• There are two critical areas in regards to being an effective defensive team that you as the coach must be accountable. The first is conversion defense and the second is defending the low-post.
• In our Conversion Defense we are not assigned a specific player necessarily, but rather, we are defending positions on the floor in order to stop the ball and our opponents transition offense.
• Our conversion defense begins as the ball is being shot by our offense. We send two guards back on defense as the shot goes up – we feel that the benefit of having our guards back on defense to STOP the BALL, is of a far greater benefit than any advantage that may be derived by having one or both rebound the offensive glass.
We designate which guard is our “Lane Defender” and which guard is the “Ball Defender”. The lane defender sprints to paint, finds the ball and takes the lane-line on the side that the ball is being entered into play. He positions here in order to take away any cuts into the lane and will closeout to a “Gap Position” or to the ball, as soon as the lane is secured. The ball defender works to contain the ball-handler at half-court, and preferably get the ball out of the middle of the floor. Again, he must contain the ball first and foremost, and of course, his point of pick-up can change due to our opponent’s personnel.
• The remaining three players sprint back to paint as soon as our opponent gains possession of the ball. We teach their first three sprint steps to be with total disregard to vision; turn and sprint three steps, and then locate the ball as they continue to the lane. We will position toward the ball-side as deep as the ball. We cannot express enough the emphasis that we place upon our team of not giving-up transition baskets, NO LAY-UPS!
Pressure on the Ball
• We must place pressure upon the basketball, we cannot allow the ball handler to play comfortably, to easily look over the court. Offenses today will pick your defense apart if you allow them to do what they want to do with the ball. This is a great myth in the Pack Line Pressure Defense, that we do not pressure the ball – that we are all about containment. Yes, we must contain and our players must know their limitations, but we must pressure the ball.
It is much like the football quarterback; the passer that has all the time needed to drop back and throw the ball, any NFL quarterback will pick apart a defense that does not pressure – the same holds true with our game. With this being said, we cannot allow the ball to get into the PACK AREA. Our point of pick-up is at half court, in the play area it is determined by whom you are guarding – your game and his game.
As much as we want and demand pressure on the ball, we must also understand a very important axiom I our defensive game planning; “Sometimes to not guard, is to guard”. In other words, there are players that you are better served to not defend, and therefore, utilize this defender as a helper.
• We do not force the ball in a specific direction. We simply tell our players, “DO NOT GIVE-UP THE BASELINE”. We do not want them to feel that it is OK to force the ball to the middle, we just cannot get beat baseline. We will emphasize that our players must have their baseline foot positioned outside of the offensive player’s baseline foot.
• We will drill a lot of one-on-one in order for our players to learn their limitations, to understand how to keep the ball out of the PACK, and to learn how to force contested jump shots.
• We deny inside the arc and we will work on this more from a whole method standpoint more so than a 1on1 breakdown drill, but we absolutely do not want to allow the ball inside the PACK AREA (17 foot mark).
• Footwork is of paramount importance in our pressuring the ball, we want to Step (point our toe) in the direction that the ball is being dribbled, and Push with our opposite foot. We use the term, “Guarding a Yard” with our players, if we can execute two quick slides, we can arc and defend the ball. Use quick, short, steps without bringing our feet any closer than 12 inches, there is an imaginary ruler between our heels, no Heel Clicking.
• If we can force a Dribble-Used situation, we now leave the PACK area with all of our defenders, in an effort to all-out deny all four offensive players. This is a great opportunity for us to create a panicked, and hopefully a turnover situation for the offense. The player defending the ball must verbalize the dribble used situation by calling out “FIVE – FIVE – FIVE”.
Jumping to the Ball
• We do not jump to the ball per say, our first move is to jump back into the PACK AREA and then move toward the ball to preserve our Ball-You-Man relationship. Therefore, the nature of this position places our defender closer to the ball than the man who passed it.
• We assume a flat triangle position, slightly open and inside the PACK AREA when our man does not have the ball and is one pass away.
• Closing out to the ball is the key to our recovery mode, sprint the first two to three steps, with the last couple being short, choppy, steps. We must accomplish two objectives in our closeout; first we must closeout “Hard & Short” with our weight back prepared to absorb the dribble (we will not get blown away by the dribble), and secondly, we must have High Hands. We teach our players to keep their hands high, with elbows bent, for a 1001 count. We must create the illusion that there is no shot to be had. We cannot allow the offense to have rhythm jump shots.
• All Non-Ball Defenders are located inside the Pack Line – This is the most critical part of our defense. We do not believe that our defenders can accomplish three things: they cannot Deny, Help, and Recover. Therefore, we have eliminated the denial, and we now focus entirely on the other two factors – Help and Recovery. Because our defenders in the Gap are already positioned in Help, they are now quicker in their recovery to the ball – there is no negative movement, away from their recovery.
• We are constantly “Re-positioning” in the Pack area:
1) Position Up the Line, but Off the Line – slightly closed to the Ball
2) Vision is of the utmost, we must see both Man and Ball
3) Do not Help to Take a Charge, but rather with our Near Arm and Leg, we do not want to become Blind to our Help, by losing sight of our man
4) Bluff help as much as possible, we cannot become sterile in our positioning.
5) We must be Active & Energized in our Gap – We are Zoning the Ball
• We are positioned in a flat triangle with our closest foot to the ball slightly forward, therefore we are in a denial position to begin and better equipped to take away the flash.
• VISION is key, WE MUST SEE BOTH MAN and BALL!
• Upon the offensive players flash cut, we intercept it with our forearm. We teach our defender to use his forearm, to bump or force the offense away from the lane without extending the forearm, which would be a foul, in order to deny.
It is a reality that our defender will momentarily lose sight of the ball, this occurs whenever we are defending a cutter, weather a screen is involved or not.
Defending the Low Post
• You must have a very clear and concise philosophy of defending the low post. How you defend this area dictates everything else you do defensively.
• There are only two areas to be defended; the low post and the perimeter. Everything that occurs in our Post Box (Approximately two steps off the lane and below the first hash mark on the lane) is considered the low post, everything else is the perimeter.
• We ¾ Deny on the High Side of the Post, we tell our players to “Smother” the Low Post. Activity is our biggest key, WE MUST BE ACTIVE!
• We can play ¾ high because we allow no baseline penetration. This also places us in a better position to take away the “High-Low” entry into the low post.
• We must know our slip-point in the low post; it can vary from player to player, depending upon size, length, and quickness. Anytime the ball is on the side and the offense tries to move us up the lane, upon approaching the mid-lane area we must slip behind to the baseline side to avoid being pinned high.
• Anytime a player steps away form the post, we then treat him as a perimeter player and deny inside the PACK AREA.
• There can never be a feed to the low post from the top, no exceptions!
• On a catch, we tell our post that this is our time, not the offensive player’s time, but our time. We must quickly slide behind the post on “air-time” – do not reach or gamble for a steal, but work to immediately position ourselves slightly to the baseline side with a half-step of cushion between our defender and the offensive player, maintaining a position between the post and the basket.
• From our position behind the low post, we will defend the ball in one of three ways:
1) Play the post one-on-one from behind – do not give up a scoring angle forcing the offensive player to score over our defender, not through our him. Our post defender must keep his hands at shoulder height with his fingers pointed upward. We teach our post to employ a one step cut-off in this area, using his chest to level off the dribble, take the hit and force the tough shot.
2) Choke the Post – our perimeter players located on the ball-side will open to the ball as it is passed and give help to the post defender. We can dive in and out to bother the post and choke the post only if he puts the ball on the floor, or we can full-out choke the post, immediately diving to the ball and digging it out, forcing him to throw the ball out to the perimeter. Obviously, if our perimeter defender is defending a dead three or a great scorer, we may determine not to choke with his defender, but only to bluff help.
3) RED THE POST – Double the post Big to Big. This is probably our most often utilized method of defending the post, and our most effective. It is a way in which we can force the ball back out of the scoring area, while creating turnovers.
For much more on Jim's Pack Line Defensive Philosophy:
Even better, for those that live in the area, you can attend Jim's clinic and see him develop the defense with his team (while also hearing some other great speakers):http://www.coachjimboone.com/camps-clinics/2009_Clinic_Flyer.pdf