True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Doing the Durant

Hey, want to get lessons in scoring form the world's best, Kevin Durant?
Do you?
I mean, why wouldn't you?
For the month of January he did average 38 points on 55% shooting from the field and 44% from three (to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists) while leading OKC to a 12-4 record. Not to mention a 10 game winning streak that included a thrashing of the two-time defending champs on their home court. And oh yeah, all of this done without Russell Westbrook.

I've said this before (at least two years ago): Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the world. Right now, you can even say that he is the best player in the world period.
But sticking with the offense, it truly is mind boggling the battery of moves Kevin Durant has in his offensive repertoire to choose from.

For instance, take a loos at this move he put on the Kings:

Now, for educational purposes, why don't we break it down.

1) Catch the ball at the of the key facing the defender and the basket. Notice how Kevin has his left foot planted as a pivot while starting to swing his right towards the defender. By the way, is this an isolation play? How can any team in their right mind allow Durant an iso on only one defender?!?

2) Now with his right foot fully swung around - look at how Kevin's right side of his body, including his shoulder, serves as a shield to protect the ball in his left hand. And notice how tall Kevin is.

3) This is where he starts to execute his move. As Kevin bounces the ball on the floor, he starts to lean in lower into his defender, yet jabs his right foot into the ground and actually uses it to push off in the opposite direction (see insert). if you go back to the video, this is a fairly quick all-in-one motion.

4) Kevin's initial move, leaning into the defender while bouncing the ball, is towards the basket. And in reaction to this dribble move, the defender's momentum is carrying him in that direction (red arrow). BUT, having pushed off with his right leg, Kevin starts to raise up (along with the basket) and steps back into the opposite direction.

5) Even if it only takes a second to execute his move, look at how much space Kevin has managed to generate between him and his defender. Also, notice how Kevin has managed to swing his body and right foot around, while stepping back, to face the basket again. You can also see that Kevin's left foot is slightly off the ground. This is because after his dribble, Kevin release it from being a pivot and actually uses a little hop to back into this shooting position.

6) Did I say shooting position? Off a dribble/jab-step/step-back from the three point line?
Yep. Too much space. Too much skill. All kevin has to do is rise up into his shot.

First thing to
Second thing to note......many of these moves run parallel to the one's displayed by LeBron when he did the Dirk. Go ahead, compare and contrast. But this move is different. It's Kevin's own that combines many mini-moves: Face-up, pivot, jab-step....of the dribble, step back....all from three. 
Think about the evolution. Dirk (face up, pivot, fade away), Melo (jab step), and LeBron all can perform different components of this entire move. But here, Kevin is packaging all of them.

And just to let you know, this is something Kevin has worked on for a while now.
And it's something he is able to perform on even the best defenders/players in the world. 

So, now that we've gone through all of that, are you ready to do the Durant?

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Don't worry LeBron, you're not the only one.

Ever see 54 points in ~1:30 min?

My goodness, is there any way KD can't score the ball?
Oh, you wanted a break down of the types of shots he made?
Sure you did.

Post up jump shots: 2 mid-range face ups, 1 mid-range fadeaway, 1 from three = 4 total
(9 points)

Dunks/layups: 3 total, one off dribble drive (6 points)

Mid-range pull ups off dribble: 6 total, 2 step backs (12 points)

Pull up threes: 1 in transition, 1 off dribble = 2 total (6 points)

Mid-range off down screen: 1 total (2 points)

Threes off screen: 2 total, 1 off dribble hand off (6 points)

Free throws: 11-13 (11 points)

FYI, this guy is averaging ~37 points a game (on 49% shooting) in January!
For the year? ~31 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists a game, on 49% shooting.
Yeah...... I'm gonna say right now it's looking like KD = MVP.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Point Guard Project - Mike Conley

Happy New Year!
And finally, welcome to a new edition of the Point Guard Project!
Did you miss us?

In case you forgot, previous participants:

PGP1 - John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey
PGP6 - Damian Lillard
PGP7 - Derek Fisher
PGP8 - Stephen Curry
PGP9 - Chauncey Billups
PGP10 - Derek Rose
PGP11 - Ty Lawson
PGP12 - Sam Cassell

Today we are joined by Mike Conley.

As a refresher, the PGP questions:

1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate?

2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league?

3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard?

4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass?

5) What is a typical workout for you like?

6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?

Mike was drafted 4th overall in the 2007 draft by the Memphis Grizzles. At 6'1" and 180 ibs, he boasts career averages of 12.7 points and 5.6 assist per game. However, this year (his 7th in the league) Mike is averaging a career best ~17 points a game to go along with 6.3 assists.

You might remember that he helped lead the #8 seeded Grizzles to upset the #1 seeded Spurs in the 2011 NBA playoffs (only 4th 8th seed in history to do that). Not to mention helping the Grizzles get to their franchise first conference Finals last year. And in case you didn't know, he also made the NBA All-Defense 2nd team last year as well.

Mike played one year at Ohio State, helping them reach the 2006 title game. He was also a 2006 McDonald's All American.

Mr. Conley, welcome to the PGP:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew up watching (was a big fan of) Gary Payton and Allen Iverson. Pick and choose different parts of their games and put them into your own.

2) First memorable point guard match-up: Deron Williams in Utah. Very tough matchup and opened his eyes about what this league is about. He (Deron) had a lot (of points) on was an eye opening experience.

3) Definition for the job of a point guard: You want to be a leader, a facilitator, and make sure everyone is in positions to win and be successful. That's his biggest goal as a point guard.

4) Pass vs. Shoot: Read the flow of the game, if you got it going early and made a few shots, might want use that time to be more aggressive offensively. But most of the time, you can pick and choose when guys are in good position to score, read the defense and know who to pass it to.

5) Typical workout: Wake up at 6:30-7:00 (presumably am), right bike to gym. Get in a good weight lifting session in for ~1h & 15 min. Get on the court and do a lot of ball handling then at least 400-500 shots and then be done for the day. Take a lot of shots off the dribble. On days feeling more fatigued or over worked - do more spot shooting, just to keep the rhythm.

Bonus: Have you ever seen your youtube video "Ball on a String" that something you still do?
It is. It's really really good for you. The guys who work me out at Ohio State university come up with new drills. Every summer when I come back to something new and I try to figure them out.

6) For aspiring point guards: The biggest thing for young point guards is always believe in yourself. A lot of us are smaller guards (6 foot guards). You have to believe in yourself and try and stand out in any
way you can

Was it me, or did Mike Conley seem like the consummate professional?

As per usual, let me mention a few things that come to mind.
Isn't it great how you can be 6 feet, but in the NBA, a small guard? I remember growing up, for some reason 6'2" seemed to me to be the magic number with regards to height. I told myself, "if I can grow to be 6'2", I'll have the necessary height to play PG in the NBA!" (I actually made it to 6'1" aka 6'2" with sneakers! - so why aren't I in the NBA? Oh, you mean there is more to it than just height?).

But actually in Today's NBA, there are tons of smaller guards. Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry, Jameer Nelson, Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe & Trey Burke are some that come to mind off the top of my head. Still, I can see how running into a 6'3" 210ib D. Will as a rookie can be a learning experience upon first entering the league.

And how about the leaderships qualities this guy exudes?
"Make sure everyone is in positions to win and be successful."
"choose when guys are in good position to score. Read the defense and know who to pass it to."
So basically, the guy on your team that handles the ball most of the time should know the strengths of every player on the team, where on the court they are most efficient, and then assess if the defense is allowing them to be in a position to be successful when they get the ball???
Sounds like the type guy you want running the show!

But what do I love most about this interview? It's how fairly detailed Mike's response is for his daily workout. Out of all the PGP questions, I kind of feel like this might be the most important one - mostly for educational purposes. And it kind of irks me when I hear players give half-hearted or vague descriptions of their workouts. But not Mike!
Bike to the gym (seems like a good warm-up)
Lift before going on the court
Start on the court with lots of ball handling
Then get up 400-500 shots a day (shot type varies depending on energy levels).

Okay, it might have been perfect had he described what weight lifting exercises and shots off the dribble he really focuses on. But hey, this is a great blueprint and I think providing an actual number of shots is important. Rather than some arcane/random routine, you are focused on a goal every day. Ask Ray Allen or Steve Nash.

You can also say that Mike didn't provide details for his dribbling drills either.
That's because you can find them online!
What is "Ball on a String" you ask?
Well, let me blow your mind:

You're welcome.

Crazy, isn't it? Well, now you know what a pro ball handling practice routine is.
Three things:
1) This might be the opposite of what Sam Cassell and Ty Lawson say in their interviews, as far as practicing ball handling. But, what Mike is doing provides you with a skill set, strength, and endurance. A lot of times practice is supposed to be harder that the games. Trust me, if you can master dribbling two balls at once, handling one ball will be fairly straight forward. You won't use most of these moves in a real game. But by doing them, your confidence in you ability to handle the ball in any situation will be fairy high. And, you will feel like you can pretty much do anything with the ball, like it's an extension of your body - complete control, like you have it on a.....string!

2) When I was a freshman at St. John's university, Erick Barkley - who was a McDonald's All American, All Big East point guard, and eventually drafted by the Portland TrailBlazers - told me I should practice dribbling two basketballs at a time. Kind of cool he dropped that knowledge on me, considering I was a walk-on. Erick is a coach now, by the way.

3) You might hear me tell Mike Conley in the interview "I can't tell you how many times I reference that video when I was training." That's no lie! When I was getting ready to try out for professional teams a few year back, this was something that I incorporated into my workout. I used it as a way to warm-up. I would go through all the variations in the video for a specific amount of time or a specific amount of reps. And better than that, this is also a routine that I put a lot of my high school players on to as well. As a 15 minute warmup before getting into shooting (but after lifting), it's really beneficial!

And I'm glad that we all get to benefit from having the video (and this PGP interview) readily available online!

Much thanks to Mike Conley for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!