Coach: Christmas Day Initial Impressions
Watching the first five games of the 2011-12 NBA season, I could have selected any of the hundreds of storylines that emerged. However, two quick thoughts came to the forefront for me today.
D to O impressive in Miami
Miami’s defensive intensity early looked to be in mid-season form as they were flying to the ball. The HEAT play most possessions as if they are outnumbered, anticipating ball movement, sprinting to meet the ball with the closest defender, and then filling in the backside, rotating, and squeezing off passing lanes.
This type of commitment to on-ball pressure is not unusual for Miami, as they played much of last season with this kind of vigor on the ball. However, it took most of the season to polish their recovery on the weakside. This year, it appears everything is on the same page from Day 1, as Miami stymied Dallas from tip-off and did not let them breathe at any point.
More than how well their D is playing in a vacuum, however, is how well the HEAT are converting to the offensive side of the floor after any change of possession. One of the reasons that conversion to the offensive side is so important to their defensive effort is that it prevents the opponent from ever getting comfortable. The threat of Miami’s offensive conversion is affecting Dallas’ confidence when they have the ball. The Mavericks look tentative, so concerned with getting back defensively that they are taking poor shots and not rebounding the offensive glass as they should. We will see if teams can adjust to this type of pressure throughout the season.
A tale of two step-hops
At the end of the Chicago Bulls / Los Angeles Lakers game, each team’s respective star had a chance to win the game on consecutive possessions. First, Derrick Rose drove to the middle of the lane, executed a step hop (gathering the ball on the step, then hopping onto two feet (which must hit the floor at the same time for it not to be a travel), before extending for a half floater / half baby jumper in the middle of the lane. Rose’s shot went through.
Next, Kobe executed a similar maneuver, though he was able to get all the way to the rim on his attempt, which was also a right-handed step-hop off two feet. Bryant’s shot was blocked away and out of bounds, however, as time expired, allowing the Bulls to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The step-hop is an under-used finishing move that should be employed in a vast array of situations, but especially any spot where a shot might be blocked or bothered. The two foot takeoff prevents a shot blocker from timing his jump perfectly, and it gives greater control to the shooter in terms of release angle. If the shooter is fouled, he has more ability to convert the basket from a strong base, and a crafty offensive player can add in a shot fake prior to takeoff in order to gather before the finish.
Take a look at Rose’s game winning shot again. He attacks from the left wing with his right hand, gets into the lane on a near straight line drive toward the opposite block. However, as he takes off from his step-hop, Rose flattens out his attack, and his final trajectory is almost a leaner toward the sideline. He has, in fact, used the two foot takeoff to change his angle of attack in order to thwart the shot blockers.
In order to complete his game-winner, Kobe might have wanted to use a shot fake at the end. Everyone in the gym knew he was going to put up the shot, and the Bulls were correct to send multiple defenders. To take advantage of their overzealous pursuit of the ball, a step-hop shot-fake finish would have likely earned Bryant a trip to the line to tie or win the game.
Two different step-hops, two different results, but great teaching points no matter the final outcome.
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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri will open his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding and serves as an assistant coach at Paul VI Catholic High School (Fairfax, VA), currently ranked in the top 25 in the country by USA Today. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.