Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A visit to Cleveland Cavaliers practice, and an emphasis on defending the three in 2014-15

By Rob Senderoff
Head Coach

Yesterday, the whole staff had a chance to go up to Cleveland and watch the Cavaliers practice as they are going through their training camp.

The biggest difference that you see between the Cavs and us is how quickly they have their systems put in offensively and defensively. They already have probably 30 plays or wrinkles to plays. It takes us much longer to get that many wrinkles in. I think it’s due to the amount of basketball these guys play. It’s all they do. It’s their living.

Defensively, the terminology they use and how they guard actions is put in very quickly. They had 17 or 18 guys in practice, and every single guy understands how they are trying to defend things and what their principles are. I’m sure as they continue to get reps and as they practice and play games, they will do a lot of teaching on the fly through game film and through practice. It’s just very impressive how quickly those guys pick everything up.

When you leave there, you see why they are professionals. They study film. They are in there early getting shots. They are in there early working on some offensive things and breakdowns. They are in there early working on some defensive things and breakdowns. They work overtime on the concepts they have. 

We go to watch the Cavaliers practice every year. This year the practice was just a little bit different than what I’ve seen in the past. On the whole, practice is practice at that level. Guys are competing. It is great to see the best players in the profession get to compete like that and to see the best coaches in the profession get to coach.

The biggest difference with Coach Blatt in terms of learning is they do a bunch of dummy drills back to live drills. That’s different than how I’ve seen the other NBA coaches that I’ve watched do things. Sitting their with our assistant coach, DeAndre Haynes, who played overseas, he said that is the way they do it in Europe.

They will start out 5-on-0 dummy, and then go back to 5-on-5 or 3-on-2. It was interesting to see it done like that.

A view of the Cleveland Clinic Courts from the
official website of the Cleveland Cavaliers
There is so much value in the little things you can learn whenever you go to watch a practice like that, go to a clinic or watch a coaching DVD. You may pick up a wrinkle to a drill. You may pick up a concept that might fight your personnel well. You may pick up a side out-of-bounds play. Sometimes it is terminology. 

Two years ago I spent a few days with the defensive coach of the Boston Celtics, Mike Longabardi, who is now with the Phoenix Suns. There is always a thing or two you take from every opportunity like that. I go on our off days to watch other schools practice, whether it is Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Cincinnati or Xavier, just to see what they are doing. We have a good idea of what we are doing, but you may find a small emphasis, a word or a term that helps better describe some you are already doing. 

You always learn something, that’s why you go out like this. There is always a chance to see something you haven’t seen before or something that may help you do a better job of teaching what you already doing.

I spent a lot of time this summer watching film and talking with a former assistant at Weber State who is now in the NBA, Phil Beckner. Weber State has been the best in the country at limiting other teams from shooting threes. That is going to be a big emphasis for us this year when we are playing man-to-man defense, eliminating the other team’s opportunity to shoot threes. If you see us do a good job with that, you will say it is because of some of things we worked on this summer. 

In our locker room, we have changed a couple of our goal charts regarding defending threes. There is a small wrinkle we have added to what we are doing defensively to try to make sure our guys do a good job of limiting opponent’s threes. When you look at the NCAA Tournament, the biggest factor in the “mid-majors” beating the high majors is when the mid-majors get hot from three. 

You can even think back to 2002 when Kent State lost to Indiana, it was because of the number of threes Indiana made in that game. But as a general rule, limiting the other team’s three-point attempts is something that we are going to emphasize this year. With our length inside, we should be able to contest shots on the perimeter a little differently. We have more length this year throughout our roster. 

I have spent a lot of time this offseason studying teams who have guarded the three effectively. 

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