Fratello Fundamentals

If you are the offensive big man setting the screen for a high, middle pick-and-roll and your defender leaves you to stop the dribble penetration, you should follow him to the rim to make yourself available for a pass or potential offensive rebound.

Fortunately for the Nets, Josh Boone was right where he was supposed to be following a missed shot at a critical point in their matchup against the Bobcats last night. Up by six with less than five minutes left in the game, Devin Harris drove to the basket, drew a couple defenders and wound up throwing up an off-balance shot. Anticipating the miss, Boone elevated for the rebound and slammed it down.

The majority of big centers should roll to the rim like Boone did in this situation. A big time jump shooter who’s a serious threat from the perimeter could fall back, giving the guard the option to dish the ball outside for a jumper. But unless you’re Dirk Nowitzki, you should follow the ball to the basket and fill the lane looking for the pass. If the opposing team can’t get a body on you in time to box out after a shot, you will be free to get on the offensive boards.

Boone’s put-back dunk was a huge save for the Nets. Despite strong starts the Nets have struggled to close all season. Charlotte was chipping away at their lead and threatened to cut it down to four. Were it not for Boone’s 2-point slam the momentum easily could have swung their way in the final minutes. Instead Boone stretched his team’s lead to eight points and the Nets held on for their fifth win of the season 103-94.

Fratello Fundamentals

In the closing minutes of a tight game players must be aware of the time and the score and go for high percentage shots. A few poor decisions here and there can make the difference in the final outcome. Case in point: the Nets gave up a close one to Detroit on Tuesday because they made some costly mental mistakes down the stretch.

By the fourth quarter Detroit had gotten into some foul trouble, giving the Nets a chance to get to the foul line and add a lot of free points to the score board. But the Nets were never able to take advantage of the bonus situation because they weren’t aggressive about going to the basket. You’ve got to drive and force the official to make a call – make him blow the whistle and put you on the foul line

Instead of waiting for good looks at the basket or creating foul shot opportunities, the Nets wound up settling for several rushed outside shots which they missed. Detroit increased their lead and the Nets could not recover. Poor shot selection along with not being aggressive in the paint stopped the Nets’ offense.

It’s crucial for young players to understand how big each possession is and how important it is to go for high percentage shots in order to pull off a close game. Veteran guys like the Pistons tend to be a little bit more patient because they understand how much it means to get the ball in the hands of the right person and to get the right shot. On the positive side, the Nets have been very competitive in their last six games and have given themselves a chance to win. Now they have to build on their experiences and figure out how to take their game one step further to get across the finish line.

Fratello Fundamentals

When a game is on the line you have to make high percentage plays. Dwyane Wade prides himself on making the right decisions when it matters most. He’s come through for the Heat in the clutch countless times. “I pride myself in certain moments of games,” Wade lamented after he was unable to close Monday’s disappointing one-point loss to the Cavs.

But even the greats make mistakes. Hit with a double team in the final seconds of the game, Wade went with a behind-the-back pass to forward Udonis Haslem. LeBron got a hand on the ball, made out with the steal, drew the foul and hit two free throws to take the game 92-91

When faced with the double team Wade had a few options: he could split the defense, pass out, or circle back towards half-court to set up again.

Trying to dribble through a double team comprised of LeBron and Jawad would have been too risky given the Heat’s one-point lead with under ten seconds remaining in the game. Passing to newly freed-up Haslem was a sound strategy that would have allowed the Heat’s offense to exploit a four-to-three advantage in the paint.

But the behind-the-back pass is difficult to execute because you’re not squared-up to your target. Instead your body is turned sideways with your shoulder towards the target and you must rely on your peripheral vision. Though it’s certainly in Wade’s arsenal, perhaps he should have been more patient with his pass selection.

Better to retreat from the double team if necessary rather than force a bad pass. And if you pick up your dribble and get trapped your teammates should come to your rescue – as D-Wade will no doubt come through for Miami the next chance he gets.

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Fratello Fundamentals

Defend off the ball.  I get a lot of questions about how to defend the likes of LeBron, Kobe and Durant. The answer is there’s no way to shut them down, but you can certainly slow them down. The key is to defend aggressively before your opponent has the ball.  That’s where defense starts — it puts the defender in a proactive position rather than a reactive one.

Once your man gets the ball in his hands he is in a position to attack. As coaches we want our players to aggressively guard their men off the ball because it gives the defender an opportunity to cut off the attack and creates the following strategic advantages:

  • Makes your opponent work harder and exert more energy to get the ball in his hands
  • Frequently frustrates the skill player and baits him into taking revenge in one and one play outside his team’s system
  • Disrupts the opponent’s offensive sets causing broken plays and tough shots against the clock
  • Isolates the ball handler leading to one on one play, tough passes and turnover opportunities

When it comes to defending a superstar prevention is the best medicine. Ball denial is a simple, fundamental technique that only requires will and effort. By playing hard, off-the-ball D you will limit your opponents’ touches and make them work hard for their points.

Fratello Fundamentals

Always challenge your opponent’s jump shot. Unless he’s cashing in on a foul at the free throw line the shooter should never get an easy look at the basket. In last night’s game the Hawks wound up shooting almost 60% largely because they had so many wide-open shots.  As in the previous game against the Bucks, the Nets did not hustle to put pressure on the shooters, which resulted in runaway leads both nights.

Watching your defense give up open looks at the basket drives you crazy as a coach. Contesting shots is just a matter of will and effort, not talent, so there’s no excuse for letting your man have a clean look. The defensive side of ball may not be glamorous, but night in and night out it’s where games are won or lost. If you look at the field-goal percentage splits, contested jump shots are made significantly less than uncontested shots. You must get a hand in the shooter’s face on every attempt – that’s how games are won.