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“Jamal!”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 23, 2017

Please, never call out the name of the player you are passing to even if things have transpired in a way that you had not expected: meaning they aren’t looking and the pass that you have thrown is on its way. It’s embarrassing to do so. It means that you and he or she were not on the same page and to shout the name, shout in desperation, is a very public acknowledgement of that mistake. Better to see the ball fly out of bounds. Better that the ball smacks your teammate in the back of the head. That’ll teach ’em not to be looking for the pass. No more, “Jamal!”, okay?

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, general improvement, passing, team offense, without the ball | Leave a Comment »

Poem Inspired by an NTL Weekend Camp

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on April 19, 2016

On The Occasion Of Playing Basketball
for Nine Hours in Two Days
One Week Before My Sixtieth Birthday

Being as sore as I was this morning is OK,
but if I were to elaborate on that just a little, I’d say
it’s like getting a voice-mail message

from a childhood friend who is evidently calling
from a noisy truckstop in the Midwest
and who is evidently drunk, saying that

some s**t has gone down, some bad s**t, actually:
that his mom sold her house and its contents
without having discussed it in advance

or even let him get his stuff,
including concert-ticket stubs tacked
to the bulletin board beside his door;

not to mention his original X-Box,
which admittedly is not compatible with
today’s games but for the love of god,

there were some great ones
that you cannot get anymore,
and simpler graphics are not necessarily worse graphics.

Would it have been such a burden to call your only son to say:
“Hey Granger, this is your mom. I’ve decided to move
to an assisted living facility, in Rockford”?

Arthur Russell, Nutley, NJ, NTL Camps (1993-2016 . . . ) “winner of the NTL Lakeside, Michigan Weekend Camp 2016 Baron Davis Award for Returning to the Game in Terrible Condition But With a Still Passable Handle.”

 

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, general improvement, without the ball | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

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 (5th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on July 22, 2015

IMG_24331. After feeding the post yell “double”. This is fundamental, as fundamental as the “Mikan Drill”. Why yell double? The player guarding you invariably goes to bother the receiving post player. One of the first (fundamental) things the post player does is turn and look middle. The post player cannot look middle AND see your player who has vacated you to double down. Help out your teammate in the post by yelling “double”!

2. Let the post player get position before you feed the post. Not doing so more often than not results in a deflection (almost as bad as a steal). Posting up means, posting up by definition is, getting the defense on your back so you can manipulate and hold off defense so that the post player can receive the ball cleanly. It’s offense: be patient!

3. Make your left as good as your right, practice lefty (or off-hand) jumpers to better understand form. Of course we don’t mean become an ambidextrous jump shooter; gauche. But there is a reason that all great shooters are, informally, like during games of H-O-R-S-E or just in goofing around, very good off-hand jump shooters. They understand form so well that they can apply it both to their off-hand and to their strong hand. (My record in shooting 18′ jumpers alternating left hand and right hand every shot is 20 in a row. What’s yours? Try it! And then try it again and again; you’ll figure it out and become a better shooter overall.)

4. Shoot for swishes (“Swish Game”). Fred Hodson of Jonesboro, IN, NTL’s famed Shot Surgeon at our Weekend Camps (he slices open, takes apart and slowly stitches back together your shot – no pain killers) says “shrink your target”. In other words, don’t just shoot to get the ball in the hoop; shoot it to get it in a particular part of the hoop. There’s a game, comes by many names that is helpful. The “Swish Game” goes like this (it can be done from anywhere): you take two from the FT line. If you miss, it’s minus one; if you make a perfect swish (no rim at all), you get plus one; if you make but hit the rim, you get zero for that shot. Then your partner (opponent) does the same, takes two. Play to plus six or to any number you want. Making shots will all of a sudden become a by-product of shooting.

5. Aim for the bottom corner of the backboard when feeding a post player who is being fronted. I got this from Tom Thibodeau when we were coaching together at Harvard and we’d play pick up or summer league games. I’d have it on the wing; he’d be posting up. I would situate myself so that Thibs would be between me and the hoop. If he was fronted, he’d keep the defender there and tell me to throw the ball up to the corner of the backboard. This would keep the ball out of the middle of the lane where hep might be coming but also allow him (the post player) to pull it in, get footwork down and score in the lane.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, notes: college & pro, post play, shooting, without the ball | 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 »

50 Little (Big) Tips (1st of 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 23, 2015

In our Boston NTL Weekly Practice Programs, we are running a clinic during the winter term called “50 Little (Big) Tips & Scrimmage”. The idea is to present 5 “tips’ each week for the ten week duration that don’t usually get talked about, tips that heeded and added up can make you a much better basketball player. We introduce and demonstrate and practice them and look long and hard for players to implement them during the practice-ending scrimmage.

Week One

1. Weakside offensive rebounding on shots taken from the corner:

Missed shots taken from the corner go long 2/3rds of the time. Since defense positions themselves between the ball and you, pin them underneath the basket and take those 2/3rds of the time misses as they go long.

2. Whenever you have the ball and you see the back of a defender’s head, pass to the person that is being face guarded. It’s 2 points and an assist for you.

3. “Fake a pass to make a pass.” Can’t get the ball to where you want to pass it? Fake a pass to get the defense to step off and then make the pass where you originally intended.

4. Offensive rebound by predicting where the rebound is going by watching the flight of the ball and then move to that spot. (Where the ball hits on the rim will determine where the ball will go. Practice it. Get good at it. Go get the ball like Dennis Rodman. “The ability to read the ball in flight and predict where it is going.”)

5. Attack the defender’s top foot. Defender’s right foot is up? Attack it by going to your left. Defender’s left foot up? Attack it by going to your right. Having that foot up makes the defender crossover step, a slower move, and a move that puts them a step behind you.

Posted in beautiful basketball, defense, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, rebounding, shooting, without the ball | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Sins of the Recreational Basketball Player (5th in an occasional series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 7, 2014

It’s a sin, a crying-shame-kind-of-sin, to see a player in a recreational league or pick-up game or even, heaven forbid, in a scrimmage in an NTL Clinic or Weekend Camp, feed a post player the ball and then just stand there as the perimeter player’s defender (the post feeder’s defender) impedes the movement or offensive play of the post player. It is a sin because it is so easy to do something to affect the play in a variety of positive ways. The easy something to do? Move. Move to occupy your defender so that your defender gets off the post player. Whenever you feed the post your defender always ALWAYS turns to look into the post. At that moment, all your defender knows is that you were where you were when you fed the post. Shaving points? Don’t move. Feeling super lazy? Stay right there! Sinning like a recreational player? Yup, don’t move your feet.

Now the question is, the good question is, where do you go? Simply put, anywhere! More helpfully, go one of three places: 1. cut behind your defender’s head (so the defender has to adjust his/her position to concentrate on finding you or 2. move to a spot away from your defender so that they have to cover the most ground to recover to you (often to the corner) or 3. dive to the rim (cut to the hoop). Any and all of these movements get your post player what your post player and you want: one-on-one in the post.

Do one of those three things and your stay in basketball purgatory will be shortened; the basketball gods will begin to forgive you your long list of basketball sins. Amen.

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A Passion for the Game, A Passion for People

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 19, 2013

IMG_5055.JPGIn the pros, I get it; it does not necessarily follow that to absolutely thrive you need to care as much about the people as you do the game. Yes, to build “team” you need trust, and you need some major level of trust to win. (Jordan had to trust Paxson; Bird had to trust DJ, etc.) But, you could be traded at any moment; so could your teammates. There’s that issue of the big contract you are trying to win, and your family, your reputation, your legacy. I think in the pros you are not playing – not loving – the game because of those around you.

College? Maybe a little tighter. You might room together, maybe take some classes together. Spend a year or two or four with the same crew. But is there a commitment to the game that comes directly because of who you will see on the court the next time you go there? College teammates are surely close but the reasons to play are many: yes, your teammates, but also the scholarship, the fans, your parents.

The regular pickup game is another story. Here’s one of those stories:

The Mayor and her people lacing them up.

We see this connection between a passion for the game and a passion for people every time we step on the court at Never Too Late Basketball, whether it be a weekend camp, clinic, or the Play Forever League. There’s a beauty to the game and the recreational player gets to feel that every time he walks onto the court, every time she huddles, every moment shared after the game to talk about, to relive, those moments. It’s a precious thing to play basketball for fun made all the more precious because the essence of this game is to share it – on the court and off – with others.

artpoplloyd.jpgIMG_6625CRW_6403

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“What ‘Posting Up’ Really Means”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 22, 2007

Ruth Riley, USA Basketball, posts up versus Team Cuba
Ruth Riley (USA Basketball/images)

You are big or at least bigger than the person guarding you. Mismatch! One of your teammates, the one that likes to tell everyone what to do, starts barking, “Post up, Post up”. You think, okay, I haven’t touched the ball in the last fifteen possessions, can’t hurt to try. So, you run down to the block and look and look and look for the ball to be passed in. No ball. Nothing. What’s up with that? Your teammate, who it turns out came off the bench for a team that went to the Sweet Sixteen in the mid-80s, is not impressed with your “post up”; obviously just being “in the post” does not qualify.

During the next break in action, here’s what your teammate will tell you to do: make contact with your back against your defender. Lean right into him/her so that you can manipulate and react to any movement the defender may make. Almost like boxing out for a rebound. So, you run down to the post, to an area above the block, around the first marker. Still running forward, you run INTO the defense (arms across your chest). You then turn while continuing to push into the defender, but this time with your back and backside. (The bigger the backside, the better the post up!) You bend at the ankles, knees, hips and waist, anywhere you can bend, bend. This provides stability and strength so when the defender pushes back, you won’t give up the position you’ve established. Next, turned, you make eye contact with your Sweet Sixteen coach-on-the-floor and you get your “arm bars” up: elbows out to the side at shoulder height, hands up at ninety degrees. You spread out making yourself big. Bigger and bigger yet. And you start yelling “BALL, BALL!!!” Now, everyone in the gym knows you are really POSTING UP!

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“The Technique of the Backdoor Cut”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 3, 2006

berry-with-ball.jpgThe first thing you need to do to set-up the backdoor cut is make a couple of jumpers. Preferably long ones, drawing defense way out from the hoop. Now you’ve given the defense a reason to want to stop you from catching the ball. You’re killin’ ‘em from out there! Next, you walk the defense down toward the block or wherever. The defense is thinking, “oh, he’s walking me down to the block because he wants to pop out, catch and shoot. I know what he’s doing”. When you’ve got space to do so, you pop out, i.e. make a quick move away from the hoop. The key now is to recognize, almost f-e-e-l when the defense’s momentum has them slightly out of control. A defender who is running out to stop you is easy picking. A defender who is low and in “the stance” is a little more difficult to breakdown. Sometimes you can go backdoor after going out just one step, sometimes more. The key for you is to change direction as the momentum of the defender is moving away from the hoop. As she is pushing off to take a next step or slide out, that is the moment when you want to ‘quick’ change direction and go to the hoop. Also, and this is subtle but important, your outside foot, the one that is planted and pushes you toward the hoop, should pivot slightly as it lands so that the toe points in the direction in which you will run. (That’s the case with every change of direction or v-cut.) Additionally, it helps to start the process of putting your hands up as if you are putting them up to catch a pass. Remember, it’s change of speed and change of direction. Slow, slow, slow, like you’re doing nothing, like you’re Mickey The Dunce, and then, bang, quick to the hoop, timed to go against the defender’s momentum.

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