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Archive for the ‘fast break’ Category

50 Little (Big) Tips (7th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 5, 2015

1. When going left, dribble lefty. When going right, dribble righty. When you don’t know where you are going, don’t dribble at all.

2. You are playing a league game or a game where there’s a ref or somebody who is going to impose rules. It’s your team’s ball, side-out in the front court. Pass the ball to a teammate in the backcourt. (You can throw the ball into the backcourt from anywhere and it is not a backcourt violation. Just don’t touch it till you get both feet in the backcourt!) The pass to the backcourt eliminates the danger of a) catching in the front court near the half court line and stepping on the line and getting a totally demoralizing backcourt violation and b) getting trapped by a defender and the sideline/backcourt corner.

3. The first overnight basketball camp I ever went to was Friendship Farm run by Jack Donahue, the great Lew Alcindor’s (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) high school coach. The camp was heaven on earth; all basketball all-the-time. Great high school players and great high school and college coaches. (Bobby Knight came in on day and nearly killed us with defensive drills.) One day during a break, Warren Isaacs, all-time Iona College great and long-time big-time pro in Italy, pulled me aside to work on my hook shot. At one point, Coach Donahue walked by and muttered, “you’re only as good as your running hook”. Whatever Coach Donahue said, I took as gospel. You should too.

4. When you play a game of one-on-one, vary the rules. Don’t always start at the top of the key, don’t always leave the rules open ended. Some ideas: a) top of the key but one dribble maximum; b) start on one or the other low post areas, back to the basket, and go three dribbles maximum (anything more is grammar school ball); c) start in the corner or the wing; d) play one-on-one full court; e) ball handler starts at 1/2 court with a live dribble, defense starts at the top of the key. What game do you want to play?

5. Unless you are dunking the ball or dropping the ball down into the hoop, use the backboard to finish layups, especially breakaway layups. Angle out on the last step if you are coming down the middle (easy to do) and finish around the rim, not over the rim. Over the rim (meaning straight into the hoop) without using the backboard can result in the ball rolling off the rim and out. So depressing. I cannot tell you home many times I have seen heads hung after the ball rolls off the rim and out on “all alone layups – even in the pros! Take the rim out of the equation. Ball + backboard = 2 points.

Posted in beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, post play, rebounding, rules, shooting, team offense, without the ball | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (6th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on September 14, 2015

1. As in any thrown ball, if your hand goes to the outside of the ball, the ball will curve. In basketball, pretty much the only time you throw a “baseball pass” is when you hit a teammate who has gone ahead of all the defense and you are throwing a 70′-90′ pass. If you throw it with your hand rotating around the outside of the ball, it will curve away and not hit your target. Instead – and this is absolutely beautiful, try it! – finish with your thumb down, your hand coming under the ball rather than around the side. This gives it a smooth backspin rotation, just like on your jumper, which we know, always hits it target!

2. When Tom Thibodeau (NBA Coach of the Year, 2010-11) and I coached together for four years at Harvard, we played a ton of pickup games together. During those games, he talked a lot, some of it smack but a lot of it just random basketball stuff. One thing he used to say was “never catch a deflected pass”. You know: someone throws you a pass and a defender deflects it. Don’t know where Thibs picked this up (it sure sounded like he was parroting something he had heard) but it makes sense in that one is likely to misjudge the flight of the ball and it will deflect off you and out of bounds.

3. When Robert Parish got traded to the Celtics in 1980, he was a four year veteran with plenty of skills. Playing with Larry Bird over the next decade, he added many more. Bird used to outlet the ball 3/4 court left-handed. He’d rebound on the right side of the rim, turn over his right shoulder and looking up court, use the hand that was away from the middle (where defense tends to be) and the hand that he could outlet quicker with, his left. Three years later, Robert Parish was outletting lefty too. If an NBA veteran can pick up a skill like that, so can you.

4. When you run the break, you run wide, right? But don’t run wide all the way to the baseline or corner (unless you are spotting up for an NBA style three pointer in the corner, the NBA’s favorite shot). Instead, hesitate when you are wide but even with the top of the key, and then angle in so you come to the hoop above the block. (I got this from Rick Pitino when he was at Providence College many years ago.) This angle allows you to A) catch and use your body to protect and finish on a layup; B) gives you the angle where you can use the backboard (rather than on a baseline drive where it’s just rim) and C) hit a teammate with a bounce pass angling in from the opposite wing. (Defense is between you and the hoop thus giving you a window to make the pass through the lane; couldn’t do that if you were coming in from the corner!) Again: angle in above the block, please. You will never regret it.

5. Similar to the efficiency of the lefthand outlet, after rebounding and deciding you are going to dribble the ball up rather than outletting with a pass (a la Magic Johnson), take the first dribble with the inside hand, the hand that will allow you to stretch the ball up court quickest. On the right side of the court, that would mean your left hand. On the left side, your right hand. If you are not outletting, you better get moving and using a long inside hand dribble is the best way to start your speed dribble up court!

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, rebounding, shooting | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (3rd in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 12, 2015

Week Three

1. Practice like a pro (

2. Practice “toes to the corner” – shoulder pointing in toward the hoop to protect the ball – finishes (or as I used to hear Rick Pitino say, “put ’em in jail!”)

3. Engage in games, competition: H-O-R-S-E, Streak, Knockout, especially One-on-One (competition is good for basketball development)

4. Play “chest up, high hand” defense (heard Bo Ryan, U of Wisconsin head coach, say this recently)

5. Always run wide on the break (I remember watching Karl Malone run so wide on the break when John Stockton was pushing it up that it looked like Malone was out of bounds or going to run on top of the scorers’ table.)

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, post play, shooting | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (2nd in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2015

Week Two

First Tip: Layups 12 Different Ways

In games, layups present themselves in a variety of ways; it’s not always the classic “right knee up on a righty layup”, “lefty knee up on a lefty layup”. Here are 12 ways to shoot a layup:

1) right knee up righty layup (the classic);

2) left knee up on a lefty layup (the opposite hand classic);

3) right hand, “wrong foot”

4) left hand, “wrong foot”

5) “Power Layup”; off two feet (right side)

6) “Power Layup”; off two feet (left side)

7) lefty dribble, righty layup

8) righty dribble, lefty layup

9) righty finish left side of hoop (back turned to the middle)

10) lefty finish right side of hoop (back turned to the middle)

11) EuroStep right side

12) EuroStep left side

Second Tip: Alternating Hands Dribble when speed dribbling

When needing to cover a long distance, maybe after a steal or long rebound, and you have no one ahead of you and you want to finish the trip and the play as fast as possible, use the alternating hands dribble technique. Don’t cross the ball over, extend your arm and put the ball down in front of the other hand. 3-4 dribbles and you should be able to cover a full high school (84′) or NBA/NCAA (94′) court.

Third Tip: Sikma Move

Named after NBA legend, Jack Sikma. Also known as “inside pivot”.

Fourth Tip: Use defensive fakes

Especially important when defending a 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 fast break or when helping against penetration on defense and you want to make the dribbler pick up his/her dribble without fully committing to the dribbler.

Fifth Tip: Screening the low side of a defender in a ball screen

Many defensive players, especially in pick-up games or recreational league games react to a ball screen by trying to go under the screen. If so, screen on the low side of that defender so it is even harder for that defender to get under the screen. This will drop the defender so far under that the ball handler who you are screening for will be free for a wide open, undefended shot.

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, post play, shooting, without the ball | Leave a Comment »

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.

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“Running Wide on the Break; Angle in at 45 Degrees!”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 2, 2007

A Boston area player who has taken NTL clinics many times over the past few years, a great guy, a very good athlete who practices with good intention (and asks a lot of questions) one day sent me an email saying that he had played in a pick-up game the day before and that a former D III player (in other words, a player with much more experience than he) who was on his team complimented him for staying wide when they had fastbreak opportunities. It happened to be a topic that we had covered in a recent practice and he was psyched that it benefitted his play, wanted to tell me about it, share his success. I was psyched that he picked up something useful and got some recognition for it. Running wide on the break is one of those little things in basketball that gets overlooked by recreational players, but has big value when applied.

Fastbreak offense is similar to halfcourt offense in the sense that you want to maintain good spacing to keep the defense spread, in this instance, to keep the defense out of the middle of the floor (where the ballhandler is bringing the ball up).

(If you want to conjure a mental picture of “running wide” think of Karl Malone rebounding, outletting to Stockton, and running down the absolute sideline, sometimes so wide that he gave the appearance of being on top of the tables at press row.)

Here’s the rest of it: when you get almost even with the top of the key, begin to angle in at 45 degrees, the angle which will bring you to the hoop on a straight line, just above the block. This accomplishes three important things:

1) if you receive the pass from the ballhandler, it gives you the glass (or backboard) to use for your shot (the backboard is your friend); coming from the baseline and getting to the board is more problematic;

2) it gives you the opportunity to get your body between a middle-of-the-lane defender and the ball when you go in to score. If you caught on the baseline, coming from the corner or below the block, your shot would more likely be exposed;

3) if you do catch coming in at 45 degrees, then it gives you a “window” to hit the opposite wing going to the hoop. Think about it: if you caught on the baseline, the defender, naturally, would be between you and the hoop; you’d have no look, no opening to bounce pass to someone coming in opposite wing. If you caught coming in at 45 degrees, that defender, again, would be between you and the hoop, but because you are not flattened out, you could easily get a bounce pass to that opposite wing teammate streaming to the hoop..

It’s a subtle angle adjustment that yields a seismic shift in opportunities. (And a chance at giving yourself an “alright!” when praised by more experienced players!)

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“Running the Point on the Break: Part Five, How to Finish”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on October 30, 2006

camp-photo-oct-06.JPG(This is the last in a series on the three-on-two fast break.)

We’ve brought the ball up court, we’ve stayed spread-out; we’ve even delivered the ball to the wing. How do we finish the play? Well, the best possible scenario is that the point would have influenced the bottom defender off the middle of the lane by faking one way and going to you. If that is the case, you as the receiver may have a chance for a strong-finish type lay-up…similar to what you would get on a three-on-one break. (Which is why we often run the “10 Player Break Drill” rather than the conventional 11 player break. We are so innovative here!) The key to the finish is catching the ball on the run, but under control, and approaching the hoop at nearly a forty-five degree angle – the angle that would take you between the block and the first marker toward the hoop. This allows you to 1) use the glass and 2) to use your body to protect the ball from trailing defenders.

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“Running the Point: Part Four, The Wing Catches the Ball”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on October 23, 2006

After the point has drawn the defense and dished the ball to the wing, what does the wing do with the ball? Remember: this is a 3 on 2 break. It is critical (critical in a basketball sense) that the wing catch the ball under control. That is: be able to stop with good balance so that if you need to change your mind, you are still able to make the play the way you want to. Typically, you’ll know if the shot is yours even before you catch the ball. It is important, therefore, to have your hands and feet ready to go up with it or by the defender if the defender has over committed to the pass. (Is this brilliant or what?) If the shot is not yours, the other two players on offense need to stay spread out, i.e., away from each other. The wing influences the lone defender trying to deal with the next pass by looking one way and passing the other. Look at the foul line player and thread the pass through for the lay-up. Look toward the hoop and dish to the foul line. Like taking a candy from a baby and with the same result: the defenseless will be crying all the way home. (Sorry baby.)

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“Running the Point: Part Three”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on October 16, 2006

a-halasz-running-the-break.JPGThe last thing we knew, we had caught the outlet, the wings had run wide and the ball handler (you) was pushing it up the middle of the court, assessing if you had “numbers”. If you do have numbers, and the defense is backing off, keep advancing at the defender until the defense makes a move at you. As soon as there is any momentum by the point defender, you dish to the wing. Don’t get jammed by the defender and don’t let her deflect your pass. After you pass, keep your piece of the offense spaced by stopping at the top of the key, ready to get a return pass from the wing. If, when you dribbled up court, the defender attacked you early, you’d pass right away to the wing. That way a 3-on-2 becomes a 2-on-1. Another strategy, or response to an attacking defender, is to go by him with a dribble move; leave him in the dust That would make a 3-on-2 into a 3-on-1. You can practice this last move (going by the defender) with a chair (a slow chair) or a really little, basically immobile kid.

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“Running the Point: Part Two”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on October 9, 2006

So, you’ve caught the outlet pass and haven’t been called for travelling or an offensive foul as soon as you turned to go up-court. That’s good. Meanwhile, your coach or the coach inside your head is screaming “push it!” Where do you push to? Unless you are on a team that has a set “break offense” with some sideline schemata, take the ball up the middle of the court; that’s where defense is likely to be and that’s what you want: to be defended. First thing you do is calculate, enumerate, count: how many of us, how many of them. If there are more of you then them, you’ve got what hoopsters refer to as “numbers” and then you do “push” because the “numbers” don’t last long. Offensive players stay wide on the wings, point guard dribbles up the middle keeping the dribble until she sees defense making a move toward her. Don’t wait until you are jammed to get rid of it, pass when the defense begins to make a move at you, some momentum coming at you. (But is the defense faking? Sometimes life just seems so complicated…)

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