In between stoppages of the BCS Championship game tonight, I took in a little action between the Spurs and the Clippers. The game was close for the first half, but then the Spurs just turned things up in the third quarter and the fourth was mostly garbage time. One thing is certain when you watch a Spurs game, it's almost always good basketball because the Spurs make good decisions. Offense is all about decision-making, much more than other sports like football where most players have 1 specialized task and that's it. In basketball, each player is like a running back or a quarterback in football where in those positions each player is constantly having to read where the defense is coming from, where the holes are opening up, when to cut back, when to throw, when to duck and run, when to check down, etc...

The Spurs run probably the most generic offensive sets in the NBA, Spread, PNR, post-iso. What makes them so prolific is that the Spurs have high IQ players. Players who know what the right play is. The right play is highly contextual, sometimes it's a Duncan pass out of a double-team to Bonner, or a Tony Parker drive on a ball-screen switch, or a Parker pass out of help defense to a Bonner sliding to the corner. (I apologize in advance for the audio).

Just a few pictures to illustrate the point again. Most of this stuff is obvious. But it's not good enough if it is obvious to you and me, what matters is that it is obvious to your players.

Duncan sees the double and knows the smart play is pass to Bonner,

After Parker burns the Clips by exploiting the switch on a couple of ball screens, the Clips decide to sag on penetration. Parker reads the defensive adjustment and makes the right decision by hitting Bonner on the pick and pop,

When you get to the level of the NBA, where everyone is talented, everyone is capable of making spectacular athletic plays. The cerebral becomes the intangible.


I think it's one of the most common issues that coaches complain about. Our offense doesn't work. What they really mean is that their players chronically make the wrong decision. They shoot when they should have passed. They passed when they should have drove. In my opinion, it's a combination of the 10,000 hour rule and basketball IQ. In other words, your players need to have the experience of playing enough games so as to learn from making decisions in real game like situations. But they also need to be a student of the game. That is to say, they also need to be educated in the tactical side of the game in order to not know the difference between good and bad decisions but why they are good or bad.

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. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.