Coach’s Notebook: NBA Player Prep Despite Lockout?
Offseason Schedule & Lockout Contingencies
In a normal offseason, next week would typically mark the time when players would start to return to the gym in earnest to begin preparations for preseason training camps. Preseason game schedules have been released, most teams would have told players expectations on dates to report to camp, and players would be finishing their roughly month-long vacation to refocus on their careers.
But, as you may have heard, this is no normal offseason. Instead, teams and players cannot communicate, and no one knows exactly when players will be able to report. However, players should still be starting to get into preparation mode – smart professionals will want to be ready to go in case the lockout is resolved sooner rather than later. With the timing in flux, how do smart professionals best equip themselves to be in game shape and ready for game speed action when the season finally does start?
Having a fitness and basketball preparedness plan is critical. Central to any plan is real flexibility – the ability to adapt to potential changes as they occur must be a top priority. Players should still be targeting a return to their training regimen for the last week or so of August – starting, say, this coming Monday. The next two weeks should be spent reforming a foundation for athletic success.
A strong foundation would include yoga and core strength and flexibility training. In the first two weeks, players should split their workout time between the weight room and the yoga mat, improving their strength and power while lengthening their muscles and preparing them for a long season. Work on the court at this point should be rather limited – focused mainly on light shooting and ball-handling (not just dribbling, but overall handle – passing, dribbling, catching, etc.).
Another major part of these two weeks should be film review from last season – focused on particular areas of individual improvement broken down on a player-by-player basis. Players (and trainers / development coaches) should try to identify no more than three specific items to work on for refinement or implementation. These items may include the addition of a specific move or skill, an emphasis on awareness of body position defensively, or improvement of an already possessed ability.
Following Labor Day weekend, even without an end to the lockout in sight, smart players should start to prepare as if the season will start on time, and camp will begin at the end of September as normal. The idea will be to use the next three weeks to work into top shape. In developing a schedule, players should aim for two on-court workouts per day and one strength / fitness workout.
In their strength and fitness workouts, the focus should remain on core flexibility and power and functional strength for most upper body muscle groups. Functional strength means focusing on basketball-specific movements, which are typically synergistic in nature (many moving body parts at once). Yoga can remain part of the program, but cut down to once or twice a week. One day should be devoted to recovery (foam rolling and ice bath), and the rest should be weight room-centric.
On the court, one workout each day should be intensive and physically challenging. It would force players to work consistently, and in many ways be more demanding than what they will likely face in training camp for their teams when they arrive. Finishing around the rim, rebounding, attacking off the bounce, defensive skills, racing the floor, and aspects of ball-handling would be the focus. These workouts would include both post moves and finishes, catch and face attacks, ball screen work and other major facets of the game. These workouts would also be tailored to help not only general basketball improvement, but position-specific needs and individual areas identified by the film work from the first two weeks.
This workout would also include some game situation play if additional players were together during the same timeframe. We would likely avoid a lot of 5-on-5 play during these sessions, focusing instead on 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 play so that the new skills could be more easily transferred and practiced repetitively.
The other workout each day would be a combination of shooting work and occasional 5-on-5 play if available. Shooting would encompass the vast majority of the time in the gym, focusing on just grooving a shooting motion and refining mechanics. Any game play would be structured and competitive, with stoppages for teaching as necessary but maintaining a strong tempo. Once the games looked sloppy or unorganized, play would end and the players sent home – sloppy play is the most likely time for injuries to occur, and that is exactly what needs to be avoided.
By the last week of September, players would be in excellent shape physically and be mentally prepared for the grind of a long season. But if the lockout was not resolved by then, a player must be prepared to adjust their schedule to that reality. This would best be achieved by going through a recovery week (a return to the yoga-focused light workouts of the first two weeks) followed by two weeks of intensive work, rinse, and repeat. This schedule should keep them prepared to depart for camp whenever the situation was resolved.
If players keep the schedule as outlined above, they should be ready to go directly into game-speed action in game shape immediately, and players in such a position would have a major leg up on teammates who are not as prepared. Having the contingency plan in place is what you would see out of real professional, many of whom are starting their work now, when no one is watching.
Have questions for Coach Macri? Be sure and drop by HOOPSWORLD on Mondays at 2PM Eastern for the Coach’s weekly basketball chat! You can also follow Coach Macri on Twitter @CoachMacri.
Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri opens his notebook and offers 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. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.