No sport moves more quickly or requires as many skills as basketball. Basketball is the most electrifying and most innovative game known to man. The primary objective of the game is to score more points than the opposition by putting a round ball through a circular band, called a rim. On defense, a blocked shot or a steal can lead to a fast break at the other end of the court. On offense, one quick move can result in an easy basket. Good dribbling and passing skill can set up wide-open shots for teammates. But long before players can be become part of the excitement on the court, they must first lean and study the basics. This takes a great deal of practice and attention to detail. The basic skills of dribbling, passing and shooting are essential to the continued improvement of every basketball player at every level. In order for a player or team to become a good offensive player they must have the ball. How do obtain or control the ball you might ask? Learning how to be a solid defensive player does this.
Consistent winners play good defense, and good defense breeds consistent winning. Fans appreciate and identify with a strong defensive effort, and players respect a strong defensive team. Teams who take pride in, and have patience on defense have far fewer off nights than the team that relies only on offense. Strong team defense builds good team morale. We have seen a good defensive team that wasnt together. Everyone respects a good defensive player especially players. Individual defense can do the following for you: it can give you self-confidence, anyone that wants to pay the price can play good defense. If you are gifted with speed, quickness and basketball sense, you can be a great defensive player. It can build you a reputation of being tough and aggressive. Help you get in the best physical and mental condition. Earn for you the special pride and self-respect you get from playing at both ends. Playing individual defense can also give you the chance to make one of the biggest plays in basketball, drawing the offensive foul.
The first myth about playing defense is that you have to have speed and quick feet, which is not true. Defense is played with anticipation, or being aware of whats going on around you, good body balance and basic fundamentals. There are certain fundamentals you have to follow. But anyone can play defense. If you are willing to work and watch whats going on around you, then you can become a solid defensive player.
Defense is as much a mental as a physical skill. Rather than play reactive defense a player should be encouraged to be proactive. By emphasizing active elements of defense represented as follows by the acronym ATTACK, proactive defense is encouraged. Each letter of the word stands for a must for us to be our best.
A Attitude: It all starts with your attitude. The starting point of all defenses is the determination to become an aggressive, intelligent defensive player. Each player must develop and maintain control of his attitude, especially on defense.
T Team: Through teamwork a collective effort of five defensive players is greater than five individual players.
T Tools: The three basic tools of defense that is the most important to develop are your mind, body and feet. We play basketball with our mind, body, and feet; and foul with our hands.
A Anticipation: Use your basketball sense and judgement. Know when to make your move. Eliminate moves that have little or no chance for success.
C Concentration: Be alert and ready to play defense at all times. Make the change from offense to defense quickly. Defense before your opponent has the ball, and it will be much easier. Maintain a basketball position.
K Killer Instinct: You must be aggressive on defense. It is essential that you force the opponent to react to you. Do not react to the offensive player. Force that player away from those strengths.
Ten Cardinal Rules of Defense
1. Transition (Early recognition get the defense set) Quick, organized transition with communication by all five players keys to strong team defense.
2. Pressure on The Ball Continuous pressure must be kept on the ball. Every shot must be pressured both physically and verbally. The live player must be forced to go or you must turn that player back. The dribbler must be forced to change direction or challenged. The dead player must be swarmed.
3. Position One (80% of fouls are because of poor position) When guarding a player with the ball, your position is BALL YOU BASKET. When guarding a player without the ball your position is BALL YOU MAN. (Position must be adjusted every time the ball moves see both player and ball, take away from all front cuts.)
4. Jump to The Ball After your player makes a pass, jump to the ball, every time. Jumping to the ball allows you to be in proper position to defend your player and help teammates.
5. Deny Penetrating Passes Deny passes to your player that takes the ball closer to the basket or towards the baseline. Make your man go without the ball.
6. Form The Flat Triangle (When defending non penetrating passes) use an open stance and point your pistols. Concentrate on the ball. Be ready to help and then decide to recover back to your player or switch to the ball. (You call the switch.)
7. Help and Decide When your player doesnt have the ball, be ready to help on the ball. Be ready to help and then decide to recover back to your player or switch to the ball.
8. Cover Down Rule When the player guarding the ball is beaten the nearest teammate stops the ball and everyone else covers down. (Rotate into the penetrtion, plug up the basket area and force the ball to be passed back outside and then recover back to normal defensive position.)
9. Block Out Execute block out responsibilities every time. When an opponent gets an offensive rebound its about the same as a turnover for your team.
10. Communicate Communication among the players is a must for a great defensive team. Help each other, we are all in this together.
Like shooting or dribbling, defense demands a proper setup. To keep yourself balanced and ready to move, stay on the balls, or front of your feet do not stand flat-footed or back on your heels. If you are not up on the front of your feet and ready to move, offensive players can easily dribble by you.
Also, keep your feet as wide as your shoulders. If your feet are too close together, its harder to move quickly. Bend your knees slightly with your trunk, or backside, low. From here on once you have yourself in position, defense is basically played with your hands and feet. Remember; stay up on the balls of your feet with your trunk low. Extend on hand down low on the ball and the other up higher to guard against a shot or pass.
Other defensive skills include defending a player with the ball. When guarding an offensive player with the ball never give the offensive player a choice of direction. While defending against the dribbler stay between the ball and the basket. In the backcourt, cut the dribbler off, make the dribbler change directions. Use choppy slides keeping a wide base. In the front court, force the dribbler to the outside. Keep your hands around the ball without reaching, when the dribbler gets in shooting range the hands come up to chest height, palms facing opponent. Spring to recover, if the dribbler gets ahead of you then reestablish defensive position. Stop the offensive player with your body, feet and mind any contact should be made with the chest.
When defending a live ball, a player with his dribble remaining, establish the gap (the distance between you and the offensive player) you can play defense with. Keep your inside foot up, force your opponent to your back foot usually to the middle or to their weaker hand. Apply pressure on the ball with your forward hand but keep your stance. While playing defense keep your eyes focused through the number of the ball handle; using split vision to see the whole floor. If opponent puts the ball overhead belly-up, this means put both hands up around the ball mimicking the ball in every movement, wrists cocked, elbows close together, staying in defensive position.
Defending a dead ball (player has no dribble remaining). Swarm the ball without fouling, both hands around the ball, wrists cocked. The call is dead-dead-dead. All other players cut all leads with complete denial.
When closing out to the ball when a pass has been completed to your opponent you sprint until you get within the danger of being beaten on the drive; get under control and slide in your stance the rest of the way. The key is to keep the feet moving. Hands should be chest high if the opponent is in shooting range. Put pressure on the ball handler, but dont give up the drive. Make all shooters adjust their shot. This is done by being vocal and getting a hand up on the shot or at least in the face of the shooter. Block all shooters in their tracks; bump and go to the ball.
After your opponent makes a pass always jump to the ball. After you jump to the ball, then adjust your ball-you-player relationship. All five players should jump to the ball when the pass is made. Anytime you are not guarding the person with the ball, you should have a ball-you-player relationship. If the relationship ever gets ball-player-you, you are beat and must recover. Always stay between your opponent and the ball.
Defending a player without the ball you must stay in a ball-you-player relationship at all times. Defending penetrating passes is called denial defense. You deny all the passes that penetrate to the basket or the baseline (within the hash marks). This area is know as the power zone, which is located 15-18 feet from the basket. Be in a closed stance with your chest facing your opponent. The arm closest to the ball is in the passing lane, palm facing ball handler and thumb to the floor. The further you are from the ball, the further you play from your opponent. If your man back cuts and you loose vision snap your head and throw your arm in the passing lane. Be ready to help and decide (to switch or stay) on penetration by the ball handler.
Power Zone- shaded area located 15-18 feet from basket
Similar to defending players without the ball, when defending against cutters you must maintain your ball you player relationship. Never allow the player you are guarding to cut ball side. Beat the opponent to the ball side alley it a cut is made across the lane by the opposing player. Be open until the cutter gets to you, then change to a closed stance. Try to avoid contact until that player approaches the alley. Go to meet him before he gets out of the alley.
Help defense is done on non-penetration passes or two or more passes away from the ball. In this position assume an open stance with your back to the baseline and point your pistols. One at the ball, one at the player you are guarding. From this flat triangle (on pass off the passing lane) with vision on both opponent and the ball handler. When playing help defense position yourself close enough to the ball to stop any penetration while still being able to recover back to the player you are guarding if that player gets the ball. The further your opponent is from the ball, the further you play off your opponent.
Low post defense takes place in the area just to the right of left of the basket on or near the free throw lane. Taller offensive players, usually centers or forwards set up near those spots in hopes of receiving a pass and making a move in close to the basket. Typically the offensive player stands with his back to the basket and an arm raised waiting for a pass. The offensive player tries to keep the defensive player behind him by spreading his legs wide. The first key to guarding in the low post area is to try to keep that player from receiving the ball in such a dangerous position. In all inside defense, both arms should be spread-eagled and straight out. The defense works in a half moon around the front of the offensive player. As you cross in front, throw the head to regain vision on the ball. Dont make contact as you eagle, dont let the opponent feel you. By not allowing the offensive player to know where you are, this gives you an advantage on defense now the offensive player must react to you.
In defending against screens there are two ways of handling the situation. On all ball screens and pop outs it is best to switch, but on off ball screens there is more than one way in dealing with such screens. Play to the ball on of ball screens. If at all possible try to go over or fight through the screen. Beating your opponent to the spot with your chest does this. As a last resort switch if your teammate gets hung up on the screen and cant get through. Switch only if necessary. Switching most often occurs in man to man defense. A switch is simply two defensive players switching men to give each other better defensive position.
For example, lets say your man is dribbling to the right. Another offensive player comes and sets a pick. As your man dribbles by his teammate, you either have to knock the other player over or go around and try to catch up with you man. On a switch however, your teammate, who is guarding the offensive player without the ball, simply steps out in front of your man as he goes by. Since he is now guarding the player with the ball, you drop off and take over defending the other player. That is called a switch.
Instead of guarding a single man, in a zone defense each of the five defensive players is responsible for an area, or zone on the court. The basic principles in zone defense are make transition quickly. Sprint back to the canter lie with vision, turn and run backwards. On a fast break situation, sprint to cover the hole, stop and cover the ball and cover the power zone. Prevent all penetrations, which includes passing and dribbling, inside the power zone. You must pressure the ball within shooting range. Communication is the key, communicate with teammates about cutters, and opponent positioning. Know who and where the good outside shooters are, the good inside players are, and take away individual strengths. In zone defenses play in the passing lanes so that you are able to anticipate passes and cause turnovers for the opposing team. One important thing when in a zone defense is to make yourself big, this is accomplished by having your hands up and standing tall. You must jump to the ball on every pass, and challenge the shooter by at least getting a hand out on the shot. The rebounding rules are; block out the shooter, form the defensive triangle, and block deep. The most common half court zone defenses are as follows; 2-1-2, 2-3, and a 1-3-1 zone. 2-2-1 zone press is used most often in a full court press situation.
These zone defenses can only be effective when teams execute them properly. Zone defenses work best when your opponents are faster, or taller. Other advantages to using zone defenses are you want to keep the offense from getting inside, or maybe your team just needs a little rest.
The idea of defense is to keep the other team from scoring, not just youre opponent. Work together and help each other, an opponents score goes up on all of us. Things to keep in mind when playing defense is get up on the balls, or front part of your feet. Be alert with your knees bent and hands ready one hand down near the ball and the other up. Focus on the offensive players waist remember to never cross your legs when sliding side to side, and keep your feet from touching and never stand straight up.
Basketball, Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved
Vancil, Mark, NBA Basketball Basic, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1995