Big showdown between potential Eastern Conference finals opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Orlando Magic last night. It was a close game all the way throughout. The Cavs are just unbelievably good at home, but the Magic played well, they just came up a rebound, a stop, a shot short of coming away with the upset.

There were two plays I especially liked that really showcase why I like recruiting guys from the football season for basketball. It's one of those things you can't really teach, but having that mentality to seek contact, to get to the rim expecting contact. That's what the great drivers like Lebron or Allen Iverson have. It's no coincidence that both were big time football players in their high school days. Take a look at Lebron,

It's one of the intangibles that you can't really teach, it's a trait. It's why certain kids also shouldn't play football. If you don't want to hit or get hit, it's dangerous to play football. That's why when I coach football, I look for linebacker types or free-safety types, and ask them to play basketball. Often times, I find great tough players who are usually very athletic and are also great rebounders. I sell it to the football guys that basketball is a fun way to stay in shape after football season and also they can still hit other guys (which they all love to do).

OK, back to Lebron here. In the first clip, Lebron knows, in fact he expects Dwight Howard to step up for help defense. Most guys would just jump stop and kick the ball out, or fadeaway. Lebron instead goes right up to the rim as if Howard wasn't there. The key point being that he doesn't just jump into Howard, but he jumps as if he is going through Howard to the rim,

In the next clip, there's only 3.3 seconds on the clock so they run a simple give and go off the inbound. Lebron receives the pass back and he goes straight to the rim. Again, he anticipates the contact even though it doesn't come. He doesn't jump into the defender, he jumps as he is going straight to the rim,

Jumping into and jumping thru is an important distinction I like to make because sometimes players get the impression that they just want to get contact and get fouled. If you do that, more likely than not, you won't score, and secondly the refs will ignore the call. The key is that you want to go up like you're going up for a regular play. If Lebron simply jumped into a defender, he doesn't score in the second sequence.


I have to say that the Cavs are looking pretty formidable right now. Boston is fading, Orlando has been inconsistently recently. I like Miami right now, with Jermaine O'Neal, they're looking a little like when Shaq was there. Dwyane Wade is playing out of this world. But back to Lebron, I think the Cavs have the skill around him to make a deep run into June.

For a brand new video on skill development and specifically toughness, check out Pat Clatchey's DVD on Ball Security and Toughness Drills. Coach Clatchey is a high school coach and was selected as a head coach for the 2009 McDonalds All-American game. Discuss your favorite defensive strategies at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.