My worlds are colliding again. Coaching and faith are intersecting as we celebrate Christmas. Both are on my mind, a lot! And both involve a change in focus. Since implementing Dribble Drive concepts, I’ve become more aware of how my favorite part of basketball as a kid has been slowly disappearing – the effective use of the traditional post-up. And like so many others in today’s society, I’m also left dumbfounded by the way our society continues to miss the simple meaning of Christmas.
BASKETBALL – The vanishing post-up.
As a kid, I spent endless hours in the church gym across the street – my dad was the pastor, so we had the keys; most of that time I spent playing 1 on 1 against myself, but it wasn’t just me. It was Lew Alcindor shooting a sky-hook over Wilt Chamberlain or it was Oscar Robertson backing in Walt Frazier. It was all about the low post. We were taught that the best players were the ones playing on the block, shooting turnaround jump shots, sky hooks, and fade-aways. And then as a coach, in almost every offense I worked with, the first priority was establishing a low post. It was the essence of fundamental basketball.
In the age of analytics and the evolution of the 3-point shots, that’s changing. While a strong, dominant post player is nice to have, it’s not essential to scoring. In fact, as pointed out by Celtics coach Brad Stevens, it’s not even very efficient. The most efficient shots in basketball are shots at the rim or open 3-point shots created by penetration and ball reversal to beat rotating defenders. That’s one of the reasons I prefer to use the Dribble Drive. I prefer a free-flowing, attacking offense that doesn’t get bogged down trying to feed the low post by keeping the post away from the strong side.
So why is the post-up vanishing? Allow me to offer up some possible explanations:
1) Analytics: Expanded statistical information has helped defined the most efficient ways to score. Posting up still plays an important role in the game, but the purpose has expanded to forcing double teams, facing up to draw fouls, and exploiting mismatches.
2) World Expansion: The U.S. is the home of basketball, but the international game has forced our game to change – the trapezoid lane, international rules, and wide-open styles of play led to disappointing losses for our teams. U.S. coaches have adjusted and the effects have filtered through the ranks.
3) Teaching Focus: The focus of youth basketball often neglects the individual skills required to score in the post. Gone are the days of teaching players footwork and counter moves. Though my 14-year old son has a distinct height advantage, he’s had only one coach in the last seven years take any time to show him the basics! And, unfortunately, it’s not just the low post, it’s also the perimeter skill of feeding the post that has deteriorated.
4) Three Point Shot: ESPN loves dunks and loves three’s. Players today develop in a culture of drawing attention to the big plays. While the risk is often worth it from a team scoring perspective, too many players focus more on perimeter glory than the down and dirty low post.
5) Priorities: Part of the decline of the low post is simply due to a change in focus. The change has happened without many of us knowing it. If you’re not intentional in your teaching, change is inevitable.
I don’t believe the post-up will disappear, but its role continues to change. As a coach, I’m smart enough to realize that you have to utilize the post-up when it maximizes the skills of your players, but when many players have not been taught the essential skills, coaches at my level must prioritize practice time in order to teach proper skills. If you do, here’s a spin move from Pau Gasol that allows a low post to attack the rim:
LIFE & FAITH – Change the focus!
Christmas, even for Christians, has lost its focus. The essential elements of Christmas have been intentionally changed for many of us, or lost by a lack of focus on the fundamentals. We often use Christmas to momentarily find ways to do nice things for others (analytics), we’ve allowed the world and other religious cultures to shape and distort the core elements of Christianity, we’ve taught our children to focus too much on receiving, or we focus on how doing generous things makes us feel better about ourselves. Like the post-up, though, those things often have some merit, but we’ve confused the role that Christmas should play.
The opening chapter of John’s Gospel explains the true nature of Christmas:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
That’s Christmas! God becoming flesh. God coming to us. God reaching down to have a personal relationship with each of us. The traditions of Christmas have and will continue to change. Commercial markets, other cultures, and politics will all influence and distort the message, but like the post-up, it’s not going away. Too many of us, though, like the woman meeting Jesus at the well (John 4: 7-12), often miss the gift of Jesus. We hear the Christmas carols as we shop for just the right gift to impress somebody, but we miss it. So choose how you want to observe Christmas. Keep it in a traditional, commercial wrapped box that you open once a year to help fulfill an obligation, or hold on to the daily truth that God loves you so much that he gave up his Son to become human flesh and graciously provide the sacrifice for our sin – an act so unselfish that it should compel each of us to live daily with the true Christmas spirit!
Merry Christmas from 3 Point Wisdom!