True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dirk on Dirk

Spin moves for elbow jump shots:

Around the world with one-legged mid-range shots:

Typical summer for Dirk (early in career) & confidence behind fadeaway shots:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Point Guard Project - John Wall

Welcome to another addition of the Point guard Project!
As always, it's great to have you back.

As you know,
Past participants:
PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher
PGP8 - Stephen Curry
PGP9 - Chauncey Billups
PGP10 - Derek Rose
PGP11 - Ty Lawson
PGP12 - Sam Cassell
PGP13 - Mike Conley

Today we are joined by John Wall.

The PGP questions:

1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate?

2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league?

3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard?

4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass?

5) What is a typical workout for you like?

6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?

I should say: joined by newly minted all-star John Wall.
That's right, in his 4th year in the league averaging 20 points and 8.5 assists a game John is on his way to NOLA. And rightfully so - is there a better point guard in the East, right now? Even better than boasting those individual stats, how about the fact that Washington is currently sporting a record above .500 for the first time in over 4 years (no, seriously).

Okay, you might say "that's not hard to do, they are in the eastern conference!" You might have a point. But, how about the Wiz's last two wins, over OKC and Portland? Two of the top teams is the West? In those games, John put up 17 points & 15 assists (& 6 steals) and 22 & 5 assists, respectively.

At 6'4" and 195 ibs, John is only 23 years old. After being drafted #1 overall in 2010, he averaged 16 points and 8 assists his rookie year in the league..... and didn't win rookie of the year (thanks Blake Griffin injury rookie year make-up!).

John played at Kentucky for 1 year, leading them (with Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe) to the elite 8. Plus, for his first NBA game intro, he did this:

Mr. Wall, welcome to the PGP:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew up watching Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson was his person.  Saw Isiah Thomas and those guys be good. Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Derrick. Those are the guys when he was in high school and college. Magic and all those guys.

2) First memorable point guard match-up: Steve Nash - he went like 10 for 10, shooting one legged shots. Was contesting him and running around - playing the best D he could. And was still staying with him - (Nash) was just making tough shots. Had to chase him all the way under the basket. Had to watch his pocket passes cause he came off pick and rolls. Learned how to come off pick and roles and do a better job guarding him.
Was like "whoo!"
(Nash) Showed how a point guard can dictate the game. Showed how a point guard can do it without really scoring. Didn't take many shots but was 10 for 10 when he took them.

3) Definition for the job of a point guard: Be a leader. Lead your team. Get your team involved. Some point guards are scoring points, but he is more of a pass first point. If it's a night he has to score he is blessed to have the ability to do so. Really likes to get teammates involved (early), because when going into the 4th quarter and teams start to double and triple team him, teammates need to be in a rhythm (when he passes it to them). They can't be taking their first shots in the 4th.

4) Pass vs Shoot: Being aggressive. He's an aggressive type of player. His teammates know for their team to be their best, he has to be aggressive. Sometimes it's being aggressive and getting in the paint and finding people. Sometimes it's being aggressive and scoring. When he scores it makes it tough for the defense (because) they help off a shooter. If the defense wants to help, he's willing to give it to a shooter and have them knock down shots.

5) Typical workout: It depends. Spot up shots from mid-range. Catch and shoot. Catch and shoot threes. 10 (shots) each spot. 5 spots, sometimes 7 spots (total). Then do all of those same things coming off the dribble, like in the game. A lot of pick and rolls. Seeing how team's trap him and getting out of traps. Isolation situations. He's working on ball handling when doing those drills, because he has to do it at game speed. Very fatiguing and tough.

6) For aspiring point guards: Just work. That's the thing he did. Any young point guard coming into the league that's fast and athletic, not really known as knock down shooters. And it's something we all have developed, Derrick Rose, Westbrook, himself. Adding it to their game and making them tougher with all of the stuff they are able to do already.

I must say, out of all of the PGP interviews that I have done, this is was one of the best.
I mean, to talk to an all-star and number 1 overall pick and to have all of his answers be so informative.
Where do I start?

How about his first memorable match-up with Steve Nash? How funny is it that after listing six point guards non-chalantly that he grew up watching - without hesitation and in all seriousness Nash was the guy he remembers going up against his rookie year? Let me paint the picture of that match-up for you: raw, youthful talent and athleticism against the essence of skill and finely honed craftiness. Hearing John speak, you realize that skill and craft won out.

Hearing that story and having John convey how much he learned was a real treat. How one of the most athletic guys at his position learned from Nash (two-time MVP mind you) to use & include teammates to gain position on the court, how to control the game without even shooting, and how to be super efficient. You must realize, everyone in the league is super talented. But knowing how to do the three things above, especially as a point guard, can really separate you from the pack.

Of course, efficiency is something John is currently working on and is still trying to improve. For his career, he shoots 43% from the field and 28% from three. Compare that with Steve Nash's career numbers of 49% and 43%, respectively. Okay, you're right. That's not really a fair comparison.
So, here are Derrick Rose's career numbers: 46% & 31%, respectively.
And here are Russell Westbrook's:  43% & 30%, respectively (almost exactly the same).
One thing that is interesting is that even though John Wall has essentially the same skill set as Rose and WestBrook - John considers himself as a pass first point guard.

Maybe different types of points are just prone to shoot differently. But, let me say, a lot of what goes into efficient shooting is taking higher percentage shots, and knowing how to get them. Sounds straight forward no? But that's something you have to learn. Think about it, John has the ability to probably create and take any shot he wants. That is a great attribute to have and it certainly comes in handy in certain situations. But it's not something you want to do all the time (is it?). Learning how to utilize your teammates, both to keep them involved and get yourself easier shots, helps your efficacy. It also keeps you under control, and gives you rhythm and confidence.

Kind of cool (and beneficial) that John currently has Sam Cassell as a coach and is working with him to develop his shot, both in the mid range and pick and roll type situations (see video below). Remember Sam's PGP interview? That was a good one too. And it was interesting to hear Sam speak about mastering the mid-range and using his teammates to get shots - because he couldn't create on his own. Something tells me that sort of mid-set will be very helpful for John's game.

Finally, I love John's response for when to pass vs shoot: BE AGGRESSIVE.
......That's it!

Sometimes, as a scientist I like to overanalyze things and complicate them. But what if these things really are more simplistic? Simplicity can be profound. And simplicity certainly can be effective.
And guess what, this is almost exactly what Steve Nash said when I had a chance to interview him! 
Remember that one? When Steve said about when to pass vs shoot: "Always put pressure on the defense," and "be prepared to make the defense pay - shoot when they drop off, pass when they step up."
Sounds pretty aggressive to me.
And sounds pretty simple too!
How ironic is it that the guy John remembers most when he first got to the league, essentially gave the same answer for when to pass vs shoot?

I guess now we've come full circle.

But before we go, how about a couple of videos of John Wall doing some pre-game drills???
Peep the speed and technique for the ball handling!

And some mid-range shots off the dribble with Sam:

What more can I say?
Want to be an all-star with crazy skills?
Just work!

Much thanks to John Wall for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Doing the Durant

Hey, want to get lessons in scoring form the world's best, Kevin Durant?
Do you?
I mean, why wouldn't you?
For the month of January he did average 38 points on 55% shooting from the field and 44% from three (to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists) while leading OKC to a 12-4 record. Not to mention a 10 game winning streak that included a thrashing of the two-time defending champs on their home court. And oh yeah, all of this done without Russell Westbrook.

I've said this before (at least two years ago): Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the world. Right now, you can even say that he is the best player in the world period.
But sticking with the offense, it truly is mind boggling the battery of moves Kevin Durant has in his offensive repertoire to choose from.

For instance, take a loos at this move he put on the Kings:

Now, for educational purposes, why don't we break it down.

1) Catch the ball at the of the key facing the defender and the basket. Notice how Kevin has his left foot planted as a pivot while starting to swing his right towards the defender. By the way, is this an isolation play? How can any team in their right mind allow Durant an iso on only one defender?!?

2) Now with his right foot fully swung around - look at how Kevin's right side of his body, including his shoulder, serves as a shield to protect the ball in his left hand. And notice how tall Kevin is.

3) This is where he starts to execute his move. As Kevin bounces the ball on the floor, he starts to lean in lower into his defender, yet jabs his right foot into the ground and actually uses it to push off in the opposite direction (see insert). if you go back to the video, this is a fairly quick all-in-one motion.

4) Kevin's initial move, leaning into the defender while bouncing the ball, is towards the basket. And in reaction to this dribble move, the defender's momentum is carrying him in that direction (red arrow). BUT, having pushed off with his right leg, Kevin starts to raise up (along with the basket) and steps back into the opposite direction.

5) Even if it only takes a second to execute his move, look at how much space Kevin has managed to generate between him and his defender. Also, notice how Kevin has managed to swing his body and right foot around, while stepping back, to face the basket again. You can also see that Kevin's left foot is slightly off the ground. This is because after his dribble, Kevin release it from being a pivot and actually uses a little hop to back into this shooting position.

6) Did I say shooting position? Off a dribble/jab-step/step-back from the three point line?
Yep. Too much space. Too much skill. All kevin has to do is rise up into his shot.

First thing to
Second thing to note......many of these moves run parallel to the one's displayed by LeBron when he did the Dirk. Go ahead, compare and contrast. But this move is different. It's Kevin's own that combines many mini-moves: Face-up, pivot, jab-step....of the dribble, step back....all from three. 
Think about the evolution. Dirk (face up, pivot, fade away), Melo (jab step), and LeBron all can perform different components of this entire move. But here, Kevin is packaging all of them.

And just to let you know, this is something Kevin has worked on for a while now.
And it's something he is able to perform on even the best defenders/players in the world. 

So, now that we've gone through all of that, are you ready to do the Durant?

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Don't worry LeBron, you're not the only one.

Ever see 54 points in ~1:30 min?

My goodness, is there any way KD can't score the ball?
Oh, you wanted a break down of the types of shots he made?
Sure you did.

Post up jump shots: 2 mid-range face ups, 1 mid-range fadeaway, 1 from three = 4 total
(9 points)

Dunks/layups: 3 total, one off dribble drive (6 points)

Mid-range pull ups off dribble: 6 total, 2 step backs (12 points)

Pull up threes: 1 in transition, 1 off dribble = 2 total (6 points)

Mid-range off down screen: 1 total (2 points)

Threes off screen: 2 total, 1 off dribble hand off (6 points)

Free throws: 11-13 (11 points)

FYI, this guy is averaging ~37 points a game (on 49% shooting) in January!
For the year? ~31 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists a game, on 49% shooting.
Yeah...... I'm gonna say right now it's looking like KD = MVP.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Point Guard Project - Mike Conley

Happy New Year!
And finally, welcome to a new edition of the Point Guard Project!
Did you miss us?

In case you forgot, previous participants:

PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher
PGP8 - Stephen Curry
PGP9 - Chauncey Billups
PGP10 - Derek Rose
PGP11 - Ty Lawson
PGP12 - Sam Cassell

Today we are joined by Mike Conley.

As a refresher, the PGP questions:

1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate?

2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league?

3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard?

4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass?

5) What is a typical workout for you like?

6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?

Mike was drafted 4th overall in the 2007 draft by the Memphis Grizzles. At 6'1" and 180 ibs, he boasts career averages of 12.7 points and 5.6 assist per game. However, this year (his 7th in the league) Mike is averaging a career best ~17 points a game to go along with 6.3 assists.

You might remember that he helped lead the #8 seeded Grizzles to upset the #1 seeded Spurs in the 2011 NBA playoffs (only 4th 8th seed in history to do that). Not to mention helping the Grizzles get to their franchise first conference Finals last year. And in case you didn't know, he also made the NBA All-Defense 2nd team last year as well.

Mike played one year at Ohio State, helping them reach the 2006 title game. He was also a 2006 McDonald's All American.

Mr. Conley, welcome to the PGP:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew up watching (was a big fan of) Gary Payton and Allen Iverson. Pick and choose different parts of their games and put them into your own.

2) First memorable point guard match-up: Deron Williams in Utah. Very tough matchup and opened his eyes about what this league is about. He (Deron) had a lot (of points) on was an eye opening experience.

3) Definition for the job of a point guard: You want to be a leader, a facilitator, and make sure everyone is in positions to win and be successful. That's his biggest goal as a point guard.

4) Pass vs. Shoot: Read the flow of the game, if you got it going early and made a few shots, might want use that time to be more aggressive offensively. But most of the time, you can pick and choose when guys are in good position to score, read the defense and know who to pass it to.

5) Typical workout: Wake up at 6:30-7:00 (presumably am), right bike to gym. Get in a good weight lifting session in for ~1h & 15 min. Get on the court and do a lot of ball handling then at least 400-500 shots and then be done for the day. Take a lot of shots off the dribble. On days feeling more fatigued or over worked - do more spot shooting, just to keep the rhythm.

Bonus: Have you ever seen your youtube video "Ball on a String" that something you still do?
It is. It's really really good for you. The guys who work me out at Ohio State university come up with new drills. Every summer when I come back to something new and I try to figure them out.

6) For aspiring point guards: The biggest thing for young point guards is always believe in yourself. A lot of us are smaller guards (6 foot guards). You have to believe in yourself and try and stand out in any
way you can

Was it me, or did Mike Conley seem like the consummate professional?

As per usual, let me mention a few things that come to mind.
Isn't it great how you can be 6 feet, but in the NBA, a small guard? I remember growing up, for some reason 6'2" seemed to me to be the magic number with regards to height. I told myself, "if I can grow to be 6'2", I'll have the necessary height to play PG in the NBA!" (I actually made it to 6'1" aka 6'2" with sneakers! - so why aren't I in the NBA? Oh, you mean there is more to it than just height?).

But actually in Today's NBA, there are tons of smaller guards. Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry, Jameer Nelson, Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe & Trey Burke are some that come to mind off the top of my head. Still, I can see how running into a 6'3" 210ib D. Will as a rookie can be a learning experience upon first entering the league.

And how about the leaderships qualities this guy exudes?
"Make sure everyone is in positions to win and be successful."
"choose when guys are in good position to score. Read the defense and know who to pass it to."
So basically, the guy on your team that handles the ball most of the time should know the strengths of every player on the team, where on the court they are most efficient, and then assess if the defense is allowing them to be in a position to be successful when they get the ball???
Sounds like the type guy you want running the show!

But what do I love most about this interview? It's how fairly detailed Mike's response is for his daily workout. Out of all the PGP questions, I kind of feel like this might be the most important one - mostly for educational purposes. And it kind of irks me when I hear players give half-hearted or vague descriptions of their workouts. But not Mike!
Bike to the gym (seems like a good warm-up)
Lift before going on the court
Start on the court with lots of ball handling
Then get up 400-500 shots a day (shot type varies depending on energy levels).

Okay, it might have been perfect had he described what weight lifting exercises and shots off the dribble he really focuses on. But hey, this is a great blueprint and I think providing an actual number of shots is important. Rather than some arcane/random routine, you are focused on a goal every day. Ask Ray Allen or Steve Nash.

You can also say that Mike didn't provide details for his dribbling drills either.
That's because you can find them online!
What is "Ball on a String" you ask?
Well, let me blow your mind:

You're welcome.

Crazy, isn't it? Well, now you know what a pro ball handling practice routine is.
Three things:
1) This might be the opposite of what Sam Cassell and Ty Lawson say in their interviews, as far as practicing ball handling. But, what Mike is doing provides you with a skill set, strength, and endurance. A lot of times practice is supposed to be harder that the games. Trust me, if you can master dribbling two balls at once, handling one ball will be fairly straight forward. You won't use most of these moves in a real game. But by doing them, your confidence in you ability to handle the ball in any situation will be fairy high. And, you will feel like you can pretty much do anything with the ball, like it's an extension of your body - complete control, like you have it on a.....string!

2) When I was a freshman at St. John's university, Erick Barkley - who was a McDonald's All American, All Big East point guard, and eventually drafted by the Portland TrailBlazers - told me I should practice dribbling two basketballs at a time. Kind of cool he dropped that knowledge on me, considering I was a walk-on. Erick is a coach now, by the way.

3) You might hear me tell Mike Conley in the interview "I can't tell you how many times I reference that video when I was training." That's no lie! When I was getting ready to try out for professional teams a few year back, this was something that I incorporated into my workout. I used it as a way to warm-up. I would go through all the variations in the video for a specific amount of time or a specific amount of reps. And better than that, this is also a routine that I put a lot of my high school players on to as well. As a 15 minute warmup before getting into shooting (but after lifting), it's really beneficial!

And I'm glad that we all get to benefit from having the video (and this PGP interview) readily available online!

Much thanks to Mike Conley for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No Kneed to Take a Charge

My last piece was an educational one on fade-away post ups using LeBron as an example.
Why not strike while the iron's hot and use the game's best to also break down some defense as well? I know. I know. Some of you might call me biased towards writing about LBJ on this blog. Well despite that,  I couldn't resist using some of his plays from the past week to highlight a few defensive mistakes.

After intensive studying of video, I've come up with one key defensive play not suitable for defending LeBron:
Trying to take a charge

Wow, that's a small forward that handles the ball bodying an opposing team's power forward.
Was Scola trying to draw contact on the bump?
Well, at least he wasn't under the rim....

Good luck to a defender caught under the rim trying to draw a charge on a LeBron drive:

Oy Vey.
Benny, restricted area or not, I don't think that call is gonna go in your favor.
But it's okay. You're a rookie. It's a rookie mistake to try to draw a charge on the best player in the game. Ask Dwight Howard.
But all in all, good effort.
It's not like you'll be falling for this type of stuff when you're an 8 year veteran in the league......

Wait, was this the same exact play?
Paul Milsap.... shame on you.
You should know better than that.
It's obvious you didn't watch the scouting report for Miami's past few games.

Well, if there is one thing we learned from these plays, besides not trying to take a charge on LeBron, it's how to get away with kneeing your defender in the face.
Good luck practicing that.