Is that where you feel your team is right now?? Have you heard that term before? From ESPN yesterday, Bill Self talking to Dana Jacobson about Kansas Jayhawks basketball, he described his team as "not a a good practice team yet." I would venture that late October / early November, most coaches would characterize their teams the same way. Here is the full interview if you want to see it:

I've often read from teaching, coaching, and even parenting articles that you should always start strict at the beginning of the season, and slowly ease up later when the situation warrants it. The idea being that it is much easier to ease up later than to start easy and go hard later.

On the other hand, after being away for so long, most players by nature aren't in the right mental state at the beginning of the season and therefore maybe they need more time to get into the right state of mind. Accordingly, you would then start the season with practices slightly easier, and gradually start tightening the screws as the season really gets started.

What do y'all think about it?? Or are you the kind of coach that only has one mode: all out all the time.

Anyways, just some philosophical thoughts about starting the season to think about. For more practice tips and strategies from Coach Self, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on Better Practices. The Jayhawks will start the season as pre-season favorites to the 2009-2010 season.

First post of the NBA regular season. Caught the TNT double header last night and of course the best game by far was between the Cavs and the Celtics. It was interesting to note how awkward the Cavaliers looked both offensively and defensively now that they have Shaq. The Celtics on the other hand, looked like they're glad Kevin Garnett is back and looking to win another championship with the big 3, PGA.

I picked this sequence from the last few minutes of the fourth quarter because to me it just crystallized the polar opposites of where both teams were coming from. The Cavs seem to be without a purpose and therefore their execution suffers. By contrast, the Celtics know exactly who they want the ball, and how they're going to score. With the score 87-83, the Cavs could have cut the lead to just 2, but instead it ends up even bigger at 6. Check the video, and commentary afterwards:

Taking Advantage of Numbers

When you have the numbers, you have to take advantage, its as simple as that. If you don't, then you really beat yourself. After the rebounding fracas, Rondo hits the ground hard and is slow to get up. Pierce collides with Williams I think. KG is caught deep in the paint. The Cavs should have been 3-on-2, Lebron with the ball,

But if you notice in the video, there is some confusion and Varajao is only jogging. He should have been filling in on the wide side of the floor as the 3rd player on the break, instead he's not in on the break at all. I'm not sure of the name, but I believe Parker of the Cavs is on the ball side with Lebron, but look at how he's only half way to the corner, making it easier for his defender to step in to help on Lebron,

As the Celtics get back on transition defense, there is a natural moment of confusion as defenders try to find their checks as you can see below. A simple ball reversal by Lebron to Z, would've created a numbers advantage on the weak side. Instead, Lebron holds onto the ball, pulls back, then shoots a semi-contested 3-pointer over Rasheed Wallace which he misses off the front rim,

PNR Against Shaq in Space

By contrast, right after, the Celtics knew exactly what they wanted to run. A high pick and roll bringing Shaq out into open space. Paul Pierce uses the screen by KG, and Shaq's footspeed is nowhere near able to stay with Pierce who drives and shoots a free-throw line jumper to extend the lead to 6,

I know it's only game 1 of the regular season, but if you're a Cleveland Cavs fan, you have to be wondering right now whether bringing Shaq in was really the right move. Shaq brings a lot of advantages especially on defense, but on offense in particular, he is more of a liability than an asset. The Suns found that one out the hard way. The Cavs have a whole season to figure out, lets just hope that it doesn't actually take all season.

For more transition offense drill ideas, check out Jim Barone's new DVD on Communication Drills for the Transition Game. Coach Barone is the head coach at the University of Rhode Island.

I was talking online with a coaching friend from Washington State the other day and we got into a debate about the pros and cons of the shot clock. My personal opinion is that shot clocks in general are a good thing because they encourage more flow in a game. But I can see my friend's point in that the use of a shot clock gives the advantage to teams that have superior athleticism, teams like his can run a delay offense to dictate tempo and offset the athletic gap with superior passing, patience, and shot selection.

I went through some more notes today and came across some notes on the offense used by the University of Tennessee Women's team, coached by Pat Summitt. I don't know if Coach Summitt has used it in the past few years, but I've seen some older footage where they did use it. It's a 5-out continuity offense which you could definitely adapt to use as a delay offense. It is slow developing and you probably would run it 3 or 4 iterations before getting a good defensive breakdown to take advantage of.


It's a basic 5-out set. Since it is a continuity, numbering is not all that important and all players are interchangeable. It really doesn't matter who is where, so long as they run the pattern correctly. The point guard, O1, dribbles into the middle of the floor at the top of the key. O2 and O5 are spread at the wings and O3 and O4 are at the corners to start. O1 passes to the right wing and cuts to the wing while O5 replaces,

O2 reverses the ball through O5 to O1 on the other wing. This is to create initial movement and to setup the cuts to follow,

Basket Cut and Downscreen

2 really basic basketball plays. First, the weakside wing, O2 here, does a straight basket cut. If open, O1 hits O2 going to the basket for a layup. If not, O2 begins to clear out to the same side. As O2 makes the basket cut, O5 begins to move towards the lane, O3 starts to move up,

O2 clears to the corner. O5 sets a basic downscreen on air, O3 sets up the cut going to the basket but then coming over top of the screen. O5 reads the play, if the defense hedges, O5 can roll to the basket for a quick hit. If the defense is underneath, pops back out. O3 comes to the top of the screen looking to receive a pass from O1. O3 can then reverse to O5 up top or down to O5 posting up or going to the hoop,

Repeat On Other Side

The action repeats on the other side. This time, O5 is the passer and O1 is the cutter,

O3 goes to set the downscreen this time for O4. Same as above, just different players and different side. If nothing is open, the action repeats back to the right side of the court,

A very simple 5-out continuity, but I think it is good because if executed properly and patiently, it can result in high quality shot opportunities. If you want to learn more about the Tennessee way, then check out Pat Summitt's DVD on Game Preparation.

Watched a great interview the other day on ESPN with West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. What stuck with me was the idea of having guys in your practice from the next level. In his case, having NBA players in his practices at Morgantown. I think its important from a goal-setting and motivational standpoint for players at your level see what they could be, what they should be. It also ups the intensity, because the really competitive players on your team will want to see how they matchup against the next level.

So, if you're a college coach, having professional players in your practices. If you're a high school coach, having college players in your practices. If you're a JV coach, having Varsity players in your practices. If you're a youth coach, having high school players in your practice. Definitely something to think about.

Here is the video clip of the interview (around 8 minutes) if you want to see it whole. The part about NBA players in practice is around 3:40,

Some other great things that I picked up on from the video:

- 1:00. Coach Huggins talked about the differences in style of play between himself and Coach John Beilein who preceded him at WVU. Beilein's emphasis was on shooting, while Huggins was on size and toughness. Both have had success at WVU. For me, it just goes to show that there are many ways of doing things, and many ways to achieve success. At the end of the day, what matters the most is getting the right system for the right players.

- 5:30. "It is hard to play and think at the same time." I definitely agree with this statement. On offense and defense, your players must get to the level where they are playing basketball, not thinking about every little nuance of their technique and positioning. That is not to say that tactics and technique are not important, but first you must coach age-appropriately, and then players must practice a technique or tactic enough times so that they do it without thinking about it.

For more great ideas for half-court pressure defense, take a look at Bob Huggins' new DVD on Aggressive Trapping Defensive Systems. Definitely looking forward to watching WVU in Big East play this upcoming season.

The NBA Regular Season Awaits...

In anticipation of the start of the regular season for the NBA, some nice clips from NBA TV. I know sometimes the NBA can be guilty of self-aggrandizement but I think these promotional clips are done in good taste.

This first one is the main NBA TV in anticipation of the start, narrated by Kobe Bryant. I like the part where Kobe introduces Shaq into the monologue,

With the globalization of basketball, and the significant amount of spanish speaking players, NBA TV produced this video with a Spanish and Latin American audience in mind, "Ene Be A, simply stated, the NBA in spanish,"

For some reason I was thinking a lot about defense this weekend. Having a great defensive team can help you create a psychological advantage with your team. Similar to the way that teams who have a fast-breaking mindset, a great lockdown defense has the ability to boost the confidence of each individual player and also of the team as a whole. I went through some notes and came across this great set of handwritten notes with Mike Krzyzewski talking M2M halfcourt defense at a Nike Clinic. Thanks so much to the original author (email me if you want credit) and hopefully these will help you as much as they did for me:

Components of Good Defense

1. Conditioning. Never rest on the defensive end.
2. Courage. Don't be afraid to dive for loose balls, or to take a charge.
3. Intelligence. Understand the defense in game situations.
4. Habits. Constant reps. Do defensive drills daily all year long.
5. Attitude. Have a positive defensive attitude. Don't fear failure. Players must have confidence in themselves and their teammates.

Principles of Defense

1. Vision. See the ball at all times
2. Move as the ball moves. Make gradual adjustments if at all possible
3. Communication. The glue that holds all 5 players together. Players must talk and concentrate on what's happening on the floor at all times.
4. Aggressiveness. But don't foul
5. Force to the Outside.

Try to keep the ball outside.

6. Stop ball reversal. The more you force the offense to move, the more chance of them making a mistake.

After O1 passes to O2 on the wing, X1 gets in the passing lane to force O1 away to receive a return pass for a ball reversal,

Priorities and Rules

1. Pressure the ball. Requires an effective stance, wide and on balance.

On dead ball, all out pressure,

2. Stop the penetrating pass. Ball-you-man position. Good stance and balance. Arm extended in the passing lane. Eyes primarily on the ball.

Make the offense catch the wing pass going AWAY from the basket,

3. Stop the penetrating move. Be ready to help on the drive
4. Jump inside to help. If ball goes to low post, post defense gets behind the offense. Wing to point defense helps inside on the post. Keep your back to the basket.
5. Stop ball reversal.

If you've finished reading this post, you might be wondering why all defenses don't look like this? Where are its weaknessess? In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Belmont nearly backdoored their way to a major first round upset with Duke escaping with a 71-70 win. So yes, this aggressive up-the-line-on-the-line M2M halfcourt is extremely susceptible to teams running a lot of backdoor. But I think that is where your coaching ability to adjust comes in to play. You should have a gameplan for each game which assesses:

- your team's ability compared to your opponent
- how much pressure you want on the ball as a result
- where the point of pickup will be
- whether to trap or not

Anyways, if you are a big Duke fan or know one and you're already thinking of what to get for that coach you know for Christmas, check out Mike Krzyzewski's new All Access Duke Basketball Practice 4-pack DVD which includes 438 minutes of practice and Q&A with Coach K.

Sorry for the lack of updates this past week but with midterms, teaching, and relationships, its been one crazy week, quelle semaine de fou, we say in French. Anyways, for most practices I've run and others that I've observed, most teams run a form of full-court continuous conditioning drill as a warmup. I've used one very similar to the one below in the past with a 10:00 minute clock and a goal of reaching a set number of points. This one is from a set of notes and the drill is titled: 2-1-2 Cycle Conditioning.


Teams go 5v0 full court. First 5 go and each player takes a shot, for a total of 5 shots going back and forth up and down the court. If all 5 make their layups and shots, then 3 points get added as a bonus. Then the next 5 go. You continue like this, back and forth until 10:00 minutes is up. As a team, they need to score a minimum of XX points, whatever you set.

2-1-2 Cycle Conditioning

To start O5 bounces the ball off the backboard and passes to O1. O2, O3 and O4 run down the floor on a fast break. O1 dribbles down the court and takes a 3 point shot. O5 follows for the rebound. If O1 makes the shot, O5 takes the ball out of bounds. O2 and O3 will cross under the basket and run to the other end. O4 will
run back to the other end, while O5 rebounds the ball and passes to O1

O1 will pass to O2 for a layup. O3 will cross under the basket and run
down the opposite sideline. O4 will run to the end line, reverse and run to
the other end. O5 will run, rebound the ball and pass to O1.

O1 will pass to O3 for a layup. O2 will cross and run the opposite sideline.
After O3 shoots, he will cross too and run the sideline opposite O2. O4 will run the floor, reverse and run to the other end. O5 will run the floor, rebound the miss or take a make out of bounds. O5 will rebound the ball and pass to O1. O2, O3, and O4 will run down the court. O1 will pass to O4 for a layup. O5 will run down the court, rebound the ball, and pass to O1. O2 and O3 will cross and run the floor to the other end. O2 and O3 will cross under the basket and run to the other end. O5 will rebound the ball.

O5 will pass the ball to O1 and run the court O2, O3, and O4 will run to the other end of the floor O1 will pass ahead to O5 for a layup. O5 will clear the floor after the layup. O1 will clear the floor at the mid-court line. O2 and O3 will run the floor and then clear the floor. O4 will run the floor and clear the floor.

I will try to get breakdown some more motion stuff and maybe some zone offense and/or inbounds later in the weekend. In the meantime, for more great practice drills, take a look at Geno Ford's DVD on Toughness and Early Offense Drills. Coach Ford is the head coach of Kent State University.

This video is making the rounds. Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon showing Kobe Bryant his moves. In the clip, they're definitely working on Olajuwon's famous "dream shake" move. If true, and Kobe has the "dream shake" among others down, he's gonna rip it this year for sure.

For more post development skills, check out Mike Krzyzewski's DVD on Developmental Drills for Post Players.

Watching football and catching up with everything else. Went through notes the other day and this good drill caught my eye. I'm a big rebounding guy because I've seen from experience the difference good rebounding can make for a team. Therefore, I'm always on the lookout for a good rebounding drill. If you have one you'd like to share, definitely email me or post it on the X's and O's forum. This one is from a Nike clinic in Springfield, MA with Dino Gaudio, head coach of Wake Forest.

Connecticut Rebounding Drill

Setup: So, you need any 3 players to start as defensive rebounders. I have them setup in a triangle, but the players may find a better setup. Allow them to experiment to try to see what works best. Everyone else lines up in the 5 spots as shown. You can use forwards down low, wings, and guards up top, but changing it up is fine too. You can have a couple of coaches from different angles firing up shots to keep the variety.

The coach calls out 3 numbers. Say 1..3..4. That means 1 person from the 1-line, 1 person from the 3-line, and 1 person from the 4-line go for the offensive rebound. At the same time as the coach calls the number, and it must be the same time, one of the other coaches fires the shot. The 3 X's in the middle must find-hit-get. They must get 3 straight defensive rebounds to get out of the middle. The 3 offensive rebounders who fail on the 3rd straight defensive rebound become the new 3 in the middle.

Coach Gaudio emphasis on offensive rebounders is to never go for offensive rebounds by laying on the defender's back, which usually results in a foul. Instead, try to hit a shoulder or spin off. For this and many more great rebounding tips, take a look at Dino Gaudio's DVD on Winning the War on the Boards.

I think as October gets rolling, we all (coaches, players, fans) get a little anxious for the basketball season to start, I know I am. To get you all ready for the upcoming season, a couple of great NBA TV behind the scenes video of NBA training camp with Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets.

With head coach Phil Jackson probably not traveling on long road trips with the Lakers this upcoming season, Kobe's leadership will be relied on even more. It seems to me that Kobe is relishing the challenge,

Whoever said NBA teams and players never play or practice defense. Melo was really givin' it, in your standard shell drills here in Nuggets practice,

A coaching friend of mine was looking for some new ideas for drills as the season nears. So I went through some notes of mine and found some real good stuff in a newsletter run by Arizona head coach Sean Miller when he was at Xavier. They called it "Xavier Fall Workouts - Warrior Series", broken down by guards and forwards. Enjoy...

Below is a breakdown of one of our most productive series of workouts this fall. Drills A-F are predominantly used with our guards, and G-K are mainly used with our posts.

A. Sidelines Touches "Baby J's"
B. Half court Touch
C. Touch and Shoot
D. Layup, Elbow, Corner
E. Backpedal Shooting
F. 7-5-3-1 ½ Ct.

G. Tap, Pitch, Post
H. Tap, Pitch, Touch, Post
I. Pepper
J. Ricochet
K. Rim Running Ladder

A. Sideline Touches "Baby J's"
1. Coach rebounds and passes.
2. Player starts on L sideline and runs to the 12 ft.
mark in front of the rim to receive pass from under
the basket.
3. Player runs to R sideline, touches, then runs back
to same mark to catch and shoot.
4. A total of 12 shots are taken, 6 coming from each
side and then another 6 shots after shot faking,
taking no dribbles and shooting again.
- Emphasizing the "one, two step", and "change
pace" going to the sideline and returning back for a

B. Half Court Touch
1. Player starts in the corner along the baseline and
jogs to halfcourt.
2. He touches halfcourt with his foot, turns and
sprints to the basket on 45? angle.
3. He receives a pass from the coach who is
standing on the elbow.
4. Player starts new line in opposite corner.
5. Player shoots (6) shots on each side - a one
dribble power layup, a one dribble single leg layup, a
one dribble stride stop step thru, a bank shot with no
dribble, catching at 28 ft. and dribbling across lane
for a baby hook, catching at the 20 ft. mark and
passing back then receiving a pass for no dribble
6. A total of 12 shots are taken.

C. Touch and Shoot
1. Player moves to a spot then sprints to an
opposite spot, catches and shoots using the 1-2
step footwork.
2. Coach rebounds the ball and passes to the
player who returns to the original spot, touches and
moves quickly to shooting spot, ready to catch and
3. Shoot 5 shots from 5 different spots.
-25 total shots are taken.

D. Layup, Elbow, Corner
1. A coach passes for a power layup and also
rebounds the ball for shot #1. The player starts at
the 28 ft. marker.
2. A player curl cuts to the elbow, receives a pass,
and shoots shot #2.
3. The player moves to the corner, "long strides",
establishes proper footwork and shoots shot #3.
4. The player then jogs to the opposite 28 ft. marker
and begins the same 3 shot cycle.
5. A total of 15 shots are taken -- 3 shots x5 sets.
- The shooter must work hard to change speeds
while cutting. For example, going from a jog to an
all out sprint must be in place when touching the
28ft marker and then cutting to the basket for a

E. Back Pedal Shooting
1. The player backpedals from the baseline until the
coach slams the ball to the ground.
2. He then sprints to shot #1 and catches and shoots.
3. The player back pedals from shot #1 until the
coach slams the ball again. ON the slam of the ball
the player sprints into shot #2 at a different spot.
4. A total of 15 shots are taken, 5 sets of 3 shots.

F. 7-5-3-1 ½ Ct.
1. Player cuts for a shot, coach is at the top of the key
as the passer. Player rebounds his own ball and
passes back to the coach. He shoots 7 shots. The
player throws sharp passes.
2. Player then cuts for a shot on the other side and
executes the same. This time he shoots 5 shots.
3. The player repeats this for 3 shots on the original
side and then 1 shot on the opposite side again.
4. The player has shot 7-5-3-1 shots alternating sides
for each number of shots.
-16 total shots are taken.
-Any number of cuts can be made. However, the cut
must be the same throughout the segment -
alternating sides.

G. Tap, Pitch, Post
1. The player taps the ball off of the backboard 5
2. "Snatches" the rebound and outlets to a coach.
3. The player posts up for five shots.
4. He then sprints the floor to halfcourt, touches, and
then returns to tap second ball off the other side of
the backboard five times.
5. "Snatches" the rebound and outlets the ball to a
coach, sprints to halfcourt, touches, and then runs
and catches an "over the top" pass for a transition
6. The player then alternates sides of the backboard
for 5 post up shots on the opposite side and an over
the top pass from the opposite side from the start.
-10 post shots and 2 finishes are taken for 12 total

H. Tap, Pitch, Touch, Post
1. The player taps the ball off of the backboard 3
times and "snatches" the rebound and outlets the
ball to a coach.
2. The player follows the pass and touches the ball in
coaches hands.
3. He then dives to the opposite low post where he
receives a pass for a low post score.
4. He then repeats (above 1.) on the other side of the
5. The player repeats 5 times for 2 sets.
-The players takes 10 total post shots.

I. Pepper
1. The player starts under the basket and passes to
a coach on the wing.
2. He then posts and receives a return pass from the
3. The coach moves to a 2nd spot as the player
executes a low post score and his own rebound.
4. The player passes again to the coach, posts at a
different spot, receives a return pass and scores.
5. This is repeated for 5 low post scores.
-Please note if a player receives a pass with both
feet in the lane, there is no dribble. On any pass out
the post player gets "deeper" when he reposts. Also,
emphasize no travel with no dribble.
-10 total shots are taken - 5x 2 sets.

J. Ricochet
1. A player passes to a coach. He runs to touch the
ball in the coaches hands. A second coach ricochets
the ball off of the backboard.
2. The player pursues the rebound.
3. The player snatches the rebound and passes the
ball to the second coach and posts up to receive a
return pass for a low post score.
4. This is repeated 5 times for 2 sets for a total of 10

K. Rim Running Ladder
1. Player starts by rebounding a missed shot and dunking the ball.
2. After dunking the ball, he sprints to halfcourt, touches, turns and receives an over the top pass for a
3. He then repeats (above 1.) 6 times with the over the top pass coming from different angles.
4. The player takes a break with 2 free throws and then executes the drill for 5 times, 2 free throws, 4, 3, 2,
1 until he makes both free throws following his last time.
5. 22 total shots are taken including the missed shot dunk.

For more offensive development ideas, check out Sean Miller's DVD on Offensive Improvement. I am very much looking forward to a new era in AZ Wildcat basketball with Sean Miller at the helm.

Came across this video this past week. It's from Alan Stein's youtube account showing him working out some very specific basketball skills. I'm not a strength and conditioning expert, but the title of the video clip is "Cutting Edge Metabolic Workout." What it comes down to for me, is targeting specific muscles and movements used in basketball without a ton of special equipment. Here's the clip (mute the sound if the music bugs you),

Here a few screenshots I grabbed from the video:

For forwards, working on drop step dunk,

Great one for guards, using a thick rope, players simulate their jab steps, and first step,

Again with the thick rope, in parallel with a real dribble, helps players build muscles used in the arm for the pound dribble,

A full body workout lifting the big tire, and pushing it over completely (need good form or risk back injuries),

This is a great one to use for defensive slides, and also for building lateral leg strength,

A variation of pushups for an upper body workout,

For more strength building, check out Alan Stein's Pro Power Training 2-Pack DVD. Coach Stein is the conditioning coach for Montrose Christian, famously for having worked with Kevin Durant.