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News » Answering your NBA questions

Answering your NBA questions

Answering your NBA questions

If they tried to step away to attack Mikan's shots without being blasted, the old-timer would simply keep backing in until they were forced to body-up.

Mikan would have great difficulty playing defense. But given unlimited fouls, he might wear them down.

If every possession had to begin at — or near — the three-point line, Mikan would be hard-pressed to maneuver his way into the pivot without having the ball stolen. Moreover, under the same dispensation, both Haslem and Andersen would be able to fire up an unlimited number of uncontested mid-range jumpers.

In a 15-basket game of Pivots, Haslem beats him, 15-8, while Andersen overcomes Mikan by 15-10. In more of a half-court situation, Mikan would be lucky to score two points against either of them.

Thank you for breaking down the Princeton Offense for us. Could you do the same for the Triangle? Phil Jackson has had so much success with the Triangle, but so many other coaches have failed. Why is that? — Steve, Denver

The Triangle is based on the undeniable premise that no matter which player has the ball, it's impossible for opponents to play deny-defense on the other four offensive players without permitting various backdoor cuts, lob passes and easy scores. In fact, if the wings are indeed denied, the Triangle's automatic procedure is to have the center move up to the foul line and receive the ball there — which opens up help-free cutting lanes for the wings and gives the center easy targets.

Along this line, notice that whoever carries the ball across the time line, there will always be a player lagging in such a way that he cannot be denied. So there's always some pass or other available.

Once a pass is made and completed, the other four players move in prescribed patterns. This pattern will vary according to where that initial pass lands. The same routine is followed when a second pass is made and so on, the idea always being to take what the defense gives.

There are several ideal situations that the Triangle wants to bring about:

The most beneficial is having a three-man triangle consisting of a big man on either box, one player positioned near the strong-side baseline, and the third player on the strong-side wing. The optimum distance between all of these players is 15 feet.Should the wingman (A) make the entry pass into the center (B), then the baseline player (C) makes a quick baseline cut, and the wingman (A) usually cuts through the top of the lane to set a screen on the power forward (D) — who then cuts to the stripe, where he's usually open for a jumper.

Should the baseline player (C) make the entry pass, then the same movement as cited above might occur, or the wing (A) and the baseline player (C) might execute a squeeze action wherein the latter moves up to set a screen for the former — with one of these two fanning to an open space and the other executing a dive cut.

Meanwhile, the center (B) has time and space to make his own move to the hoop.

If the wingman (A) decides to pass to his lagging wing-mate (E), then the strong-side baseline player (C) can dash along the baseline and be presented with either a staggered screen (involving B and D) or a double screen (involving D and A, who has moved into the lane). Or else the weakside power forward (D), who's now on the strong side, can come up and set a high screen for the wingman (E). Or D can vacate the side and give space for E to go one-on-one.

And that's just for starters. But getting the ball delivered into the low post is the most desirable positioning since, with the ball only one or two dribbles away from the basket, the defense is compelled to make radical adjustments.

There are at least two dozen other variations, including various ways to form a strong-side triangle, and options that are initiated by a player (usually B or D) being originally positioned at the high post.

To make the Triangle successful demands a full commitment to it, something that has never really happened in the past — not even when Jim Cleamons coached the Mavs. And to make such a commitment necessitates having a thorough knowledge of the offense, something that can't be learned from books or game tapes but can only be mastered by hands-on experience.

Having spent several years as Jackson's assistant in L.A., Kurt Rambis is installing the Triangle in Minnesota, an admirable undertaking. Unfortunately, Rambis doesn't have the right personnel — perimeter shooters, veteran players who are both unselfish and flexible, a good passing center, plus a creative wing-scorer who can find a good shot on his own when the Triangle gets stalled.

What Rambis is undertaking is a don't-look-back investment in the future.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 16, 2009


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