The Pacers difficulty in continuing to get the same type of ball movement and player movement with JO in the game has been a hot topic on this board and among Pacer fans lately. I wanted to discuss this specific topic in detail. Hopefully, instead of just noticing the symptoms, we can discuss what the cures might be. But first, let's discuss the specific problems our Pacers sometimes have:
A. JO doesn't run hard enough down the floor, and takes too long to get low post position.
B. The Pacers try and force the ball inside, holding the ball on the wings while JO posts up trying to get the ball on or near the block.
C. The Pacers perimeter players stop and cease to move while JO tries to back his man in or go off the dribble, grinding our offense to a halt until JO either shoots or gets rid of the ball.
Does everyone generally agree that these problems sometimes happen to us? If so, let's move on to some possible solutions....Ill try and give my viewpoint on each individual issue.
HOW TO SOLVE THE LACK OF RUNNING HARD TO ESTABLISH EARLY POST POSITION:
The best "early offenses" that coaches run have a few general principles. They want the ball advanced as quickly as possible, usually up the sideline away from the flow of defenders coming down the floor in transition. They want the floor spaced, and they want a post player, trailer/reverse man at or near the top, and someone to catch to reverse the ball to that can shoot a three or attack the rim. Each coach has his own patterns or plays or whatever he wants to do after the initial wave of early designed offense hits.
The Pacers generally try and have Murphy be the trailer when he is in the game. That means if JO doesnt bust it up the floor, we have no post up game in our transition offense. This is bad. So what is the solution?
One easy one is to do what you are supposed to do in basketball coaching 101 anyway, when installing this: Alternate trailers....whoever can break out first among your bigs needs to run hard to the ball side block, no matter who it is. Most times this won't be JO, due to his health, lack of speed, the fact that he is possibly going to be the rebounder, etc etc. JO needs to be the trailing player/reverse man! He can catch the ball up top, reverse it, and then either follow the ball for a screen/roll or screen/pop back, or he can recieve a backscreen, and head to the low post on the move. Or, JO could reverse the ball and become a screener himself (probably the most logical scenario) and set a downscreen for Dunleavy, Granger, or whomever, before running whatever the Pacers choose to do at that point.
Granger is really good at "running the seam" down the middle and establishing position, and surprisingly to me somewhat so is Harrison. Foster runs to the spot well too but lacks at times the ability to finish anything unless it's a clear dunk.
Summary: Use JO as the trailer, catching the ball at the top of key area to initiate your offense as he comes down the floor.
HOW TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF JO POSTING UP TOO LONG, AND THE WINGS WAITING ON HIM TO CLEAR TOO LONG:
This is a tricky coaching point, one that isn't all that easy to solve. In fact, since it is such a common issue, it's something I've actually discussed with other coaches, and we all have different ideas on what to do. Here are some of them:
1. Give JO the 3 second rule. By this I mean he can post up for 3 seconds only, then he has to abandon ship and do something else....just don't allow him to battle for position forever, make him give up the ghost and go screen away for someone else.
2. Allow/design for JO to not post at all, but instead flash to the short corner and face up, and have someone else flash to the low block to fill his spot perhaps if he doesnt drive. This already happens to a degree to anyway, as JO gets pushed off the block too far at times. The problem is JO still catches the ball with his back to the basket, even though he is pushed out 12 feet or so. It takes time for him to spin or make a move, and this leads us to watching instead of cutting. In this solution, JO isnt posting up at all, he is making an "outside" cut, coming from inside the lane to outside on the perimeter. If another player fills the post, and the ball is skipped to the other side, you are in good position to get a "smaller on big" backscreen for JO to sprint from the perimete ron one side to the opposite low block area.
3. Do nothing different, except really work with JO to get open better by improving his fundamentals with arm position and footwork. This would be easier, except there really is no consensus on the best way for this to happen in the coaching community. Some coaches want their post guys to flash with their hands very high at all times, others (like me) prefer to teach our post guys to fight through traffic with their arms, much like pass rushers using a swim technique or rip move.
Where footwork is concerned, I've talked before about JO's need to learn how to drive his back leg between the legs of his defender, so he could force his man to back up to avoid being hit in the jewels. Former Pacer assistant and NBA star Mark Aguirre was the best teacher of that I ever saw.
SOLVING THE LACK OF MOVEMENT AFTER JO HAS THE BALL, AND IS TRYING TO MAKE HIS MOVE
This has been a motion offense conundrum for 35 years, it hasn't just begun with the Pacers or Jermaine O'Neal. Your perimeter guys have to play off JO, and therefore are afraid to move until he declares what he is doing....by nature, motion offense is a bit reactive, and not scripted. JO can't pass it, because his cutters sometimes stop moving, making them easier to guard and therefore not open. If JO can't get an advantage, and no one is moving, your team offense starts to fail. How can you solve that as a coach?
Here are a few common things coaches try:
1. Don't allow a post pass to start with unless the post guy is clearly wide open with a clear advantage before you throw it. This means if in doubt, keep the ball on the perimeter and don't pound it in there. This is dangerous, because your post guys can sometimes quit working hard to get open if they don't see any purpose to it.
2. Go away from motion, and give your perimeter guys set rules on what to do if the ball is thrown in to a post up player.
This is actually what probably will happen with us, at least in part, and is already happening some of the time. You will have to design cutters to cut through, people to fill the top of the circle, maybe create scissors action on the ball side with screen downs on the opposite side, etc etc.
Whatever the coaches do, it takes away freedom from the players in this specific instance, and makes it a designed series of movements. This is done by Phil Jackson in his triangle offense, for instance.
3. Limit your post player to either take an immediate shot or pass it immediately and move. In other words, unless your post player "faces up" and makes a dribble move, take away the right of your post guy to dribble the ball at all. Since he, by your own coaching philosophy, has no dribble, your players are forced to move to help him out.
Ok, so I know this was a pretty dry topic tonight, but I wantd to chat about it, since the return of JO has brought complaints about the offense slowing down.
My point is this: The offense slowing down is common, expected, and solvable. The Pacers staff just needs to make some decisions on how they want to solve it....which I think they are slowly figuring out.
Comments, discussion, and questions are welcome.
As always, the above is just my opinion.