter of 3 or 4 hard sprinting strides. Sprint to turn their 2-on-1 into a 2-on-2. What you’ve done there is a numerical windfall; you’ve busted them up. They’re not scoring now.

And what happens when you run, run hard, to turn a 2-on-2 into a 3-on-2 but the defender next to you sprints, too? Well, too bad, in a way, but good, too, because now you’ve got competition, motivation – a game!. And suddenly, through some simple effort and respect for the game, it becomes a game that’s worth playing. And you, a basketball soul worth saving.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

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