Sunday, March 8, 2009

Two keys to success when inbounding: Detail and execution

While at the WCC tourney this weekend in Las Vegas, I was struck by how many college teams don't look to score on the baseline out-of-bounds. On several occasions, teams seem to be content just getting the ball inbounds.

In contrast, NBA teams look to score on all baseline out of bounds plays.

Brendan Malone (pictured here), a long-time NBA assistant and former head coach for TOR, wrote a good book chapter not too long ago about out-of-bounds plays. Here's a short excerpt from Coach Malone's chapter.


Well-executed out-of-bounds plays, as well as other special-situation plays, can be critical because late in a game they often make the difference between a win and a loss. All NBA teams run several of these plays, practicing them until they are automatic.

There are keys to success at every level of basketball, but two stand out in our league. One such key is detail, which applies to individual fundamentals as well as to team offense and defense. Maybe more than any other team sport, basketball is a game of details.

A player might miss a shot by a fraction of an inch, costing his team the game. A screen set a slightly improper angle won't be effective in freeing up your shooter for his shot. A pass that is a trace too slow or barely off target will likely result in a steal. When it comes to running out-of-bounds plays, detail is as important as ever. When a team is working on the fundamentals necessary to run a baseline or sideline out-of-bounds play, the coach must attend to every detail.

Another key is execution. To perfectly execute a play, and to know the play will be executed perfectly every time, teams must practice the play over and over until it become automatic. Never assume that players will run a play in a game properly after they've practiced it only a few times. Execution doesn't come naturally to all players.

You must run the play initially at moderate speed without the defense, then with the defense playing at 50 percent, and finally with the defense playing as they would in a game. Players must have complete knowledge of the entire play. They must master the play's first option as well as the other options. They also must master the timing of the different actions of each option.

As coach, you need to make sure every player understands not only how to run the out of bounds play, but why to run it. You want the skills of the play to be automatic, but you don't want your players to play like robots. You want smart players conscious of the reasons behind each play.

But before inserting and teaching specific plays, it's useful to specify to players what you consider the keys to making your team optimally successful in such situations:

1. Get the ball inbounds. This is a top priority. This is the first aim of the play.

2. Make your best passer your inbounder. If your best passer is out of the game, designate a player who handles the ball a lot, usually a 2- or 3-man.

3. Your best scorer should be the first option to receive the pass. Don't use your best scorer as the inbounder. Your team's best shooters must get into position to receive the inbounds pass in the right spot when the passer is ready to inbound the ball.

4. Use fakes. The inbounder will be aggressively pressured and in many cases should use pass fakes and other deception to get the ball inbounds.

5. Make good screens. You'll usually use your big men to set screens and get their teammates open. But you can also use your 2- or 3-man to screen your big man or two force a defensive switch.

6. Screen the screener. This action is common in the NBA but is especially effective in inbounds situations. "Screening the screener" simply means that the player who first makes the screen then receives a screen himself. In most cases, the screener's defender won't have time to react to the second screen.