“Playing Basketball” – Encouraging Players to Make Plays

Regular readers of Hoop Coach, will recognize the concept of “playing basketball” as it applies to what players need to do when a play or set gets the offense a half-step or step advantage or worse yet, breaks down totally and the defense has the edge.  Players who expect the play or set to miraculously create shots all game long, regardless the competition don’t really get it. So, it’s our job to help them get it.

With that thought in mind, we’ll also reference a past Hoop Coach post, “Charting Broken Plays”.  The concept of “broken plays” goes hand-in-hand with the concept of “playing basketball”. Yet another analogous concept is “making plays” which, I would argue, is broader in scope and perhaps easier for players to conceptualize.

As an example, let’s take a look at one play from the Western Conference finals between the Warriors and Rockets this past season.  Houston’s Trevor Ariza was sideline inbounding the basketball at about the 28’ mark with the Warriors fiercely denying all passes. His teammate, Eric Gordon, ended up at the top of the key after running some action.  When he saw that Ariza was in trouble at the 4 second count, he instinctively back cut straight to the rim. Ariza saw Gordon and hit him with what had to be a 45’ chest pass in a sliver of space for a contested but made layup.

I don’t know for sure but I’m taking educated guesses that play never happened before in a game because it never HAD to happen and it’s even unlikely that it was ever practiced or mentioned as a possibility.  Two players, albeit very good pros, “made the play” because they saw the play was broken and they had to play basketball.

As a defensive example, I’ll cite a play in the closing seconds of a college game with Team A up one point defending in the half-court.  Team B ran a set play with “sucker” action for a backdoor layup. Team A’s defender was totally set up for the backdoor and the cutter was wide open but the defender’s teammate on the help-side of the court read the play, gambled and helped and literally got a fingernail on the ball and deflected it off the cutter.  After a lengthy review, the officials confirmed the call in the defense’s favor.

As we all know defining “making a play” isn’t easy but we all know one when we see it.  Perhaps another summer project worth its weight in gold might be breaking down video into a collection of edited clips illustrating for players the many varieties of the concept of “playing basketball” at both ends of the floor.

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