Contributed by Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Basketball is a simple game, but it seems like the professionals of the game lack the foundation of being moderate basketball players on regular basis. While it’s true that sometimes players lose their concentration, most of this knowledge should almost be instinctive to a player like eating, sleeping, and drinking, and not talking about the sleeping and drinking that Shawn Kemp did. Yes, this article was inspired by the lack of heart and concentration demonstrated by the Lakers on Wednesday and Friday. The horrible exhibition of basketball IQ laid said foundation.
Just to be clear, I’m not a fan of the Lakers and I’m really just agitated and hate when players that get millions of bucks can’t do things that basketball players learned when they’re 12. I find it about as annoying as randomly getting a theme song from a 90’s show stuck in my head. Really? I have have the theme from “Hang Time” (a.k.a. Reggie Theus’ best coaching job) stuck in my head?
The following is a list of fundamentals a professional basketball player should not even have to think about while playing in a game:
1. Always know where your man is when your team is playing man-to-man defense: This seems completely silly to mention, but you wouldn’t believe how many dunks under the basket NBA teams have been able to accumulate in the past two weeks. The NCAA probably has about 10 times as much, but hey, they have to get an education on things other than common knowledge on defense. Sure they could discuss equilibrium of the supply-and-demand curve or explain the stability of a benzene ring, but when it comes to stopping a UCLA cut, they’re lost.
Use your hands or peripheral vision to assist you in this endeavor. Players can put their hands on the guy they’re guarding, even if they are directly behind them (insert homosexual joke here). There have been way too many backdoor cuts and passes over the top these days. These types of brain lapses on a frequent basis should not go unpunished.
2. Box out: This is really the most important thing that any player that plays the three, four or five should be aware of 100 percent of the time when the ball is in the air. When your player is in the paint there is no reason why your body shouldn’t be between him and the basket. A lower center of gravity helps and generally the man that gets more force applied upward will win the rebound that falls within five or less feet from the rim.
While it’s true that putting a really good box out on your man slightly decreases the probability of getting the rebound, it essentially eliminates any chance your man gets the board and allows teammates a better opportunity. Maybe it’s above an NBA player’s pay grade or maybe some players are more concerned about their numbers and would like to save their energy for the offensive end.
3. Bounce pass: While it is certainly true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it’s a lot easier to throw an object around a would-be interceptor and beneath his reach as opposed to through it. There have been way too many players in these playoffs that have been rolling the dice and throwing chest passes instead of a bounce pass to accomplish a fastbreak bucket. There’s no formal stat to back this up, but probably about 85 percent of passes that are intercepted in transition are via the chest pass. Steve Nash and Jason Kidd utilize the bounce pass better than anyone out there and it’s not a coincidence that they’re two of the best passers in the league.
4. Be aware of what your opponent needs: If you’ve seen the Pitt vs. Butler game then you know what I’m talking about, Willis. The foul committed by the player on Pittsburgh 85 feet from the basket is completely inexcusable, not to mention the boneheaded foul committed by the Butler player at halfcourt (names have been spared to protect the innocent). There have been way too many stupid fouls in the past two months and the vast majority of them would have been avoided had the players been aware of what their opponent was trying to accomplish by putting them in such an actionable position.
5. Communicate on screens: One would think that something as simple as setting a screen to the left, right, or back would involve a simple countermeasure, but the screen remains one of the most underappreciated maneuvers in basketball. Stockton and Malone became two of the best 40 players in NBA history based on the pick-and-roll move and it’s no secret that it is a highly effective move to attack the basket in a two-prong format that even General Patton would appreciate. While that move is really the crown jewel of plays associated with the pick, there are a myriad of plays that could be run based off something as simple as someone standing next to the guy guarding the ball. Most of these pitfalls can be avoided by conveying how players are positioning themselves in a concise manner. It’s almost amazing how many Laker defenders were out of place following a screen by Dallas players in Game 2.
6. Don’t give up your dribble: This one goes out to Rajon Rondo in particular. The word is out that Rondo doesn’t have a jump shot and the second he gives up his dribble, that turns the triple-threat position (dribble, shoot and pass) into a single-threat position. That’s pass for those that can’t figure it out. The Heat took advantage of Rondo being lazy and giving up his dribble to allow them to defense the other Celtics with another defender cognizant of the fact Rondo is looking to pass. By the same token, once the ball is in a player’s hands in a half-court set, he shouldn’t be quick to put it on the floor since making the first step with the ball before it hits the floor is a lot quicker than a crossover (Tim Hardaway excluded).
7. Know where the help is: If the other four guys are doing their job, they should be able to provide help once the perimeter defense breaks down. Long story short, there’s no need to completely put the blanket on your man like Darrelle Revis since there should be help near the hoop. Side note: Can we please stop saying “Player X is the next Revis” for every corner coming out? There’s only one Revis, folks. Just stop. But, I digress.
Of course there are isolation plays out there, but yelling something as simple as “help” can go a long way from turning an easy lay-up into a fade-away jumper over the biggest man on the court. Communication is something that is not important to just Morse and Sarnoff, folks. Huh? Speaking of Morse, so much for Michael breaking out in Washington.
8. Follow your shot: This is something that only the true gym rats follow. There’s not player on the court that should know better where the missed shot is going to land more than the man that took the attempt. You show me a player that follows this fundamental and I’ll show you a player that isn’t involved in a major program. Most players put on their three goggles or monocles before the ball is even through the rim.
9. Know exactly where the basket is on defense: Another silly one, but it seems amazing how players will give the man they’re guard a two-foot cushion just five feet from the rim. Closing out at the right time can go a long way from players getting an easy and uncontested shot from an ideal passing opportunity to the wing.
10. Spacing on offense: OK maybe this isn’t so much as a fundamental, but a list of ten looks a lot better than a list of nine. Although “Prime 9” is a pretty cool show on MLB Network.
The coach that had the biggest impact on me always had us pass and screen away unless of course there was some sort of play being run. This brings your defender away from the player that just received the pass and allows him/her to have more room to operate and make penetration easier (that’s what she said). There have been way too many guys in the NBA that make a pass from the point and might as well pull up a chair, get their popcorn ready, and enjoy the show.
One other thing I noticed with regards to spacing was how lucky the Mavs got on Wednesday with all their cross-court passes. This is one of the most dangerous passes in the game since there are a number of defenders that could intercept the ball as it descends. It’s also a lot easier to make a mistake and over throw the pass.
I also wouldn’t even be surprised if some players in the league have never heard the phrase “balance the floor” more that a handful of times. The most important players that need to be cognizant of this are the guys on the wing since they have more area to work and chances are much higher that the person that is guarding them will double-team a teammate in the post.
Well, that’s all folks. I’d quote Porky Pig but I have no idea how to spell that stuttering garbage before he says it. Maleemmmbleep?
Just really quick on the Lakers, I think there is a chance they can pull the comeback. They have a ton of talent and if they can take Game 4, then really only Game 6 could give them trouble. The Lakers are the better team and if they stop making a highlight that not even Ray Finkle would be proud of, they could get it done.
Thanks for reading and try not to rip your hair out the next month.
You can contact Mike Gallagher with all things related to fantasy basketball, baseball, or football at any time by emailing Mike@fantasybasketball.com. You can also follow his instant fantasy analysis on Twitter @MikeSGallagher