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Old 08-07-2007, 11:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: Insider request ESPN- off season work out

(Continues from Part 1)

No workout can begin before the players are properly stretched. We ask our players to arrive approximately one hour before our morning workout begins. They can get taped if needed, use a foam roller to work out aches and pains in the muscles, jump on a bike or treadmill to get warmed up, or work through some corrective movement exercises to ensure their limbs and joints are all working as one. Then they go through an "active stretch" on the court, similar to what every NBA team does each day. This typically lasts for 11-13 minutes.

• 9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. -- Tape, foam roller, warm-up cardio

• 10:00-10:13 -- Active stretch

• 10:13-10:18 -- Dunk drill 20, 15, 8, 4, 2, lob
I like to jump-start my workouts with something tough but meaningful. One of my favorites, and one the players know really helps them, is what I simply call the "dunk drill." Each player gets with a partner or a coach and stands just in front of the rim with the ball in his hands. He then has to jump off two feet and dunk the ball (for smaller guys -- jump as high as possible and lay it in).

As it goes through the rim, he catches the ball with his hands while landing softly on the balls of his feet. Sometimes I tell players to bounce just a little, then explode back up (think of the half jump some people do when jumping rope). Other times they simply explode back up with no bounce in between. I don't want their heels touching the ground.
LeBron James

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Before working out, LeBron James gets help from the training staff.

They'll do 20 straight, then switch with their partner or rest for 30 seconds if by themselves. When it's their turn again, we'll do 15 straight, then 8, 4, 2, and finish with a lob dunk. The purpose is simple -- to improve vertical jumping.

• 10:18-10:20 -- Weak-hand finishes
Almost every NBA player can improve on his ability to score with his weak hand (except perhaps David Lee and Carlos Boozer), so it's something I try to incorporate into most of my regimens. Each player will get a ball and stand near his own basket with a coach behind the 3-point line.

The coach will fire a pass inside, and the player must catch and finish with his weak hand, then return the ball back and get ready for the next pass. We want the player to vary his finishes -- meaning a different finish every time (off two feet or one foot, using different moves and finishing using different angles off the glass). A player should focus on extending with the arm and shooting as if it were his strong hand.

• 10:20-10:30 -- Dribbling drills
All players should work on their ballhandling all the time. Yes, that is right. Even bigs, as it helps with their "hands" and assures them that, in a pinch, they can put the ball down for a few dribbles and not turn it over. There are many ways to improve a player's handle -- the key is that all drill work should be done in "game condition," meaning changing speeds and directions often.

The drills should require the player to keep his dribble below his waist, pounding the ball down. We don't partner up here, each player has a ball and goes to work, and it is best to mix up the myriad of drills that are available to keep things fresh and challenging.

• 10:30-10:36 -- Superman 2x20, Superman + dunk 2x20
These are as exhausting as anything we do because the players have to go almost nonstop for seven minutes. This is a perfect time to challenge them. An important part of any NBA workout is to get guys to make plays when they are fatigued, similar to what they will be challenged with in games. As we know, rebounding is so much a result of desire, so now we will work with our guys on being a "beast" -- fighting through fatigue to make an effort play in a physical manner.

We'll start with the "Superman" drill. Each player stands just outside the paint with the ball, facing the backboard eight feet away. He throws the ball off the board hard toward the other side of the key. The player races for the ball and must rebound the ball before it hits the ground. But he must jump for it, and land with both feet outside the key on the other side.

We emphasize quick transitions from the catch to the pass and chase, and typically ask each player to do two sets of 20, as fast as possible. Then, we get to the "beast" part. We ask the players to do the same drill, only this time they must dunk off one step after each rebound. Another two sets of 20. The key is to get the players to find that "next level" -- it will serve as a great reference point in the season ahead.

• 10:36-10:40 -- Tip drill 3x3 from each side, then water break
An offensive tip-in is an effective way to score points without being involved in the offense. But just jumping high or being tall does not mean that a player will make a lot of tips. It takes practice. So we fit in tip drills almost daily. The drill is simple -- each player must tip the ball up on the backboard three times and then tip it in. Only one hand is used, with an extended arm and fingers. We do three sets of three tips and makes from each side.

• 10:40-10:47 -- Guards: Dribble attack to basket, including crossover, inside out, hesitation, through legs, behind ankles, behind back, combo moves. Posts: Back-to-basket scoring, including jump hook, skyhook, turnaround jumper, turnaround fadeaway, up and under, double pivot
Assuming there are both guards and posts on the court, a good workout plan must account for both. So we'll split up the guys to different courts and ask them to do different things. For our guards, we spend a good amount of time working on "attack dribbles," trying to get better at breaking down defenders to create five-on-four situations.

First, we'll focus on their actual dribble moves, working on changing speeds, starting and staying low, keeping their dribble down, etc. But we also have to address the finishes, so we'll start by asking them to finish at (or above) the rim using both one leg and two leg (or power) jumps.

We'll put chairs in different spots on the perimeter to serve as "defenders," and challenge the players to make technically correct but also quick and powerful moves to get by their defender and finish strong with varied finishes. This is one area where having a trained eye on them is crucial, since the chair is stationary.

It is our job to tell the player that the move was flawed (too slow, mechanically incorrect, etc.). While this is happening, the post players are working on their "post scoring routine" with their backs to the basket. Using a coach to feed them above the block, the bigs will work on their best and worst moves, thinking about the "move-countermove" strategy that they will employ in games.

The posts must establish their go-to move, then work on the counters to it when the defender overplays them. Both hands must be used in these sequences.

• 10:47-10:54 -- Guards: Dribble attack into pull-up jumpers. Posts: Back-to-basket scoring with fakes
Guards are well-served to work on their midrange game, as it is a valuable weapon against teams who defend the paint well. So we'll repeat the actions above, only this time asking them to beat their defender then pull up for the jump shot. For the bigs, we'll have them add freeze and shot fakes to their hooks, turnarounds and fades.

Tim Duncan

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Developing Duncan-like fundamentals would be a good goal for promising bigs.
• 10:54-11:01 -- Guards: Dribble attack into fades, step-backs, runners, floaters. Posts: Post scoring off the back-down dribble
Lastly, the 24-second clock means players may have to get off a well-defended shot, so practicing fadeaways, step-backs, runners and floaters is something all perimeter players should be doing. And the bigs will work on their same moves after backing their defenders down off the dribble, staying low and looking for double-teams or defensive dives.

• 11:01-11:13 -- Guards: Full-court attack and finishes, 3 reps x 4 sets. Posts: Full-court post-ups, 3 reps x 4 sets
Almost everything practiced in the half court should also be worked on in transition. Once a player seems to have a certain skill set "under control" through half-court practice drills, it is time to introduce some full-court action. Each player stands under a rim, two players to a court.

For a guard, we may ask him to pop out off a screen to the right wing, catch and establish a dribble, then use an attack move (that was just practiced) to get to the rim for a dunk. After the made basket, he must then sprint to the other rim, pop out to the left wing, and execute an attack dribble/pull-up jumper.

Again, after the made basket the players springs to the opposite rim, where a coach will throw him the ball at half court and then the player must make an attack move and finish with a fade/step-back/runner/floater. Post players do the same thing, only they run rim to rim, push to get position above the block, then catch and execute one of the post moves drilled previously.

For a "beast" workout, I might ask for a routine that called for nothing but dunks, and have the players doing far more reps with each turn. But in this format, the idea is to see how well the player nails his mechanics while feeling just slightly fatigued, so we'll stick to three reps in each set.

• 11:13-11:15 -- Water break

• 11:15-11:25 -- Ball-screen action, half court
NBA teams all run lots of ball-screen action, so we do the same each summer. We're focusing on key teaching points while making sure the players see and understand all of the options at their disposal. It is great to see NBA players from different teams explain their varied defensive schemes, forcing offensive players to be ready to read and react.

We'll set up two chairs on each wing, one playing the screener and the other his defender, and our guards will work on using those ball screens with every option open to them: drive opposite the screen, split the screen, turn the corner, take it to the middle for the jumper, etc., varying their finishes from dunks and layups to all of their midrange shots.

Our post players will work at setting solid and legal screens, then either rolling or popping before a coach throws them the ball. They must vary their finishes too, including using shot and freeze fakes after popping out.

• 11:25-11:30 -- Ball-screen action, half court, 2-on-0
Then we'll bring our "littles and bigs" together and go through the same sequences, making sure the guards deliver timely but strong passes to their teammates. The players take turns shooting, with the other players looking for a tip dunk or tip-in.

• 11:30-11:35 -- Ball-screen action, full court, 3 reps x 4 sets
Finally, we'll ask them to execute while slightly fatigued. Run the action on one end, resulting in a split-the-screen dunk, then sprint to change ends and hit the post on the pop, then sprint back again and just make a play, or perhaps use a drag screen on that final rep.

End of workout

Seventy-five to 85 minutes is about all a player can give if the pace is fast and there are not too many players on the court. Since today's workout was not focused on long-range shooting, the players can take a few minutes to get some shots up from long range.

Had this workout featured lots of perimeter shots, then the end of practice would see the guys doing something else, perhaps free-throws or ballhandling or post moves. The key is not the number of shots taken each day, but the quality of work put into the shots. Again, game condition is vital to being able to transfer skills from the practice court to the game.

The workout above is real, one that NBA players will do often this summer. The names of the drills may be different -- and the drills too -- but the emphasis will be the same.
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