viernes, 30 de diciembre de 2016

2016 - 12 Books

Twelve of the books I’ve read and liked during the year. I thought maybe you could be interested and also might like to make some suggestions with your favorite reads. I add one quote of each to give you a quick flash about the book, even if there is much more inside them, of course.

La metamorfosis ; Martí Perarnau: “Lo que hizo el entrenador fue simplemente, en realidad, crear las condiciones para que estos futbolistas expresaran sin limitación dichas cualidades… esta es una de las mayores virtudes que debe poseer un líder técnico: facilitar y promover la expansión del talento almacenado por sus hombres, que a menudo permanece en compartimentos escondidos”

Herr Pep ; Martí Perarnau: “Un equipo es algo vivo, que crece, se desarrolla, sufre desgracias e inconvenientes, los supera, crea expectativas, mejora en unos ámbitos, empeora en otros y, en resumen, evoluciona.”

La vida por el fútbol ; Román Iucht: "Uno vive y necesita jerarquizar virtudes, decir éstas son las virtudes que rescato en los demás y quisiera para mí, que respeto, que valoro.”

Los 11 caminos al gol ; Eduardo Rojas: "Un buen conductor se forja en la derrota, cuando sus valores y su estilo generan respeto y credibilidad incluso en la adversidad. Creo que el líder ve en ese momento la capacidad de conducir. No me quieras porque gané, necesito que me quieras para ganar. Quien es querido se siente más seguro y su sensación de fortaleza para enfrentar la tarea es superior. Tengo muy claro que uno tiene que querer sinceramente a quien conduce, y si no lo quiere naturalmente, tiene que aprender a quererlo. Una muestra de nuestra debilidad es excluir. Cuando no aguanté a los jugadores, invariablemente me fue mal. Si no los quiero, no hay proyecto posible.”

The power of negative thinking ; Bob Knight & Bob Hammel: "Improvement, especially toward perfection, comes only if the practice is demanding, well-thought-out, and constructive, by a coach who realizes that absolute perfection is unattainable—but is always the objective."

A season on the brink ; John Feinstein: "Practice had not gone well; after three straight good practices, the team had been sluggish. Intellectually, Knight knew this was inevitable. Emotionally, it drove him to the brink of complete hysteria.”

More than a game ; Phil Jackson & Charley Rosen: "When it comes to basketball, Tex has God’s conscience.”

Leading ; Alex Ferguson & Michael Moritz: "Watching others, listening to their advice and reading about people are three of the best things I ever did.

Showboat ; Roland Lazenby: "Tex couldn’t tell an untruth if his life depended on it. So I think that’s what people like Michael and Kobe love about Tex. They welcome coaching. They welcome honest criticism.”

Michael Jordan, The Life ; Roland Lazenby: "Rather than miss games, Jordan had to sit out his favorite time with the team. “I have always liked practice,” he said, “and I hate to miss it. It’s like taking a math class. When you miss that one day, you feel like you missed a lot. You take extra work to make up for that one day. I’ve always been a practice player. I believe in it.”

Open ; Andre Agassi: "I can’t imagine all these people trying to be like Andre Agassi, since I don’t want to be Andre Agassi.”

What I talk about when I talk about running ; Haruki Murakami: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

miércoles, 28 de diciembre de 2016

Efficiency: Petteri Koponen

I’m not a big fan of the plus - minus stats specially when it comes to individual performances, I think there are many players involved in whatever happens on the court and that number can lead to misunderstandings. 

Anyway in the last Baskonia - FCB we saw a chain of actions that show the value of one of the great players in our basketball, Petteri Koponen. In the beginning of the third quarter, five consecutive possessions, creating a high value for his team on both sides of the court, scoring five points himself and creating another four for Ante Tomic, plus stealing one ball on defense.

Defense, scoring, decision making, play making, to get his team going in less than four minutes.

Also, I’d like to point out one of the offensive situations FCB use during this stretch, which we can see in the video, with a big man posting playing at the elbow for a hand off situation. In this example is precisely Koponen the player who ends up executing the shot coming off Tomic's pass. 

Using a shooter and getting advantages of small defensive mistakes to get easy looks for an elite shooter, FCB's playbook has really interesting options.

jueves, 2 de junio de 2016

Shooters Defense: GSW Read And React

I watch as much NBA as I can. Which is half of what I’d like to watch, and that is probably half of what you need to watch to have a decent knowledge of the league… 

But I enjoy The League anyway, and I think there are many good things to see, analyze and pay attention to.

I won’t join the controversy about how many three point shots are too many. Everyone has an opinion. But it is a fact that the record of made threes during a seven games series was broken during the West Conference Finals, and this post is related to three point shooting. 

This classic situation is frequently used by the Golden State Warriors, staggered screens.

OKC tried to stop it switching in off ball screens to avoid easy catch and shoot options. Which is as good an idea as any other, if the defensive execution is good or if the offense is not ready to read it. Let’s take a look at some clips from games six and seven. In the first two plays, the Warriors run the staggered screen situation we are talking about, while in the third one we see the off ball screen right after an inside pass:

The Warriors reaction to the switch is to cut with the last screener to the basket. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are the cutters. As we can see, when the switch happens, the defender who is supposed to take the screener doesn’t protect the rim, and leaves the path open for the cut. In the first clip, there is still one more help, although the second cutter gets a perfect extra pass to score.

With the Finals starting tonight, we should be ready to take a look at how the Cavaliers defend this basic, but useful, situations. 

martes, 24 de mayo de 2016

Final Four 2016 (II)

We explained in the last post how Kyle Hines had an amazing performance switching on ball screen defense.

That brings me to another sign of the complexity of our sport. Although Hines was excellent defending those mismatch situations, the next action happened in one of the last plays of the last quarter. This could be considered one of the “key” moments of the game. After an off ball screen, a mismatch happens, Dixon against Hines… the small playmaker manages to create the space for his shot, and scores.

For me it is interesting to understand how, a situation which was totally under control for Hines all along the game, gave Fenerbahce the opportunity to “believe” one more time in their chances to win the game.

It has been a controversial topic during the last season, specially in the NBA, if the “hack a” strategy is acceptable. We saw a clear example during the game, and I haven’t read many opinions against it… Here is the moment when Itoudis tells CSKA players to "hack a Vesely" right after he shot an air ball in his last free throw attempt. What is your opinion?

I’d like show now some beautiful offensive plays we saw CSKA execute.

In the first one, they run a high ball screen with Hines rolling to the basket. Help side players, whatever their defensive rules are, put extra focus on the ball, and at this point Kurbanov sets an off ball screen against Bogdanovic (De Colo’s defender) to “create” the pass opportunity to the corner, and to make it easy for De Colo to attack the defender close out in case he decides not to shoot. 

Let’s finish with two consecutive plays. One of the moments when CSKA started looking unbeatable that night:
This set that is frequently used by many teams, but here is executed with virtuosity, great timing and it shows CSKA at his best. The way Teodosic fakes the screen and then the shot, to end up passing to Hines, and how the american connects with the corner… Fenerbahce players were “chasing shadows”. The next offense they run it again, and the defenders hesitate, in part because of the outcome of the last offense, leaving a highway to the basket for Higgins to score.

Euroleague season is over, the countdown for next season has started. 

viernes, 20 de mayo de 2016

Final Four 2016 (I)

It’s not the first time I say it, very often we try to find the “key” for the outcome of a game. We go to the statistics, we talk about this or that defensive modification, a beautiful set play drawn by the coach, a player in bad shape or a great offensive performance. 

Sometimes we make things too complicated and sometimes we try to over simplify and find one reason to explain why the game ended as it did. The truth is: there isn’t a single key when it comes to sports. That makes it, specially basketball, amazing and unpredictable.

There were so many details during the CSKA - Fenerbahce… It would take days to run through the game trying to understand in deep every single action. So, I will just bring some of them, and I hope we will be able to enjoy in the next years many more games as good as this one.

As they pointed out in @Euro_Adventures podcast that fifth foul might have been one of the luckiest strikes in the last years. Vorontsevich was fouled out and that brought Khryapa back in the game. His performance during the last ten minutes has been praised enough by now but, was he supposed to be there? was he supposed to sub in during the last minutes of the game? We will never know, but a situation that could have been really negative for CSKA turned into the best momentum for them to win the trophy. If that doesn’t make us think as coaches...

The game started with an interesting match up, Kalinic guarding De Colo. Probably to switch ball screens slowing the french down, while avoiding mismatches inside or in the offensive rebound. Seven CSKA points and two personal fouls on the Serbian (who had to be substituted) gave the first “victory” to the Russian side.

It is a frequent topic in this blog, I’ve written about it here,  here,  here,  here,  here, and not many days ago here. So it is no surprise to see teams switching in several ball screens. Having players like Kyle Hines (also frequently featured around here) or Udoh helps a lot. We saw many fantastic defensive actions from these players in the final game of the Euroleague season.

I counted 13 situations where Hines switched defending ball screens. Do you know how many points did Fenerbahce score against him? Zero. Not a single point scored by the “small” being guarded by Hines in those switches. Fener scored two points off an offensive rebound (Vesely against Kurbanov) and that was all in 13 possessions. Obviously, there is a team effort there, other players are involved too, but having Hines is an insurance in these situations.

We’ll keep talking about this game in the next post, stay tuned. 

jueves, 12 de mayo de 2016

Lokomotiv: Stretch 5

Definitely, the use of this "stretch 5" strategy has been one of the reasons for Lokomotiv Kuban to make it all the way to Berlin. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments will be made to fight it in the Final Four.

We saw different ways to get advantages through Anthony Randoph during the play off against F.C. Barcelona, let’s take a look at some of them:

Pretty basic, when all five Lokomotiv players are placed beyond the three point line, creating so many three point threats, there is a lot of room to drive and it is kind of risky to help on penetrations. If Randolph’s defender helps, the opportunity is right there for the kick out pass. Once he gets the ball, the right decision making will end up with shots, penetrations against close outs, or extra passes to beat defensive rotations.

Side screen situations: We are used to “fours” popping after setting ball screens. Not so much to “fives” having that shooting range. Loko often clears the corner and short corner for Randolph to pop to that area. Another shooting threat will be usually placed one pass away from the ball (weak side elbow, three point line on top) making helps on the ball screen situation even harder. 

More side screen, now looking for weak side actions: When Randolph's defender doesn’t help, the weak side defenders need to give a hand on the ball screen defense. Movement without the ball is the key now. Weak side cuts are extremely dangerous for the defense. As we see in the second clip, the skip pass is also used to punish defensive rotations.

Middle screen situations: Randoph’s pop creates a superiority right after the ball is passed. Quick shot or pass against defensive rotation. If the defenders hesitate or are late… the dagger will fly.

Finally, one of the sets they run to free Randolph for a wide open shot, with a hand off followed by an off ball screen. Once again, he will decide either to shoot, drive, give an extra pass against rotations or run the set all the way and play one more hand off / side screen. As we see in the last clip, even if the execution is not perfect (they don't play the initial hand off, don't set the small - big off ball screen) the  key idea remains the same, Randolph wide open and taking care of business. 

The Final Four starts tomorrow, let's get ready for some of the best basketball moments of the year.

miércoles, 4 de mayo de 2016

CSKA Switching

I won’t pretend to explain a defensive game plan because not having enough information about it, but I can show you some details of CSKA’s defense during the third play off game against Red Star. If you want to get a deeper understanding, my advice is to analyze those three games to find out how it works.

There’s an old saying in basketball “the best man to man defense looks like a zone and the best zone defense looks like a man to man”. That could be the idea behind the defense we saw in the mentioned game. We can argue about the way we call it (switching man to man, flexible zone, mutant defense) but there’s no need to go crazy about it. 

In my opinion, CSKA has the personnel to try this kind of switching defense. Their physicality and size allow them to go for it not giving up a lot of advantages to their rivals. But there’s another idea we should keep in mind. The defense’s “first stone” is not the switching, but the 1 on 1 and team communication. Bigs need to make efforts to guard smalls and smalls need to be really aggressive, as they will find themselves in a quick mismatch situation quite often. Then, the focus to switch or rotate when needed is also a must.

Also, the scouting work matters, Red Star use very often “horns” situations, as well as quick side screens. This switching defense may create problems and definitely slow down the rhythm of the offense. 

Some of the rules they appear to be following:

They place a “big” on top of their defense (Kurbanov, Nichols)

They switch high ball screens avoiding an advantage for the “roll man”, and try to keep a small guarding the ball after the first switch. 

Continuous attention to the ball’s position and players’ movements

Be aware of cuts, to follow and/or rotate, trying to stay in the same lines. "Smalls" defending outside spaces, "bigs" close to the basket.

Sag off from your man when the ball goes inside

If the mismatch finally happens: FIGHT IT. No easy penetration, no uncontested shots, no easy passes inside (defender in front) Off ball activity.

Let’s take a look: