For the Fall 2013 issue of STACK Magazine, we talked to some of basketball's best minds training today's ballers about the Basketball Revolution. Read more about the physicality and skills of today's players.
In a game against the Houston Rockets last season, the Heat's Udonis Haslem tipped a jump ball to Dwyane Wade, who without hesitating launched the ball to the other end of the floor, where a sprinting LeBron James caught it for an easy layup without breaking stride. Two points in two seconds. The quick strike was just one example of how aggressive offenses are in today's game. And faster teams are winning more. Seven of the NBA's top ten teams in PACE (offensive possessions per game) made it to the Playoffs last season. Every team is scoring more points on fast breaks, a category that Steve Hess's Denver Nuggets have led the league in for two straight seasons.
Hess: "Coach George Karl was unbelievable at getting players to perform in that fast, up-tempo game. It's so much fun and so incredible to watch. Guys like Andre Iguodala, Manimal [Kenneth Faried], JaVale McGee are all athletic guys, but still, you're asking them to run for 48 minutes. You need to build a strong cardiovascular foundation, and then work on anaerobic power so these guys can explode. We trained to the specifics of this system that Karl wanted to run."
Barto: "Guys are just more athletic today. They are getting down the court in three and a half steps instead of four. When you add that up over the time of a game, that's significant."
Stein: "At the high school level, kids want to play [up-tempo]. Basketball is more fun when it's played up-tempo and fast. You're not going to find too many kids that want to walk up the court and run a half-court set offense."
Barto: "There are fewer plodding centers, there's less of what we call 'super bigs.' We're not waiting for Shaq to get down the court before we give him the ball. Five years ago, most teams had super bigs because everyone thought they led to championships. Which in the 1990s and early 2000s, they did."
Stein: "When you're running, you're scoring easy buckets, you're taking wide open threes, and you're making the SportsCenter play. There's adages that if you have big guys, you don't need to be quick and you don't need to have reactions. [But] every basketball player on the floor needs to work on his quickness, hand-eye coordination, reaction time and mobility."
Hess: "It's so much fun and so incredible to watch, but you need to make it function at that high level all the time. It's like taking a Ferrari and saying we're going to be on the road longer. How are we able to sustain a healthy engine by staying on the road longer?"
Basketball Speed Workout
Conditioning your body for an up-tempo game starts in the off-season. Stein recommends the drills below, which mimic the demands of full-court play. Perform them two times per week in the three to four weeks before the season.
5-Yard Ready Stance Sprint
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in a crouched defensive stance along either lane line. On your coach's mark, turn around and sprint to the opposite lane line, immediately dropping back into a defensive stance.
Sets/Reps: 2-3x6 with 30 seconds of rest between sets
Touch and Go Sprint
Start with one foot touching the lane line with your body facing half-court. Shuffle to the opposite line and touch it with your right hand, then sprint back to the starting line.
Sets/Reps: 2-3x3 each side with 30 seconds of rest between sets
Half Circle Sprint Drill
Starting on the baseline, sprint along the 3-point line to the other end, tap the baseline with your foot, then sprint back.
Sets/Reps: 2-3x1 each direction with 30 seconds of rest between sets
Team Alternating Sprints
Start at the baseline. On your coach's mark, sprint to either half-court or the opposite baseline, then back to the first baseline, and through the same line again. Add another sprint to the baseline and back to challenge yourself further.
Sets/Reps: 3-5x drill with 60 seconds of rest between sets
Road to Recovery
Running up and down the court for the duration of a game, while exciting, can wear on your body. Follow Hess's advice to recover properly.
Hess: "You have to recover. If you keep beating your body up, a lot of times your inability to do a skill has nothing to do with your confidence; it has to do with the fact that you overtrained. You've got to understand there's a component of overtraining that you do not want to go near. Don't run yourself into the ground during a workout or training session, especially during the season. It will only increase your risk for injury. Your training should decrease in volume and intensity in-season. Take recovery days for yourself. Spend time in a cold tub. Get to the pool and do some light training. Look into compression suits and boots that increase your blood flow. Look into acupuncture. There are plenty of non-traditional ways to recover that work wonders."
The Fast Break in 3 Stages
Your opponent's shot clangs off the rim. Coach is screaming at you from the sidelines to run, run, run! You're on the move and you're open, but your teammate doesn't pass to you. Whatever you do, don't quit. "I see younger kids stop running on the break, or give up on the play instead of constantly hunting the ball throughout the transition," Barto says. Instead, keep your eyes on the point guard and keep running as he crosses half-court. Decide whether to peel out to the corner for an open three or run to the hoop for an easy layup when your point guard crosses the 3-point line. This gives your floor general options and increases your opportunity to score.
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