I watched the first half of the Wizards game against the Bulls tonight. Both teams are pretty average, but being in the East the Wizards are in the playoff picture despite a losing record.

One of the things that the Wizards were doing for the whole first half was trapping all high ball screens. This is one of the more effective and safe ways to attack the PNR. Instead of sitting back and letting the other team shoot over the top, or turn the corner with a quick guard, you trap the ball-screen, rotate, and force a tough pass. Here are 2 sequences from the first half,

I watched a high school game earlier in the week and one team had decided to trap all ball-screens as the opposing team used a ball-screen every time to get into their offense. The traps were absolutely killing the opposing team and for the life of me I don't know why the coach did not switch their offense, they kept running the same high ball-screen and getting trapped, then turning the ball over for easy layups. I was so frustrated watching, I felt like calling a timeout, going over and telling the coach to stop running ball-screens, or fake the ball-screen and slip. Do something for pete's sake.

Anyways, end of my rant. Here is a screen shot of the Wizards executing this technique. This play actually works because Joakim Noah goes too far down after the PNR. He needs to setup between the FT line and 3-point line. Instead, Gordon has to make a long pass which is intercepted and Antonio Daniels finishes it for an and1,

Alot of teams run high screens to get into their offense. I think if run properly with good rotation, trapping the high ball screen can be very effective against teams that like to run spread PNR offenses.

If you want to learn more about trapping defenses, take a look at Jeff Lebo's DVD on half-court trapping techniques and doubling down. Coach Lebo is head coach at Auburn and provides a ton of great info on trapping and doubling. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

We talk alot about adjustments being key to winning basketball games. As Roy Williams says, your gameplan is only as good as the first 6 minutes, then it's all about the adjustments you make in the game. Tonight I watched the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Miami Heat.

Credit goes to Pat Riley and the Heat who made the first good adjustment on defense to combat the Lakers triangle offense. The Heat were fronting the post. Phil Jackson is too wise (and probably old) to fall for that one, so all the Lakers did was make quick passes to change the angle of entry to take advantage of the defensive rotations and get the trigger pass (lob) into the post. After that was working, the Heat went back to a traditional chest-to-back defense in the post, and the Lakers used their superior passing again to great effect. Here are a couple of sequences from the first half,

I like fronting the post as a general defensive philosophy. The lob pass is the most common solution against a front, but it is problematic for a couple of reasons. At the lower levels, kids have trouble making a good lob pass, it usually results in a turnover. At the higher levels, when you introduce M2M help defense, the straight lob again presents problems. Often you'll need to cut and fill guards then make an extra pass to gain a better angle for the lob.

Gaining Angles for the Lob:

It's the Lakers standard set for the triangle, but the Heat are fronting so help side is ready to pinch Gasol and intercept a lob attempt.

So, what the Lakers do here is they exchange guards, O1 goes to the corner where O3 comes to fill the top of the key. This exchanging of the guards helps in that the defenders must rotate and thus the help side defense is disrupted temporarily.

Then, the pass goes from O2 to O3 at the top of the key. Once this happens, X5 tries to adjust the fronting over Gasol, but O3 automatically has a great angle for the lob with little help defense to deal with.


The Lakers were killing the Heat early with the lobs. In the second quarter, the Heat went chest-to-back, where the Lakers went back to their traditional triangle offense and killed the Heat with great passing out of the post. Basketball is about adjustments, you make a change, I adjust. I make a change, you adjust.

Now that we're approaching the end of the season, a good skill development video to check out is Billy Donovan's DVD on Individual Skill Development within Your Offense. In it Donovan goes over teaching your players those specific skills that will make them a successful player during the season. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

I watched most of the Suns game against the Hornets tonight and unfortunately for Steve Nash and the Suns, they dropped another game and they haven't been the same since Shawn Marion left. I watched highlights on ESPN afterwards and they kept saying that "CP3 lit up Nash for 25 points and 15 assists". They obviously didn't watch the game because Raja Bell was defending CP3 all night.

Back to Steve Nash, if the Suns have any hope to win in the playoffs then Steve is going to have to pick up his defense. It hurts to write a post like this, but as they say, the truth hurts. It may seem like I'm picking on Steve, but since they've gotten Shaq to patrol the lane and keep the penetrators at bay, the next most important part now is to defend the perimeter and close out shooters. There was a critical part in this game in the 3rd quarter when the Hornets got hot from the perimeter, Morris Peterson was being guarded by Steve and MoPete went 4-for-4 in the 3rd and finished with 11 points overall. Here are 3 sequences from that quarter,

On 2 of the sequences, Steve just gets caught behind some screens. But the Suns overall must do a better job communicating on defense. Why is Amare just standing there, perhaps he should switch. Or maybe Steve just has to be a step quicker fighting through those screens. Something has to happen.

In the sequence where MoPete hits the 3-pointer, Steve is caught way out of position trying to help on the low block. He's not even in a flat triangle ball-you-man position,

After MoPete just hit a couple of jumpers, you cannot leave him wide open with space to shoot from the corner.


With Raja Bell and now Shaq, the Suns have 2 of the league's best defenders. So now it's up to the rest of the Suns to step up, as teams will look to attack the other weaker defenders.

I keep hearing Shaq saying that he wants the Suns to play the way they do, and he'll blend in. The reality is, now that Shawn Marion is gone and Shaq is there, the makeup of the team has changed. And therefore, the Suns must adjust to Shaq, they can no longer score on offense the way they used to, that's the truth. The reason why they brought Shaq in was for defense. Therefore, the new emphasis has to be on defense, and at the moment, the weak link on defense is Steve.

For a brand new video, check out Bob Huggins' DVD on M2M drills. Coach Huggins' Bearcats teams were always known for their incredible defensive intensity. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

It's one of the most underrated plays in all of basketball, so I like to feature plays that involve a player taking a charge. It seems simple, but the reality is that it does take a certain kind of player to want to take a charge. I'm not talking about the instances where the player just happens to be in the lane and the offensive player runs through him. It's those charges where a defender, sees an offensive player with their head down going to the net and the defensive player makes a conscious decision to hustle to the spot and beat the offensive player there, plant their feet, take the hit, and fall to the ground. That is what Ronnie Brewer does in this play in the Jazz's game last night against the T-Wolves, take a look,

When Rashad McCants of the T-Wolves made the pump fake, his defender reacted and he only had 1 thought, to attack the rim. When you play teams that are aggressive on the dribble, one of the most effective ways to take them out of their rhythm is to take a charge. Now, the ref may not call of them as charges, but even if your players are called for the block, it's a good foul. You've stopped them from getting into the lane, and you've let the other team know that you won't just let them attack at will, there will be consequences. Here is a screenshot from Brewer's taking the hard charge,

Notice that Brewer does a defensive slide to get to the spot. This is better than crossing the feet or running because your feet will get set a lot quicker and thus get the call from the ref.

Unfortunately, the Jazz would go on to lose the game, but it's plays from players like this that help you win ball games, especially the close ones in the playoffs.

A great DVD that breaks down the M2M fundamentals is Tom Izzo's Rebounding and Defensive Drills DVD. Tom Izzo is the head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to get all of your hoops fill.

UConn is one of those college teams that runs a very pro-style offense. Jim Calhoun has been fortunate enough to be able to recruit some of the best players from the talent-rich Northeast region and is one of the best at developing players and preparing them for the NBA.

I wrote earlier about a similar box set play UConn uses. This is actually the same exact play, except they hit the baseline runner to the corner for the 3-pointer. There is a lot of player movement in this play with a lot of screens which can cause a lot of confusion for the defense. Take a look at it live,

The backscreen to get your 3-pointers space to shoot is critical. In your zone offense, you also want to back-screen the weak-side on the skip pass to give your shooter that extra space.

Box Double Stagger:

Run out of the box set, it looks really good when run with athletic players. Your forwards are setup at the elbows, your shooters at the low block. Starts off by O5 and O4 setting a stagger screen.

The first stagger screen is actually for both O3 and O2 so O3 curls around first, then O3 curls around. This time, O2 gets the pass from O1 at the top of the key.

At this point O2 can shoot (which he doesn't this time around). But the play continues as O5 and O4 continue to set a second stagger screen for O3 who comes across the baseline.

O2 can then hit O3 coming of the second stagger screen for an open 3-point shot in the corner. The backscreens here are critical because it really makes it difficult for the defender to chase the man through all those screens.


I'm a big fan of Jim Calhoun. He's honest with his players, coaches, the media. Some say he can be too hard on them at times, but I think he does it in a tough love kind of way. We can't always baby these kids, they need to learn about discipline, respect for authority and being a part of a team. You look at all the guys he graduates to the NBA, all great teammates, individuals of character. As a coach, it won't be the wins and losses you remember the most, it's the players and what they turn out to be.

One of the great things you can tell about UConn is the way they practice. Much like Roy Williams at UNC, coach Calhoun runs a tight ship. If you want to learn how UConn practices, take a look at Jim Calhoun's DVD on essential practice drills. Coach Calhoun teaches the teachers in this DVD on what are some of his most effective practice drills. To discuss this and other basketball coaching topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

There isn't a lot of love for the San Antonio Spurs outside of San Antonio because most people think they play a very boring style of basketball. But they definitely have the best offensive playbook in the league. The number of great plays that they and the way they execute them is like living in a basketball nirvana.

Here the Spurs execute a nice little play, it's a break set with both forwards breaking across the lane and it results in a backscreen for Manu Ginobili for the easy lay in,

It's a very intelligent play, designed for the singular purpose of getting the ball to an open Manu Ginobili underneath the basket.

Break Set Flex Screen:

They start in a 3-out 2-in with Tim Duncan at the high post and Robert Horry at the opposite low block. Manu is at the wing and Bowen is at the opposite wing,

Duncan breaks across the lane and sets a diagonal screen for Horry. Immediately, Duncan breaks across the lane again this time long the baseline. Horry comes across to the high post where Duncan came from and Parker passes the ball to him.

Duncan sets a flex backscreen for Manu in the corner and he peels around where Horry finds him right underneath the basket for the easy layup.


You can easily point to the lack of a defensive switch by the Hawks that causes the breakdown in the play. And that would be absolutely correct. But the execution by the Spurs here is perfect as well. The spacing is such that even when the defense recovers, it's very difficult for them to get to the ball.

If you're a fan of the Spurs like me, you'll want to watch Gregg Popovich's DVD on his favorite plays and drills. Again, the Spurs philosophy on valuing each possession is one that is sometimes lost in the ever-popular transition game, but when you talk about big games, playoff games, championship games, you must have an efficient half-court offense that maximizes shot opportunities. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

I watched a couple of NBA games last night, Pistons destroyed the Suns, and Raptors blew up the Knicks. I recorded this game on the DVR, Cavs against the Grizzlies.

I like this clip because it's just good basketball. Zydrunas Ilgauskas makes a good defensive play with the block, then he's the trailer on the early offense and just cuts straight to the basket after a fake PNR. This is just smart basketball, because the best offensive looks often happen within the first 7 seconds (according to Mike D'Antoni anyways). Take a look,

I'm always tell our big guys to run "key to key" just as Roy Williams of UNC teaches. You get your big men to trail the break then just cut to the basket, good things will happen. As you can see from this screenshot, there is real confusion between the 3 Grizzlies defenders on who is supposed to guard whom?

Give this play another 5 seconds to develop and the defense will have already reacted and rotated to cover all 5 players. Again, I always like to re-iterate, just because you're not on your primary or secondary break, doesn't mean you can't push the ball and score quickly.

Coach Roy Williams has a great DVD on his Secrets of the UNC secondary Break. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

I watched the early game on ABC today between Pittsburgh and Louisville. It was a great game to watch and both teams played extremely well. It's one of those games where there shouldn't be a loser, but unfortunately we don't live in that kind of a world.

In any case, one of the things that I though Pitt did a really good job throughout was handling the full-court pressure defense of Louisville. There were a few turnovers that resulted in points but for the most part, they just kept their composure. Here are around 4 sequences of Pitt breaking Louisville's vaunted full-court matchup press, take a look,

One of the things you'll notice about Pitt is that they don't have a set press break. All they do is have 3 players stay in the backcourt. They use the inbounder to either reverse or give and go. All you need is 3 players to break any press, 1 to reverse the ball to and 1 in the middle of the court.

Press break ball reversal:

I'm old school, so I believe in the ball reversal every time we attack pressure. Most presses don't take away the reverse because it leaves them vulnerable to getting beat over the top (which still happens on the reverse) so the reverse should almost always be open,

Press break sideline:

Another thing that Pitt does is a give and go with the inbounder. Because the inbounder is rarely picked up, you can quickly get the ball to the inbounder, and in this case, the inbounder passes it immediately up the sideline for a 2-on-1 break,


It's too bad Pitt has slid down the standings because they're as good as any in the Big East and even in the country. They get behind in games, and then it's too hard to come back with their style of play, which is half-court motion offense and half-court M2M.

For more great press breakers, check out Bill Self's DVD on the 1-3-1 press-break. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

As most of everyone in the country, I watched the epic #1 vs #2, battle of Tennessee game between UT and UM tonight. It really was a tremendous game, throw out the X's and O's and just let the kids play. Great stuff. I'm so happy for Bruce Pearl, ranked #1, couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. I won't break that game down, you can find out everything you want to know in this ESPN clip.

Instead, I'll breakdown one of my favorite teams that I haven't talked about lately, UCLA. They played a talented but inconsistent Oregon team tonight that was scrapping for their lives to hopefully get into the March tourney. The game was back and forth most of the way but it was UCLA's signature defense that would allow them to win this game. This was a key sequence in the first half that go them back in the game after getting down early,

The Bruins would need a similar defensive run in the second half just to win this game. The Bruins dispel the notion that you have to press to create turnovers. You can be a great M2M halfcourt team and still get 15 steals like the Bruins did tonight.

The Deflection, Anticipation:

I wrote earlier about how underrated deflections are. Just because you're in a half-court M2M set, doesn't mean you can't be aggressive going after steals. Here is UCLA anticipating the pass and coming up with the deflection for the easy basket,

Stopping Penetration:

If you can't stop dribble penetration, you won't be a very good defensive team. That's the truth. Here, you see UCLA's Darren Collison guiding his check into help. He's in his defensive slide until they are past hips. Also, notice the help from both the wing and the middle. Great help and recover technique,


If I were to get any compliment from anybody, it would be if someone came up to me and said our team played defense like UCLA. They just do everything the right way. They stop penetration, they're aggressive and get their hands on balls, they block out and board, they double the post, they hedge screens. I can't think of any other team that is as good at everything defensively as UCLA. It's a testament to what Ben Howland has been accomplish there.

A great video that emphasizes many of the same things that Coach Howland does for M2M defense is Geno Auriemma's new DVD on his four cornerstones for half-court offense. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Sometimes I watch a basketball game and I watch players on some teams and they'll throw a pass to a deny-defense wing player. Or they'll force an entry pass into the post when fronted or pinched.

In this simple play, the Sonics guard (I think its Damien Wilkins) looks to get the ball into the post. But when he's fronted, he drives right into the open space and hits the short jumper,

This was the smart play, because you could see that Portland was ready with the weakside defense should Wilkins attempt the lob pass. It's also a great play because the fronting forwards actually create an artificial pick for Wilkins to drive on.

In this screenshot, Wilkins actually looks for the post-entry first, hence the hesitation dribble. Instead of forcing the designed post-entry which will most likely result in a turnover, Wilkins makes the smart improvised play and drives instead,

Notice on the drive that Wilkins' defender gets picked by his own guy by the fronting defender and the Sonics post. Now, Wilkins isn't entirely open because help-side was already coming from the baseline, but he hits the jumper nonetheless,


One of the reasons why I like teaching motion offense to young players is because it teaches players to play basketball by using their skills and making decisions. I liken the concept to teaching in the classroom. It's the equivalent of asking students open-ended questions that challenge them to think, rather than teaching them to the test and memorizing.

As we approach the offseason and shift focus on those individual skills, take a look at Jay Wright's DVD on 28 Competitive Drills for Shooting and Footwork. Coach Wright is the head coach of Villanova. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

This is an ESPN all-access clip of Jeff Capel, head coach of Oklahoma. It goes in the locker room and behind the bench. No real X's and O's revelations, but I just enjoy hearing other coaches talking to their teams before, during and after games.

I know some coaches don't put much credence into speeches probably because they aren't natural speakers to begin with, but I don't think you can under-estimate their importance. A good locker room speech can and will help motivate your players to play as hard as they possibly can. Just feeling the amazing wave of fervor that Barak Obama has been able to muster around the world shows what the power of words can do.

If you liked this speech, you may also like this one from John Calipari during last year's NCAA run.

I wrote earlier in the year how we really haven't seen much of Rick Adelman's princeton-styled offense with most plays going through the PNR and isolations. With the Rockets on a 10 game winning streak, I thought I should check out the Rockets to see what they are doing well.

The biggest improvement has been defense actually. The Rockets have been using a lot of zone with Yao in the middle to slow teams down and make them shoot over top. On offense, I have seen more sets with Yao in the high post. Here are just 2 such plays from their win over the Heat,

There are a lot of reasons why bringing your big man out of the lane can be a good thing. Most importantly, you bring the low post defense, mostly shotblockers, out of the lane where they can't come on help defense to block and contest shots.

Next, it is easier to get the ball to a big post like Yao Ming at the high post because they're so tall.

In this screencap from the video, you can see that Yao can make a really easy post-entry to a guard. Then clear out for the 1v1 (which unfortunately Battier misses),


By no means am I saying that the Rockets are better off without Yao down low. Yao still scores most of his points the traditional way, posting up on the low block. But if he is being doubled before the entry pass, it is better to move him away from the basket to the high post, where you can use his passing skills for skip, backdoor and post-entry passes. Then he can look to get offensive rebounds for putbacks.

For more video info on the high post offense, take a look at Dana Altman's DVD on the Complete Guide to the High Post Offense. Coach Altman is the head coach of the Creighton. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

With just over 2 weeks remaining in the regular season for college basketball, the conference games at this stage mean everything. The Notre Dame Irish hosted Pitt, a team that had beaten them 5 straight times, but the Irish were up to the challenge this time around.

I actually thought Pitt would win the game, they're just a really tough physical team, but the Irish impressed me in their ability to scrap it out for rebounds and loose balls. I thought they did some really good things on defense, including changing defenses frequently. Here are some sequences of their shifting defensive strategy,

I wrote earlier about Notre Dame's packline defense, and you could see in the first sequence that they use it quite effectively. They also use a 3-quarter 1-2-2 into a half-court 1-2-2. In the last sequence, they morph their M2M into a 2-3 zone.

M2M to 2-3 Zone:

You can really cause some problems for your opponents by switching defenses within the same possession. Here they start out in a M2M look and morph into a 2-3 zone,

Now, in the sequence, Pitt finds Fields on the wing for the open 3-pointer against the 2-3 zone. But it still forced them to take a shot that probably wasn't their first choice, this is what it looks like after they shift.


I like Mike Brey's philosophies in general. He believes in early offense and a simple 4-out motion offense with emphasis on getting the ball to their banger inside, Harangody. On defense, their base is either deny M2M, straight M2M or packline. From there they will use a 1-2-2 and sometimes the 2-3. I really like the idea of mixing up defenses as that causes your opponents to adjust to your defense as opposed to executing their offense.

If you like the idea of changing zone defenses, you'll probably want to take a look at Wayne Morgan's DVD on the 2-3 zone and changing defenses. Plenty of zone discussions going on at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Why Jason Kidd Helps the Mavs so much

There were 2 major plotlines tonight in the NBA. First, Shaquille O'Neal made his debut for the Phoenix Suns against their nemesis Los Angeles Lakers. I was also watching another debut, Jason Kidd back in Dallas and playing his first game following the finalizing of the trade late last night.

I really like the trade for the Mavs. I think Jason Kidd can get the Mavs into transition quicker with good outlet passes and he also has that ability to deliver the ball to where it has the best chance to score in the half-court. On defense, Kidd brings the intangibles, a rebounding guard that is versatile enough to guard both quick point guards and bigger wing players. Here are just a few sequences I took of Kidd in their game against the Hornets in the third quarter,

The Complete Guard:

There are alot of great point guards in the league. Steve Nash, Baron Davis, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jose Calderon, Chauncey Billups, etc.. But what I like most about Jason Kidd is that he's the complete guard. The only weakness he has is that he doesn't shoot the ball well, but he does everything else.

On Offense, of course the most important ability for a point guard is to find your open teammates, Kidd gets into the lane and has Devan George in the corner of his eye and gets him the ball for the open 3-pointer,

On defense is where Kidd really shines. He can guard just about anybody 1v1 without help, which is huge because it means that guys can stay on their man and contest perimeter shots. Here, he takes on a bigger Stojakovic who tries to post Kidd up and back him down, Stojakovic eventually settles for an awkward turnaround that misses the rim,

It's sometimes a difficult concept to teach to young guards, but I try to teach guards to rebound down. When the shot goes up, most guards are thinking about the break. But what they don't realize is that what starts the break is a rebound. Teach your guards to rebound down to just below the FT line on long perimeter shots and you'll be a better running team,


Now, the Mavs lost this game. Mostly due to Chris Paul going off on one of his huge scoring nights despite being well defended. But I have no doubt that Jason Kidd will make the Mavs much better than they were prior to the trade. The Mavs need a leader (no slight to Dirk) who knows the bigger picture of how games are won and Kidd is just the man for the job. It may not be enough to beat the Spurs, Lakers, Suns, Jazz, Hornets or whoever they face in the playoffs but they weren't going to win with what they had so it definitely is worth it for Cuban.

A great video from one of the most storied coaches in the history of basketball is Morgan Wootten's brand new DVD on his 20/20 hindsight. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

I watched the first half of UNC against NC State tonight and I was expecting a good game from the get go, and State came out fired up. After that blowout earlier in the year, where they just got run out of the gym, you knew they would be ready to take it to the Tar Heels right out of the gate.

For the most part, State played UNC pretty tight in the first half. I thought both teams played well, State didn't allow UNC to get too many fast breaks while UNC did their best to contain the big men of State like JJ Hickson. One of the things that UNC did a lot of in the first half was trapping in the half-court. Here are a few sequences of that high trapping action,

Half Court High Trap:

What they do is bring one of the wing defenders up to trap and the post defender comes up to cover the ballside wing. This leaves X3 to cover both the middle man and O5 down low,

It's a very aggressive trap that leaves some guys wide open (2 passes away). But the key in the trap are the 2 trappers. You need to have a wing defender that can get from free-throw extended to the half-court line in about 2 seconds. Your ball defender must be extremely aggressive in containing the dribble and forcing sideline. If executed properly, it will create a lot of turnovers and can get your opponent out of their comfort zone of their half-court set.

If you're looking for more info, I recommend Jeff Lebo's DVD on half-court trapping techniques and doubling down. Coach Lebo is head coach at Auburn and provides a ton of great info on trapping and doubling. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

Like many of you, I read that SI article by Grant Wahl on the Memphis dribble drive motion offense. I had heard that the Boston Celtics were using it but I've watched a few Celtics game this year and didn't really notice it. I watched the first half of the dribble drive motion show tonight between the Celtics and the Nuggets and captured a few sequences to show you all how Boston uses the dribble drive motion,

Dribble Drive Drop:

The Celtics use the dribble drive quite a bit differently from Denver. First off, they don't have a break your ankles 1v1 guard like Allen Iverson. The Celtics usually use the dribble to draw help, and then they'll either kick out for the 3-pointer (where Ray Allen is automatic), or dump off to one of the forwards on the weak side for the easy putback.

In this sequence, Rondo goes hard to the basket from the top of the key, but because of help defense has to kick out. Notice how Pierce has dragged the arc closer to the corner so that the kick out is easier to make than all the way back to the wing,

Pierce doesn't have an open 3-pointer because the defender rotates and closes out, so he drives right into the lane attacking the basket. Draws 2 defenders and does a nice bounce-pass dump off for the easy putback,


Kevin Garnett played sparingly in his first game back from injury. I believe that when KG is not on the floor, the Celtics will go the dribble drive motion more. The Celtics don't use the dribble drive motion all the time either, they run a lot of post isolations for KG, stagger screens for Ray Allen and PNR for Paul Pierce. I'd say, they are probably use it 30% of the time. Also, the Celtics will use a lot of ball-screens to spring their guards as they can't always beat the defender 1v1 off the dribble.

If you're season is done already and you're looking forward to next year for your players, take a look at Kevin Sutton's DVD on 30 Guard Drills. I like Kevin Sutton's instructional videos because he is a great innovator and teacher of concepts. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

I've watched several Indiana games now this season and one of the things that I've enjoyed watching has been their ability to push the ball. Part of being a good fast break team is to look for numbers advantages. You must have the numbers to be a good fast break team. Tonight against a good Purdue team that likes to play tough half-court M2M pressure defense, the Hoosiers needed to get easy baskets and they got just enough to squeak out the win. Here is a sequence where after the long 3-pointer, they leak 1 player out for the easy layup,

4 to the Glass, 1 Leaks:

Some think that the gamble isn't worth it, but if you want to create a numbers advantage, you have to be willing to sacrifice something. Here, the Hoosiers send 4 to the defensive glass and the defender on the shooter, Ellis, flies to the offensive basket instead of the traditional box out of the shooter,

Also notice how the guard-defenders rebound down to get the defensive rebounds. I know some coaches that like to gamble even more, by sending 2 to fly and only 3 to defensive rebound, especially if they have a lot of size down low.

Practice makes perfect, a brand new video that might be worth a good look is Joe Mihalich's DVD on Practice Drills for the Fast Break. Joe Mihalich is the head coach at Niagara University. Be sure to head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

I've only watched 1 other Gonzaga game this year (against Memphis) and I know Mark Few usually runs the flex, but I haven't seen much of the flex at all this year. Earlier when I watched them play Memphis, I thought the drive and kick was a 1 time deal, an adjustment to playing Memphis. But I watched them play against a very good San Diego team on the road and what I saw was a lot more of drive and kick in a 4-out or even 5-out set. Here is Steve Bardo of ESPN breaking it down live,

Though the Bulldogs have a legit low post in Josh Heytvelt, it's safe to say he peaked last year when they beat UNC. The rest of the Bulldogs big men are freshmen so they've struggled dealing with the speed of the college game. Instead, the Bulldogs guards have thrived in this new drive and kick spread offense. The Bulldogs leading scorers are 2 guards, Bouldin and Pargo and Daye. While Daye is 6-foot-10, he plays more like a wing who can slash and shoot from the outside.

Drive and Kick Spread:

The Bulldogs play like a combination of the Memphis dribble drive and Duke's spread offense. I say combination because they drive a lot more than they shoot the 3 but they use ball-screens more than Memphis but not quite as much as Duke.

In this first iteration, Pargo just goes hard to the net. Due to good M2M defense, Pargo has to kick it out to Bouldin. Notice how the shooters are spread around the arc and are ready to catch and shoot.

Bouldin goes hard at the elbows, but against due to good M2M defense by the Toreros, he kicks it out to Daye who is the trailer on the play.

Though he's 6-foot-10, Austin Daye plays more like a wing (will probably play 3 in the NBA), and drives hard to the net. Again good M2M defense forces him to make the dump off pass to Kuso.

Bouldin is setup now at the opposite wing and gets the kick out from Kuso. Bouldin makes the extra pass to a wide open Downs who hits the 3-pointer,


Just another example of a coach and team playing a style that fits their skill and talent. If Mark Few had more confidence in his big men like Heytvelt or some of the freshman, he could play more flex, but his guards are his best scorers and they are great at putting the ball on the floor so he has made the switch to a more dribble drive oriented offense.

For some info on your players can improve their 1-on-1 perimeter skills, check out Phil Martelli's DVD on becoming a better 1-on-1 player. It has a lot of great drills you can use to help develop those slashing skills that these offenses require. To discuss this and other basketball coaching topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum.

I watched the Ohio St game against Michigan this morning. I've watched both teams now a couple of times and though Ohio St loss this game by 20 points, it was really much closer than the score indicated. I think Ohio St is a great team with great players, they're just a little young right now, next year they could be really good. I wrote earlier how Ohio St. changed their offense last year with Greg Oden. Well, this year, they went back to Thad Matta's dribble weave patterned offense. Here are a couple of sequences I caught from the first half,

There is a lot of motion so it's a little hard to follow. It's basically dribble weave handoffs on the wing to PNR or double ball-screens up top. They repeat this motion as the ball goes from sideline to sideline. They are basically looking for either a lane to the basket, the roll off the PNR, a post-up, or an open perimeter shot.

Dribble Weave Handoff:

They start out in a 1-4 high, or even a 1-2-2 set, forwards at the elbows.

O5 and O4 pop out to set a double stagger ball-screen for O1. O5 will roll to the basket while O4 stays at the top of the key for a quick ball reversal as an option. O1 will execute a dribble handoff with O3 on the wing.

If O3 doesn't have a shot or a pass to O5, O3 will look to dribble reverse the ball, all perimeter players rotate to fill an open spot. O3 will pass to O4.

O4 will execute a dribble handoff to O2 who will turn the corner looking to either take it all the way to the hoop off a O5 screen, or pass back to O5 to reset.


When executed properly, the dribble weave can really be difficult to defend. It is especially tough to defend teams that use the dribble weave if you don't use it yourself because you will find it difficult to practice against. The dribble weave is really a versatile kind of offense because of the many options you can run out of it, it's the equivalent of the triple-option offense in football, or any OSV, ISV or midline variation.

For a great video that teaches good handoff techniques, take a look at Tom Crean's DVD on Game Action Drills. Like Thad Matta, Tom Crean uses a lot of dribble handoffs in his Marquette offense and you'll learn all about the drills he uses to reinforce this important technique. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

I watched UAB play earlier in the year and I didn't think they were a team that had enough to pull off the upset tonight and beat Memphis. I only watched the first 5 minutes of tonights game and the last 2 minutes of the game. After the first 5 minutes I didn't think UAB could pull it off. But when I tuned in with 2 minutes to go, Memphis was down by 7, Memphis rallied to go on a 9-1 run to claim the narrow win on the road.

UAB played well overall, but Memphis just had a very bad offensive game. They missed a lot of shots, Derrick Rose was just 2-for-13 for 6 points and they continue to struggle on the line (12-for-22) and their 3-point shooting is streaky. The big money guy tonight from Memphis was Chris Douglas-Roberts. He made the 2 key offensive plays at the end of the game to pull out the win. Here is the last Memphis offensive play, down by 2 with 15 seconds left, Memphis ran a handoff to PNR drive for CDR,

Pistol Play:

Memphis calls this their "Pistol" play. They actually ran it twice in a row, the first time it resulted in a 3-pointer by CDR to make it 77-76. According to the AP, the final play call was as follows,

Memphis coach John Calipari said he had initially called for the ball to go to Derrick Rose, who was struggling to a 2-of-13, six-point performance. He said assistant coach John Robic suggested running the "pistol" play to Douglas-Roberts instead.

"We ran it to let Chris turn that corner with the middle pick and roll and he just kept going," Calipari said. "That's his game. He wants that basketball."

So, how does pistol work? Again, for last second plays, keep it simple. Get the ball into the hands of your best player, and let them go out and win the game for you.

The handoff goes from Rose to CDR. This is where CDR popped the 3-pointer the first time they ran the play. Because of the threat of CDR hitting the 3, UAB decides to go over the top and trail the handoff instead of underneath. Also notice how spread they are, this keeps the defense honest and frees the basket area for a drive.

O5 sets a high ball-screen for CDR who turns the corner and heads for the net. Notice that UAB hedges the screen, but because CDR is so quick he is able to go around the hedge, and by the time X2 comes all the way around, CDR is already at the rim. Also notice that there is no help coming from the wing or corner, as UAB did not want to give up an open drive and kick.

For a great video on building winning teams and players, take a look at Coach Morgan Wooten's DVD on coaching to win. Coach Wooten is probably the most successful high school basketball coach ever at DeMatha Catholic before retiring. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss all of your hoops.

As they say, good defense usually leads to good offense. UConn consistently ranks as one of the top defensive teams in Div 1 basketball and this year is no different. They are 6th overall in opponent FG% at 37.7%. Now, when you have a 7-foot-3 center in Hasheem Thabeet, defense should come easy.

In this UPS whiteboard segment from ESPN, Stephen Bardo breaks down UConn's transition defense. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

UConn uses a 2-1 zone setup to defend the fast break. They do this because with Thabeet down low, they are confident that he can defend the paint by himself. The other 2 defenders can then get out to challenge the shooters.

Most teams I know though don't have a 7-foot-3 shot blocker, after all, those kinds of players don't exactly grow on trees. I recommend a 1-2 zone setup on the break, similar to,

In any case, transition defense is crucial. If you can stop fastbreak teams from scoring quickly and forcing them to play at a slower pace, that can favor the less athletic team that likes to execute in the half-court.

For a great video on competitive drills for both offensive and defensive transition, take a look at Bruce Weber's DVD on Competitive Drills. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

I took the opportunity with no NBA games and a small NCAA schedule to watch some Canadian college basketball action tonight. In Canada, it's called the CIS and the level of play is pretty close to Div II ball. The University of Victoria (UVIC) was hosting Simon Fraser (SFU) in first round playoff action. Tonight was game one of the best of 3 series.

I just want to start off by saying I have a great respect for UVIC head coach Craig Beaucamp. Even much more so this season given what he has been able to accomplish. Their entire starting lineup from last year was gone this year either by graduation or transfer and along with them virtually 100% of their scoring. Night in and night out, UVIC has had to be compete against teams that had more experience and more talent, yet they still made the playoffs and after their win tonight, look like they could go deep. UVIC has always been known for tough hard-nosed M2M defense, but the biggest challenge was finding scoring. Tonight, they had little trouble scoring against SFU whether it was against the 1-3-1 zone, M2M or full-court pressure. Here is a couple of sequences of their high-low offense against M2M,

I've watched UVIC over the years, and I've been amazed at the way Coach Beaucamp has been able to adapt different offenses to his changing lineup year to year. A couple of years ago I watched them run Princeton and 4-out 1-in motion en route to the championship game. Last year, they ran a lot of flex and box. This year, I see them playing a lot of high-low. Coach Beaucamp believes in recruiting the best talent available not recruiting players to fit a system. Therefore he fits a system to the that talent that he has.

High-Low Offense:

Very simple series. They start out in a 3-out 2-in set, with a forward near the top of the key in a setting a screen stance, another forward starting at the ballside low block and 2 wings.

O1 dribble drives across to the other side while O4 pops out beyond the 3-point line. O1 then passes to O4 at the top of the key.

O5 sets a flex baseline screen for O3 from the weakside. O5 immediately seals either his defender or the switched defender. O4 now has 2 options, hit O3 off the flex screen or O5 on the screen and seal. In the clip, I showed both options (first sequence was from the first half, second sequence was from the second).


For a team that usually scores in the 50s and 60s, the 82-69 score was an offensive explosion for UVIC. They did everything you need to win a big playoff game. They played lock down M2M defense, stopping penetration, doubling the post and rebounding the ball. On offense, they shredded the SFU 1-3-1 zone early on and then went on to dominate with their high-low offense when SFU went M2M. For a team full of underclassmen versus a team with a bunch of seniors and 3 year players, UVIC certainly looked like the team with more experience and poise in all facets of the game.

For a great video on the high-low offense, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on entries into the High-low Offense. Coach Self has several DVD's on the high-low so if you really want to know more about this great offense, you'll find plenty of info from his DVDs. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

One of the hottest teams in the mid-majors right now is Boston University. Never heard of them? They play in the little known America East Conference along with teams like MD Baltimore City, Albany, Vermont and Binghamton among others.

They have the conference's top scoring defense at 64.9. Though that stat is a little deceiving given that they are only 6th in their conference in FG% at 48%. Most likely the reason being that the Terriers are a possession oriented offense which invariably slows the game down. But still, they make teams execute for the whole shot clock, and they do it with sound M2M help and recover defense. Here is what that looked like in one sequence during the first half,

You play great defense with your feet. Everyone knows that. To be a great individual defender, you must be able to defensive slide quickly as your check makes his move. From a team perspective, your weakside defenders must be in a good position to help but recover in time on ball rotation. That is exactly what the Terriers do.

First, lets take a look at how they force baseline. It's all in the position of the feet. Notice how the defender has his right foot slightly ahead of the offensive player. You want to force the dribbler to go towards the baseline. Defensive slide to try to compress him to the actual baseline,

Inevitably, some of your players, your slow of feet ones, will get beat off the dribble. That is where the help comes in to play. Notice the placement of the weakside defenders. The 3 players form a triple 'I'. This means you have 3 players that are in a position to both help on penetration from the ballside wing and recover to their checks,

I wrote about some shell drills you can use to reinforce this concept of the base 'I' of the help and recover M2M defense. Being a solid M2M defensive team is fundamental, it's the only defense that cannot be beat. Presses, traps and zones all have their gaps and holes that can be exploited, a great M2M defense has none, except for the players themselves.

For a brand new video, check out Bob Huggins' DVD on M2M drills. Coach Huggins' Bearcats teams were always known for their incredible defensive intensity. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

With the reduced NBA schedule, I had a chance to watch a women's college game tonight. Stanford is a top 10 team this year and I saw for myself why they are such a good team after they soundly beat Arizona. The Cardinal have notched impressive wins so far this season over top teams like Rutgers, Tennessee and cross-town rival Cal. They definitely seem to have what it takes to go all the way.

The Wildcats tried a 2-3 zone to slow the Cardinal but the Cardinal were just too disciplined. I recorded a couple of clips from the game of their M2M offense. They like to get the ball into the high-post where they will look for a few different options, hi-lo, drive, handoff to drive and backdoor cut. Seemed to be very effective throughout the game, take a look,

High Post Handoff to Drive:

I like any high-post set especially if you have very versatile dynamic forwards. Once you get the ball there, you have so many options. The Cardinal start in a 3-out 2-in set. The 2 forwards start out low, but the weakside forward O4 cuts diagonally to the ballside elbow,

The PG gets the ball to O4. Simultaneously, O3 looks to cut backdoor. O4 looks to get the ball to O3 first. O1 then goes to set a downscreen for O2 who goes down then cuts back up.

O2 cuts around the O4 who executes a handoff to O2 who drives to the basket and scores. X1 switches on the first screen to cover O2 but is too late.


Stanford does all the things that great teams do. They defend, rebound, move the ball well, and shoot the lights out. They can beat a zone defense, they can break full-court pressure. What more could you ask from your team! Head coach Tara VanDerveer obviously knows what it takes to win championships.

I'm a big fan of UConn lady Huskies coach Geno Auriemma so if you like the high post offense, you should look at Coach Auriemma's DVD on teaching the high post offense. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

The Pistons are just an incredibly balanced team. They're probably have the most on court chemistry of any team in any form of organized basketball, them and the Spurs. Tonight, they were playing the Pacers at home and they used a spread PNR offense to pick apart the Pacers pack-style defense.

Very similar to a Phoenix Suns styled offense, they spread the floor almost 5-out. First, Chauncey Billups would go 1v1 or off a ball-screen and beat his defender off the dribble for the easy layup. The Pacers adjusted and decided to hedge all ball screens, the Pistons then proceeded to hit all kinds of 3-point shots mostly from Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton. The Pacers adjusted again to rotate to close out all shooters after the ball-screen hedge. The Pistons then went outside-inside and burned the Pacers for easy layups underneath off the overplay, here are a couple of sequences broken down by the FSN crew,

Piston's Spread PNR Outside-Inside:

Once the Pacers decided to hedge the ball-screens, that caused a ripple effect that would filter down. By committing 2 players to stop the dribble penetration, that causes a rotation down low,

Now that the players are out of position, both low defenders go to close out on Rasheed leaving Amir Johnson wide open on the baseline,


The spread offense is great because you can adjust it to be an inside offense. Of course, it all predicates on your team's ability to hit perimeter shots and penetrate. If you can't do those 2 things, than teams can pack the lane and watch you struggle to miss shots or penetrate into 5 defenders.

For a great video on the spread PNR offense, take a look at Billy Donovan's DVD on the Spread Offense. Coach Donovan used it to win back-to-back national championships at Florida. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

The Atlantic-10 conference is just jam-packed full of good teams this year. I don't envy the NCAA selection committee, a few good teams from this great conference won't be going to the dance. Tonight a huge conference matchup between Temple and Rhode Island was on the menu for me tonight.

It was a game that looked like Rhode Island would run away with early with their break neck fast pace. But the Owls would begin to slow the pace of the game and force the Rams to execute. It worked as the Owls would come back to force OT and eventually win. The Owls use an old school 3-out 2-in motion offense and work the ball inside and out. They try to get their bigs scores down low, and when they start drawing help, they skip it for open 3-pointers. Here are a few sequences from the first half of the game,

With the 3-out 2-in, usually the emphasis is on pounding the ball down low. And the Owls do that. But when you're best scorers are your guards, you must get them the ball in a position to score, the Owls do that by drawing help in the post and skipping it for open 3-pointers, where their great scorers do most of their damage.

Fran Dunphy's 3-out 2-in Motion:

There isn't a lot of patterned motion in the offense. Basically, the 2 forwards start on the low block, then will come out to receive passes, set screens on the perimeter, then cut back to the lane. This constant motion of passing, screening, cutting and dribble penetration eventually leads to good shot opportunities for those who know how to get open.

Much like Bo Ryan's Swing Offense, the goal of Dunphy's motion offense is to get the ball inside. Now since Rams chose to front the post all game, that meant the Owls needed to move the ball around. Here, O1 tries to dribble drive but gets cut off. O4 moves up to the top of the key for spacing and receives the pass there.

O4 does a handoff pass to O1 cutting back up to the top of the key. O2 comes back to set a screen for O1 on the dribble drive. O5 shuffles to the corner.

The pass goes from O1 to O5 in the corner. O4 pops out after the screen. Because of the motion and screening, there is a mis-communication in the Rams defense and X1 and X2 both go to cover O1 cutting through the lane. This leaves O2 wide open for the 3-pointer.


I've talked to coaches before that have been reluctant to go with a motion offense, especially at the lower levels. There is a old paradigm out there that many coaches seem reluctant to break away from, especially coaches that also coach football. Namely, the fear of letting players play. The need to dictate every possession, who goes where, who takes the shot, etc.. A motion offense, though appearing at times to be completely uncoordinated (see Bobby Knights Blocker Mover Motion), is effective primarily due to it's unpredictability. It allows your players to make basketball decisions, to be accountable for their decisions. I can't think of another way to teach the game that will develop their basketball IQ and prepare them for whatever next level awaits them.

Now Fran Dunphy has created an old VHS on his offense, but I cannot find it anymore. Instead, I would take a look at Bill Self's Hi-Low Motion DVD or Dave Leitao's DVD on his 32 motion. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.