This post comes out of nowhere. No one has asked for it. It is a thought-child that must be birthed. It stems, as the title suggests, from my years of frustration playing pickup basketball. If you play unorganized basketball–and you are not worthy of this blog if you do not–you will understand. Actually, you’ll understand even if you play organized ball, which actually in a good number of cases is less logical than pickup.
This post is for everyone who has played with the guy who shoots every time he gets the ball; for those who have suffered through disjointed offensive schemes for hours on end; for defenders who work their tails off only to have one guy get scored on every possession; and so on. Those who play pickup ball can come up with many more such examples of bad basketball.
I won’t drag this on forever. I love basketball; I hate bad basketball; and I am opinionated enough to give you my rules for good basketball. Contrary to what many high school coaches teach you, I don’t think good basketball is hard to play. It’s actually pretty simple. Follow some clear principles and you’ll be well on your way to efficient and fun roundball. You may not necessarily get to the mountaintop, but you can go very far without arcane diagrams and authoritarian play-calling.
1. Move the ball. Pass often.
2. Attack the defense, looking to kick to open shooters. With sharp passing and the pick and roll, this is probably the easiest way to get a good offensive flow going.
3. Run pick and rolls with a guard who can shoot and a big man who can attack the basket.
4. Whenever you can, run the ball. Get easy baskets. Even if you don’t run and shoot, at least pick the low-hanging fruit.
5. Play good help defense. This is not hard. It’s 95% effort, honestly. You don’t need to swat shots to be a good defender. You just need to play with a reasonable amount of intelligence.
6. Encourage teammates who are working hard and taking the right kind of risks. Talk diplomatically with those who are over-shooting. Kindness goes a long way. Instead of a guy getting down and making more mistakes (which almost always happens in an unkind environment), he’ll likely work hard on defense and play even better.
7. LOOK FOR MISMATCHES. Sorry to blast you. But this is huge. Note: if playing with a ball hog, this will not happen. But it must for good basketball. All things being equal, attack the weakest defender.
8. Go to the hot hand. Go to the hot hand. Go to the hot hand. How many times have I seen this not happen? This is one of the single best ways to lose out there. Basketball is a highly psychological game–shooting is the crux of this. Good shooters enjoy good psychological health. Go to them.
9. On defense, do your best to match up well. Shifting mid-game can really help if things aren’t working out.
10. Play to the glory of God. Don’t play for yourself. That will avoid all kinds of trouble–easy discouragement, ball-hogging, and so on.
Okay, that was completely unprovoked. Thanks for reading. May your pickup games improve exponentially.