Wednesday, June 3, 2009

easy offense

The following article addresses 6 ways you can become a more dominant offensive player. It's a "cheat sheet" of sorts, a quick way for you to remember some basic, but incredibly important aspects of being a big-time offensive player.

So keep these things in mind as you work to improve your game, plan your off-season workouts, and take the court.

Be more aggressive

No matter how aggressive you think you are as an offensive player, I guarantee you can be even more powerful and aggressive the next time you take the floor. Whether it's a dribble-drive to the basket, a pump-fake and power move, setting a screen, or crashing the offensive boards, you can turn up the intensity. No one plays 100% on every play. No one attacks the defense with 100% intensity, effort (and 2nd and 3rd efforts) on each and every play.

Make up your mind that the next time you take the court in practice or a game that you'll be a more solid, strong, and aggressive player every second you're on the court.

Increase your speed

No matter how fast and quick you think you move around the court, you can do things faster. Do you run at full-speed and get out on the fast break every single time your team gets a defensive rebound? Do you make fast, strong cuts every single time while running the offense? Are you ready and able to drive past your defender when you catch the ball on the wing or at the high post (or does it take you a second or two to get your balance and figure out what you want to do with the ball)?

Speeding the game up keeps the D off-balance and at a disadvantage. If you speed up your game, you put more pressure on the defense. When you speed up your game, you become a better offensive player.

Work on improving your confidence level

Confidence makes you a better player. If you are filled with self-doubt about your abilities, your game will suffer. If you are tentative and unsure of yourself when you shoot the ball, chances are it won't go in. As a player, I loved competing against players that had little confidence in their games because they'd already beaten themselves.

The next time you take the court, have confidence in your abilities. Believe in your success. Think positive thoughts and feel certain that you're going to compete, do well, and be successful, then go out an make it happen.

Make the 2nd and 3rd effort on every play

Making a strong 2nd or 3rd effort can make the difference between success and failure. Your first effort (shot, pass, dribble, rebound, etc.) might not work, but don't give up. It's easy for defensive players to guard someone that gives up after the first try. Great players keep working and making the effort until they succeed.

The next time you take the court, make it a point to increase your effort level, and to NOT give up after your first move fails.

Vary your direction, speed, and moves

John Wooden (one of the greatest college coaches of all time) used to have his players work on drills that emphasized changing pace and changing direction. By varying your speed and direction, you keep the defense off-balance, guessing which way you'll move, and therefore put them at a huge disadvantage.

If you make the same moves, in the same direction, from the same spots on the floor every time down the court, you make it easy on the defense. If you are predictable, the D knows what you plan to do, and they can guard against it. By varying your direction and speed, you regain the advantage.

Establish yourself early

This is a trick I teach all my private coaching clients and have addressed in another article: establish yourself at the start of the game, and you can take a weaker opponent completely out of the game. By making a statement right from the tip-off, you make it known that you have come to play, you are a big-time player, and your opponent is going to have a very difficult night trying to guard you.

Coming out right from the get-go can scare a weaker opponent, take them mentally out of the game, and you'll likely have a big scoring game. If you're playing against a strong, confident player, you've let it be known that you're going to be a tough opponent and that they've met their match. Either way, establishing yourself from the start of the game will set the tone and let it be known that you're a big-time player who came to play.

Well, there you have it: six ways to help make you a better offensive player...immediately.

The next time you take the court, do these things, and you'll be a better offensive player, guaranteed.

establish yourself

The first few minutes of a game are extremely important because they set the tone for the entire rest of the game. The beginning of any game is really a feeling-out period, where players from both teams size up the competition, get a feel for who can play and who can't, and try to figure out the weaknesses and strengths of their competition.

If you estabish yourself and your level of play right from the get-go, you'll let it be known that you are a big-time player, a big-time competitor, and that your opponent is in for a very tough game playing against you. And here's why it can be so important: if you're playing against a weak opponent, showing them that you're a big-time player will take them right out of their game. You'll plant a seed of doubt in their minds that they can play at your level, and you'll have an edge over them for the rest of the game. You'll be amazed in that if you're playing against a weak or weak-willed opponent, this technique will literally take them out of the game, and you'll be well on your way to dominating them for the rest of the game.

If you're playing against a good opponent, establishing yourself early will simply let them know that they're in for a competitive night. It will let them know that you're at their level, that you're up for the challenge, and they they don't have an advantage or edge over you. If you're playing against a solid, quality opponent, you'll let them know they're playing against an equal and that they'll have to really work to compete against you. It will also plant a small seed of doubt in their minds that you might not be an equal, that you might be a little bit better than them. And in this way, they'll think a little bit more about you during the game, and might miss a shot or 2 they'd regularly make, or might not go for an offensive rebound they might normally go after.

Either way, playing against a weak opponent or a very strong one, using thig teqhnique will be to your advantage. There's another advantage to making a conscious effort to estblish yourself early: making sure that you get off to a good start every game. There may be times when you'd normally get caught up in the excitement of a big game, or get distracted by an early foul, and have your whole game thrown off. But if you get your mind set on making this happen each and every time you take the floor, you're more likely to make it happen and gain the advantage from it.

I teach that the first 3 minutes of the game are the key to setting that tone. If you establish yourself in the first 3 minutes of the game, you'll put yourself in a position to have a solid outing.

But this concept doesn't just apply to the first part of the game, it also applies any time a new player comes into the game that is playing against you, and it applies to the start of each quarter, and the 2nd half. The first 3 minutes of the game are most important, but you also need to re-establish your dominance each time a new player comes into the game that you're playing against, and then again at the beginning of each quarter, and the 2nd half.

Now that you understand the concept, here's how to make it happen.

From the opening tip, play at the highest level of intensity possible. Play smart and strong. Move quickly. Crash the boards every single time a shot goes up. Play defense like it's the last play of the game and you can't and won't allow your opponent to score. Play offense like you are the best scorer on the floor: go to the basket strong, shoot with confidence, and dribble the ball with confidence.

In short, establish yourself right from the start as a big-time player. Do this through maximum intensity and maximum competitiveness.

Establishing yourself early in the game is a simple concept, but one that is very, very effective. From this point forward, everytime you take the floor for a game, remind yourself to do this. It'll make you a better player.

become the best

The best scorers in the game, and I mean the ones that average 25 or more points a night, can only put up those huge numbers on a consistent basis because they can score the basketball in a lot of different ways. They have multiple offensive weapons and this keeps the defense off-balance.

They aren't just good 3-point shooters. Or just good perimeter shooters. Or just good at taking the ball to the basket. Or just good free throw shooters. Great scorers do most, if not all of those things well. In fact, they usually do almost all of those things very well.

To put up big scoring numbers night in and night out, you have to be able to keep the guessing as to what your next move is going to be. If you only have the ability to score in 1 or 2 ways, all the defense has to do it shut down those parts of your game, and they've basically shut you down as an offensive player.

If you're just a good jump shooter from the baseline, a good defensive player and team is eventually going to take away (or limit) that part of your game.
If you're only good at driving to your right side, a good defensive player and team is eventually going to take away (or limit) that part of your game.
If you're a post player and your only good move is a drop-step to the baseline, a good defensive player and team is eventually going to take away (or limit) that part of your game.
I think you get the idea.

Great offensive players, and I'm talking guys like Jordan, Kobe, or Allen Iverson can score in so many different ways that the defense is always guessing what direction they're going to go, and what move they're going to make. That's because great players work on their game to the point that they can score in so many different ways that no defender can guard against or stop all of their scoring options.

Great scorers can shoot the J, are typically solid 3-point shooters, can drive past the defense in either direction, and are usually very good from the free throw line. In addition, these guys are quick, have great ball handling skills, are good leapers, can play through contact, and have fine-tuned their ability to concentrate and finish plays.

And oh yeah, great scorers also have almost unshakable confidence in their abilities. They know how to put the ball in the basket. They know how good they are. They know that no defender can guard them. They know that it's just a matter of time before they get on a good run, knock down a few shots, and pretty soon they've got 18 or 20 points on the board, and are on their way to a 28 or 30 point game.

This is all well and good. So how can this help you become a great scorer? You have to develop the ability to score in a variety of ways. Develop your game to the point where you have multiple offensive weapons that keep the defense off-balance and guessing what your next move will be.

To become a great scorer, you have to be able to shoot the basketball (from distance, mid-range, and close-in shots). You have to develop your moves and ball handling abilities so you can take your defender offf the dribble (to the right, to the left, and using a variety of moves and changes in speed). You have to develop your ability to create space so you can shoot the ball (step back moves, fall away moves, high arch shots, jab steps, pump fakes). You have to develop the ability to score in a variety of ways (create your own shots, come off of screens to knock down jumpers, catch and shoot moves). And you have to be able to pick up scoring opportunities in other ways (creating contact so you go to the free throw line, shooting a high-percentage from the line, putting yourself in a position to get put-back shots on fast breaks, crashing the offensive glass, hustling on fast breaks to get easy baskets).

The list above is a tall order. It's not easy to be good at doing all of the things listed above (and that's not even a complete list of the things the really great scorers can do). But success isn't easy. It takes dedication and hard work.

Becoming a big-time scorer takes a lot of work. Break the game down into its various parts, work on those areas, and in time, you'll see results.

next level offense

As an offensive player, you have the advantage over the defense, because you dicate the action. The defense can't force you to shoot, dribble, or pass the ball. You, as the offensive player, make that decision. This puts you in a position of power, and the defense in a reactionary, and therefore weaker, position.

To really take advantage of the defense, it's important to make your moves with quickness and power. And that's why the first step is so important. The first step really sets the stage for the success or failure of the move.

By making a quick and decisive first step, you can get part of your body (maybe even half your body) past the defender, putting them in a position from which they'll never recover. Once you've got that much of advantage over the defender, they're done. They're beat. Most likely, they won't be able to recover from a great first step, and their only hope is to foul you or get help from a teammate.

How do you make a killer first step? Here are a few keys to the move.

One element of a big-time first step is attacking the defender's front foot. If a defender has one foot closer to you than the other, attack that foot with your lead foot. If you can get yours past theirs, you've pretty much got them beat. Why? Because the defender will have to drop their front foot back to try to cut you off, and by the time they do this, you should be well into your second step and working your way past them.

As we've talked about before, the key it to make the move fast, since that's the only way to get by the defender.

But attacking the front foot isn't always enough. If a defender has backed away from you, or is very quick, simply attacking the front foot won't get you past them. In these cases, you have to move onto other techniques for getting past your defender.

Another technique for a killer first step is the misdirection move. The mis-direction move is accomplished with either a jab-step, cross-over dribble, or a lean-in-on-direction then go-in-the-other move. With these moves, you fake in one direction and get the defense leaning that way, and then explode past them in the opposite direction.

This is a move that is used over and over again in the NBA. Because NBA players are such good athletes, and so quick, attacking the front foot isn't enough. Players like Grant Hill, Kobe, and Allen Iverson use misdirection moves time and time again to get past their defenders and to the basket. When you have a chance, watch one of they guys play and you'll see what I mean. These mid-direction moves are a staple of their offense.

A third aspect for a killer first-step is using a pump-fake. The pump-fake serves to get the defense moving towards you, up on their toes, and off-balance. Once you get the defender leaning towards you or on their toes, you then explode by them with a great first and second step. Again, the key is to make the move with quickness, since you may only get a slight lean forward by the defense on your shot fake, and you have to take advantage of it with quickness.

So remember: when you make your move as an offensive player with the ball, the key is to make your first step so fast and explosive that you drive past the defender (at a minimum, get your attacking foot past the defender's front foot). Once you gain the advantage with your first step, continue blowing past the defender, putting them at an even great disadvantage, and finish the move strong.

You may decide to pull up for a jumper, kick the ball out to a teammate, or drive all the way to the basket if you've got an open lane. That decision is up to you. But it all starts with that first, explosive step that gets you the advantage over the defender.

The game of basketball is a game of inches. Gaining a slight advantage over the defense, even if it's just a few inches, can mean the difference between a move that doesn't work, and one that does. It can mean the difference between getting cut off by your defender, or blowing by them for an easy basket.

Work on your first step and you'll improve your offensive game. Guaranteed.