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A Lost Art

One of the things I found most interesting about the extensive collection of material Quick and Ely provided yesterday was the profession of Brandon Roy's dedication to moving without the ball.  Not only does this make sense given his backcourt role, it's truly a lost art to scoring in the NBA.

One of the things I noticed about Petteri Koponen in the rare Summer League minutes he played without running the offense was his dedication to cutting hard and fast without the ball in his hands.  This attribute isn't enough to gain him a roster spot on its own, but it was refreshing to see after years of watching NBA players run lackadaisical routes off of screens and lane cuts.  Seriously, I know they need to conserve energy somewhere, but Randy Moss runs six times as hard on a designed rushing play as most NBA smalls do without the rock.  Most screens are completely wasted as a passing angle never develops because of the leisurely pace of the cutter.  Koponen isn't exactly a speed demon in NBA terms, but he looked like lightning by comparison.

One of the few guys to use off-ball movement to scoring advantage in the modern NBA was Reggie Miller.  Granted he ran funny, but he never stopped using those picks until the defender got fatigued and he got free.  All he needed was an instant, and BAM!  Two points.  He demonstrated that it could be done, even in an era famous for its one-on-one dribble-fests.

Now consider the current Blazer squad, how unselfish they are, and how most of their guys can pass.  If Brandon can use that direction change ability plus the quick burst of speed away from the ball he's going to be set up for open opportunities even in the halfcourt.  At that point he becomes an insufferable headache to the opposition.  You already go into a near panic when he's dribbling up top.  Now your stress level is sky-high wherever he is on the court and whoever has the ball.  Turn your head for a second and you're dead.  The pressure on any defender is immense.  You make them work so hard and think so much that they wear out quicker, which is the extra advantage in addition to the points you generate.  If you've got an offensive guy guarding you his road to 20 points becomes that much harder.  Ever tried to shoot or drive when you're tired?

Side note:  If someday Jerryd Bayless eventually starts mastering the same tricks and he can play together with Roy, look out.

You really only need three things to make this work.  First, teammates who are willing to look for you, which Portland has.  Second the ability to score, especially off of the short jumper, without having to dribble.  This is the skill Brandon and any who want to follow in his footsteps will need to master.   It's not instinctive to players of this generation, who have basically learned to score off of the dribble and whose only catch-and-shoot experience, if any, comes at a standstill from the three-point arc.  Third, you need enough heart and desire to run those moves instead of walking through them.  That's pretty much it.

Every team in the league runs these plays already.  Few seem to do more than go through the motions.  The infrastructure is already there.  Will somebody be able to take advantage of it?

--Dave (