Snaking the Ball Screen

Damian Lillard

Did you learn anything as the NBA Playoffs advanced to the Conference Finals?  Other than the fact that the seven-game format once again makes it very difficult for the lower seeds to advance, there probably wasn’t much there, but this old dog did pick up a trick or two.  I was reminded again how important it is to keep adjusting, to keep learning, and to keep improving.  The basic pick and roll is changing before our eyes.  I find myself once again learning to adjust as I watch the best players in the world and see the back and forth adjustments made by coaches to both utilize and stymie ball screens.  In many cases, it’s the game within the game right now and as I watched each series I learned a new technique called “snaking” a ball screen.  No more is it simply pick and roll or pop or accelerate.  Now we’re going to add snaking! Continue reading


Sex and the Pick and Roll – REMIX!

Sorry, I can’t get away from the subject – the pick and roll, that is; but we’re also going to re-visit the concept of sex.  There’s a method to this madness, so please hang with me better than the Heat defenders will attempt to hang with Tony Parker.  The pick and roll was a major factor in Miami’s series with Indiana.  While Indiana improved their attack against Miami’s blitzing of ball screens, I still think it led to too many turnovers and the wrong players shooting and handling the ball in the wrong spots.  Indiana needed to stay away from the temptation of the ball screen!  As the Heat move on, though, San Antonio’s use of the pick and roll presents a new set of problems.  They’ll be facing players like Parker, Ginobli, and Duncan who have built long-term, trusting relationships with each other and with their coach.  In this case, the pick and roll should play a major role in how they attack the Heat; and in a similar way, God’s ideas and plans for sex should be addressed in healthy, responsible, and committed relationships.  So, let’s hit the Remix button!

BASKETBALL – The Pick and Roll in the Finals.

Hopefully, we’ll have a dramatic and entertaining seven game series and hopefully, we’ll have a flurry of coaching adjustments to talk about.  For now, Zach Lowe does another terrific job of previewing the series in his Grantland article, NBA Finals Preview.  I agree with a lot of what he has to say, but at the time of writing this, I was only able to catch the highlights of the Spurs win in Game 1.  I’m with my family at the Creation Museum doing some research, and yes, it applies to 3 Point Wisdom, which I’ll address later. The question raised by Lowe that I’m focusing on is “How much will LeBron James defend Tony Parker and will it affect the Spurs execution of the pick and roll?”  Parker was unleashed in the 4th quarter last night, so we’ll have to see how Miami adjusts.

LIFE – Sex was given as a gift, so use it responsibly!

Many people who read my last two posts, Sex and the Pick and Roll and Should Christian Players Come Out of the Closet?, may be a little offended or put off.  You may think I’m out of touch or I don’t understand, which is accurate because there’s a lot I don’t understand.  What I do know is that everyone has seen, been involved with, or in some way been affected by sexual sin.  Take faith and God’s commands out of it (which I don’t think you can really do!) and you will still find how much our physical desires drive us.  Most of you missed this video from the early post, so I embedded it here for you to reconsider:

And that just addresses the issue of infidelity in marriage!  ANY sex outside of marriage has consequences.  Any uncontrolled thoughts and actions outside of marriage have consequences.  Many of us have a hard time relating to that.  Many of us fail to see how things we do in one moment can alter our lives down the road, but most of us have been affected in one way or the other by sexual sins, our own and the indiscretions of others.  In fact, I deal each day with my personal identity that has been shaped by the sins within my family.  The way I relate to my wife, to my kids, and to those with whom I work is continually shaped by the defense mechanisms that grew from the weaknesses of those around me.  Take just a moment to consider how your own thoughts and actions, whether you can justify and deem them as permissible or not, can potentially affect and shape relationships throughout your life.  The idea of “If it feels good, do it,” may not hold as much truth as you think.

FAITH – The Spurs, Creation Museum, and Sex.

Here’s how this all comes together for me.  The Spurs, with their long-term, committed relationship between an experienced coach in Greg Popovich, an aging champion in Tim Duncan, and a uniquely gifted ball-handler in Tony Parker are ready to handle the intricacies of the pick and roll.  It’s not something to just throw up against the defensive-minded Heat.  Without control and responsibility, it can be overused and lose its efficiency.

God tells us the same thing about sex.  He gave it as a gift to be an important element within a God-designed marriage, but it requires self-control and responsibility.  Now, that doesn’t mean anything to you if you don’t believe in the validity of the Bible, the very source of God’s commands, but also His loving guidelines for living a happy, productive life in this world as mentioned in this version of 1 Corinthians 6:16:

Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.”   (The Message)

I know all of this is true because I have complete trust in the Bible, every single word of it.  As my family goes through the Creation Museum we’re going to learn even more about the evidence and truth of the Bible that has been challenged by our society.  As we see the evidence of the truth of the Genesis account of Creation, we’ll be encouraged even more to trust everything that God has to share with us!


Sex and the Pick and Roll

Pacers - HeatNow that I have your attention, let’s talk hoops first and then consider the connection to life. As the NBA Conference Finals began, I stated that one of the things I would be watching closely is the Miami Heat attacking ballscreens. Ballscreens and how a team defends ballscreens have become crucial elements of the game.  Indiana is making a terrific attempt to take down the Heat in what has become an intensely physical chess match, but their reaction to Miami’s aggressive attack of the ballscreen has been a bit inconsistent.

Let’s take a closer look at aspects of both sides of the ballscreen and consider why in many cases, it may be better for the Pacers to simply avoid ballscreens and why avoiding similar situations in our lives, especially when it comes to things like sex, may be the best option as well.

BASKETBALL –  Let’s go to the video!

Let’s look first at defending the ballscreens.  Most NBA teams have a variety of tricks in their bag, but a common theme is to focus on keeping ballhandlers like Tony Parker and Chris Paul out of the paint.  Chad Iske from the Denver Nuggets explains it in Team Defense Against the Pick and Roll and Kevin Eastman, from the Boston Celtics, addresses the need to be physical in defending screens in Defending the Pick and Roll.  Miami takes it a step further. They’ll play very physically, but then will often use their screen defender to step up and trap.  This allows them to create turnovers or to force the Pacers to take mid-range jump shots.  If the Pacers aren’t hitting those, they’re in trouble!

The Pacers have plans to deal with Miami’s defense; however, they’ve been very inconsistent.  Three techniques they’ve attempted are:

1.  Splitting the trap, as demonstrated here by the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook:

2.  Utilizing the Replace Big (as outlined by NBA player development guru, Mike Procopio) & Shorting the Screen as demonstrated by Memphis:

3. Slipping the pick, which often leaves Indiana’s big men in situations like this:

Zach Lowe’s terrific preview on of the playoff series explains a lot of this, while NBA coach Mike D’Antoni, still regarded as the true innovator in using ballscreens, provides the basics of running the Unguardable Pick and Roll.

Quite honestly, the Pacers guards had trouble all year with turnovers, so splitting the trap against the Heat defenders is not wise.  By shorting the screen, the Pacers can get all the baseline jump shots they want, but they have to hit them and slipping the screens puts their big men in situations where they have to be great passers.  Indiana is an average scoring team, so they need to play to their greatest strengths – Roy Hibbard in the low post, curling their scorers off downscreens, and then crashing the glass.  I understand how engrained the ballscreen is in most NBA offenses, but the Pacers don’t need to use them for anything more than spacing and isolating Hibbard inside.  As a coach, I normally want my teams to Attack Pressure, but how wise is it to attack if your team is turnover prone and playing against LeBron and D-Wade? Anything else is just foolish!

LIFE – The opposite of foolishness is wisdom.

Do you ever find yourself in the same kind of situation?  You think you have a plan for handling an issue, you’ve worked out a strategy, and you build up your confidence only to find that you keep making the same mistakes and end up asking yourself, “Why did I do that?”  Certainly, when facing problems we need to develop skills and change habits, but sometimes, the best answer is to remove yourself before the problem ever develops.  That’s the difference between being foolish and being wise. Foolish people keep finding the wrong people to hang with.  Foolish people cut corners when they stay out late every night.  Foolish people keep going back to the credit card without having means to pay it back.  Why not be wise and avoid those issues all together?

FAITH – Stay away from this trap!

Just like it makes sense for the Pacers to stay away from using ballscreens too much and allowing the Heat to get energized, the Bible clearly tells us about an issue to avoid – sexual immorality, in any form – sex outside of marriage, alternative lifestyles, internet porn, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  The world tells us these things are permissible – excuses are made and we’re encouraged to “live freely.”  We’re told that it’s our right  But God has a wiser plan for each of us – Stay away!  Don’t even mess with it!  Paul clearly explained:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  (1 Corinthians 6:18)

As the Monty Python comedy crew once screamed,  “Run away!”  And, that’s exactly what Joseph did in Egypt.  You may remember that Joseph overcame terrible family circumstances after being sold into slavery (Genesis 39: 6-12).  We’re told he was good-looking, charismatic, and a leader on the rise.  By today’s standards. if anyone deserved to have his physical drives answered, it was him.  Who could blame him? He deserved it!  But when presented with the seduction of a Potiphar’s wife, Joe simply ran from the situation.  Which is as wise a decision as the Pacers running away from the traps the Heat will use whenever they run ballscreens!  Let’s see if they’re wise or foolish – and, if your still with me and are wondering more about this wisdom, check out Pastor Pete Wilson’s view of The Morning After.

Let’s talk about it!  I love talking hoops and the Pick and Roll and I love to discuss living the Christian life.  Contact me on FaceBook or send your comments to