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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Thibodeau’

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 (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 »

Rajon Rondo’s 3 FTs versus Phoenix (Nov 17, 2014)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 18, 2014

After a Knicks playoff game years ago, I was talking on the phone with Tom Thibodeau who was then an assistant with the Knicks. I said to him, Chris Dudley (who we both coached against when we were at Harvard and Dudley was an All-Ivy center at Yale) who is among the all-time worst FT shooter in NBA history, looks like he is on the deck of a ship lost at sea in rough waters, his balance iss so incredibly bad when he shoots a free throw. (How bad was he? Read this account of one trip to the line.) I said to Thibs: “Can’t someone just get him to stand still? To get his feet under him and leave them there? Does he have vertigo? I get dizzy watching him. It would have to be worth 10-20% at least”. Thibodeau said, “he’s got his own guy [meaning his own private shooting coach] and he won’t listen to anyone”. That coach was stealing money.

I neither love nor hate Rajon Rondo and his game. His court vision when he has the ball and his sense of anticipation and timing on defense are second to none. And that’s in a league of the world’s best athletes. But, man, is he a lousy shooter. All that stuff about him working with Mark Price a few summers ago – changing his shooting form and gaining confidence – is all just a bunch of junk. Price knows what he’s doing, but Rondo ain’t listening. Last night against the Phoenix Suns, Rondo (Rondo!) got fouled shooting a 3 pointer with 2.2 secs left, Celtics down 4. (Very stupid foul). The scenario is clear: make the first 2, miss the next, get the rebound and either score to tie or hit a 3 pointer to win. Except Rondo misses the first. Badly. Then Rondo misses the 2nd. Badly. Then Rondo misses the 3rd on purpose. The funny and sad and where-is-Mark-Price-now thing is the 3rd shot, the intentional miss, came closest to going in.

Rondo needs to change his release point, at least on his free throw. Get it up and out and away from his head and shoulder. Short stroke. Super short stroke to eliminate motion. Mimic Avery Bradley’s release point.

Hey, Rajon. I’m available.

Posted in notes: college & pro, shooting | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Out of Bounds Under the Hoop (Patience!)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on October 29, 2014

At our NTL camps and clinics, we eschew the old playground tradition of checking the ball at the top of the key after fouls and after the ball goes out of bounds. Instead, we take the ball out underneath the hoop. The idea in our camps and clinics is to make the basketball as real an experience as possible and similar as possible to game and game-like situations. Friday night, Harvard at Princeton, Jadwin Gym, ball rolls out under the hoop off a Princeton player: Harvard ball.

Different teams have different takes and philosophies regarding the out of bounds play. Some look to run a play to score; some are content to get the ball in and let their half court offense do the work. At NTL, the idea is to teach and help players see and recognize what they hadn’t seen and recognized before. Left to their own devices, players always pass the ball to the first open player, usually someone who has popped to the wing or corner. This, to me, misses a great opportunity. Inbounds passers, the player passing the ball from out of bounds, should always look to pass the ball into the lane before making that pass to the perimeter. You can make that pass to the perimeter anytime; look for the layup or easy finish play in the lane for 3 or 3 1/2 seconds before passing the ball out.

All it usually takes is a player to screen away in the post, say block-to-block and then shape up after the screen. It’s that easy.

I remember playing a summer league game in Swampscott, MA long ago with Tom Thibodeau when we were assistants at Harvard. Thibodeau, who was a pretty tough player, better than his DIII all-league status suggests, scored 32 points, many of which came from OB Under plays; me passing into him, of course! We’d make eye contact; he’d fake away from an opening and come back (sealing strong) or he would do the aforementioned screen and shape. Easy as that! (When I was at his apartment a few days later, he had cut out and hung the local paper’s league write-up on his refrigerator, circling “Tom Thibodeau, 32 points”. I scribbled in below it: “Steve Bzomowski, 16 assists”.)

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, general improvement, passing, team offense | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Arne Duncan, Sec’y of Ed, The Basketball Player

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 16, 2008

Arne Duncan at Harvard HoopsIn every newspaper and blog announcement, in President-elect Obama’s introduction and even in a question in the press conference following the naming of Arne Duncan as the new administration’s choice as Education Secretary, there has been mention of Arne as a basketball player, a “co-captain at Harvard” and a former overseas player in Australia. What doesn’t come through in any of this is 1) how good Arne really was (and, to some extent, I’m sure, still is) and 2) what that means, if anything, in his new position. That’s a point, after reading my brief (and incomplete history) I will let you decide on your own.

I came upon Arne when he was entering his junior year at Harvard, so what I know of his first two years I learned from others. He apparently came to Harvard, unrecruited, as a gangly, thin, weak 6’2″ player with no chance at making varsity. Most Division I schools don’t even have tryouts and if they do, it is pretty much pro forma. Arne played where he could, which meant JV. According to Julio Diaz, then the 2nd assistant (and now an assistant athletic director at Fordham) and thus in charge of the junior varsity, Arne was a “gym rat” and averaged something like 30+ points per game is freshman year. Harvard then under head coach, Frank McLaughlin, was on something of an upswing and after Arne’s freshman year, he was given no promises – and might have even been discouraged – regarding making the varsity squad the next year. (Here’s a funny story: Arne, it should be noted, spent all his basketball playing time in inner-city Chicago, seeking out  and playing with the best. Inner-city in Chicago means Polish-Americans and African-Americans. Let’s just say Arne wasn’t playing with the Polish kids. Hanging in those neighborhoods, Arne developed a manner of speaking that belied his ancestry. He sounded like “a brother”. Following his freshman year, desperate to prove he could play Division I, Arne, having grown now to 6’4″, got on the phone with a bunch of Ivy league schools and their basketball coaches. Sometime later, pre-season, Tom Miller, head coach at Cornell was talking with Coach McLaughlin about this and that and, as an aside asked, “who’s this, Arne Duncan, who called asking to transfer?” McLaughlin apparently gave his description of Arne and Miller said, “but he’s a black kid”. And McLaughlin said “no, he’s a white kid”. And Miller said again, “got to be a black kid, I talked with him”. And McLaughlin had to explain, “no, he just talks like that because that’s where he’s from”! Later in his career, Arne dropped 26 points on Cornell at Cornell, letting Coach Miller know exactly who he was.)

Arne came back sophomore year and made the varsity. By the end of the year, he was 6’5″ and starting on a team that finished very strong, winning 8 of the last 10 and finishing 9-5 in the Ivies. The next year (my first year on staff), with all the players returning, Harvard started out strong (swept Penn/Princeton at Penn/Princeton, the only time that has been done by any Ivy team EVER) but faltered badly down the stretch; Duncan meanwhile had emerged as a solid Ivy player. With a head coaching change and a bevy of new players, Duncan took the next year off to – take your pick: 1) go back to Chicago to work on his Senior Thesis (which even elicited a mention by Alex Wolff in SI) or 2) give his body another year to mature, allow the young players a year to develop and, finally, play his senior year with his best friend on the team, Keith Webster (future Utah Jazz draft pick).

When Arne and Webster came back in the fall, somehow they got the keys to the gym. Many a night I’d come back from being on the road recruiting, midnight, 1, 2 am and they’d be in the gym working out, doing all-out, game-speed shooting and ball handling drills. This was not something that you’d see at Harvard. You know, libraries open 24/7, all-nighters every night. But down in Briggs Cage working out? Nope. Another thing I remember is in pre-season pick-up games, Arne never called a foul when a defender fouled him. Never. I think he saw it, calling the foul, as an excuse he did not want to use if something had gone wrong – missed a shot, lost the ball or something. No excuses. Play through it. Get the job done. Overcome the obstacles, nobody bailing him out. Excuses equated to failure and he just did not see things that way. He was a brilliant player, smooth, crafty, unfettered by any defensive scheme or outside pressure (he was the top practitioner of what I call “The Sixth Principle of Zone Offense”), teaming with Webster to sweep Penn and Princeton early season in our gym; even pummeled a Pete Carril Princeton team 78-54! Earlier in the season, Arne led The Crimson to a near upset at Boston College, a game in which we had a 9 point second half lead, but faltered in the end, 87-86. During one stretch, Arne scored 14 straight points by himself. I mean no one else scored from either team (one being a Big East team). Somehow, on our last possession, we neglected to run the play for Duncan. Our bad.

The season sort of went downhill from there; it was too bad. We lost a couple of games and the coaching staff didn’t/couldn’t figure out how to get the players going in the same direction as the coaching staff thought it should go. Duncan grew much closer to Assistant Coach Tom Thibodeau (now regarded as the top assistant in the NBA, with the Celtics, and seen as the “guru”  behind their defensive schemes). Duncan worked hard in the off-season with Thibs (as we called him) to prepare for CBA tryouts but ultimately played four seasons in the top-tier Australian Pro League.

The reason Arne Duncan was/is (after pro ball, he teamed with Craig Robinson – Obama’s brother-in-law and a great, great Ivy league player at Princeton – and two others to win multiple Hoop-It-Up National titles) a great player is because the game and what the game requires suites him to perfection. It’s cliché, but it’s team game; no way Arne Duncan gets any good at golf or tennis or, god forbid, downhill skiing. It’s the perfect game for someone who understands what working hard will do for you and is ready then to do that work. It’s a game that if you can see the possibilities where maybe others don’t see it – in the angles, in the subtle change of speed and change of direction, in the gaps and openings, in the beauty and satisfaction that comes with a shot made or a pass completed, in the pulling together, in the belief of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, in the knowledge that there are lots of ways to get the job done. Arne Duncan was not a great talent, but boy, did he understand and see deep into the game. I think he believed in the game and in his belief that he could be very, very good at it even while others might not have thought so. Isn’t that what great teachers, what great educators possess? The unwavering belief that their pupils can and should and will succeed.

Posted in notes: college & pro | Tagged: , , , | 27 Comments »

 
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