Without a game over the winter break, we practiced four times, never with a full team. The first couple days were more about skill work and conditioning, as the guys were visibly winded after basic drills.
During the last two days, we focused more on 5v5 action. We scrimmaged a lot to get back to game shape, and to work on some details. First, the third rotation on our press, and second our pick-and-roll defense. In practice, it is hard for our press to work because we have good spacing. Luckily, most teams crowd the half-court, so our press is more effective during games. However, we need to work on condensing the space; otherwise, it takes one easy pass and it is a fast break. So, we have added a little run and jump to the back end of the press.
On the pick-and-roll, we generally switch the screen. I like to switch because I have found the toughest defenses to play against switched aggressively. I do not worry about mismatches, and I like guys to practice defending different positions. However, I realized that switching enabled our defenders to be lazy. We’re reacting rather and playing passively than defending aggressively.
Therefore, we worked on trapping the on-ball screen and rotating with the other three players. Playing a more aggressive style will probably lead to more mistakes, especially as we rotate new players into the game, but hopefully it helps the players to be more aggressive defensively. I’d rather make more mistakes and defend aggressively than defend passively and wait for our opponent to make a mistake.
Hopefully more aggressiveness in one aspect of our defense will lead to more aggressiveness in other aspects too. Also, working on different ways to defend on-ball screens means that our team practices against different styles of defense, which will hopefully make our ball handlers and screeners better at reading defenses and making plays.
By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League