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!