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News » Williams the straw that stirs Utah's drink

Williams the straw that stirs Utah's drink

Williams the straw that stirs Utah's drink

Game Time: Jazz 108, Hawks 89

The biggest news was that Carlos Boozer returned to action. Along with the full recovery of Andrei Kirilenko's long, lean defense and Matt Harpring's bulldog toughness, the Jazz finally have all of their important pieces in place for the stretch run.

The success or failures of any S/R depends mostly on its practitioners, however, here are the basic reasons why the play is so universal in the NBA.

By isolating four players -- two each on offense and defense -- the refs have an unimpeded view of what's happening. And since the vast majority of fouls are called on defensive players, the contact resulting from most S/Rs give a significant advantage to the offense.

Also, by having big men set the screens away from the basket, the bigs' defenders are forced to be active in their discomfort zones.

Most S/Rs involve bigs setting screens for smalls, and since the screeners are so much bigger than the screenees, the defenders have to make some radical adjustments. (Also, the big screeners get to bully the small screenees, usually with impunity.)

The most routine of these adjustments is a simple switch, but a big-small matchup is completely lopsided, especially if the big rolls into the pivot.

Doubling the beneficiary of the screen is another alternative. While this maneuver can sometimes force the ball-handler to veer away from the basket, it also brings the defensive big even farther from the hoop, and enables the offense to have a four-on-three advantage off the ball. This is when precise defensive rotations become critical.

Going under the screen usually concedes an open shot to the ball-handler.

Having the screenee's defender play between his man and the screen will force the ball into some sort of help area. But this tactic requires incredible coordination on the part of the defense.

The screeners can also counter many of these adjustments by slipping the screen, i.e., pivoting and dive-cutting to the basket before actually setting the anticipated screen.

High S/Rs spread the floor and force the rotating defenders to cover more ground than in any other S/R alignment. As mentioned above, this also forces big defenders to play 20-25 feet from the rim. If the high SD/R is in the middle of the court, then the ball-handler has a good look at the defense's reaction, and can usually execute passes to either the left- or the right-side of the court.

John Stockton and Karl Malone set the standards for the high S/R.

Wing S/Rs are designed to give more room for the ball-handler to dribble/drive to his most effective side, i.e., taking his right hand to the middle. Moreover, wing S/Rs often develop into screen/fade movements if the screener happens to be a knock-down mid-range (or longer) shooter. Here, the screener sets the screen, then moves to an open spot closer to the baseline, hoping to receive a pass from the ball-handler and to launch his jumper.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and LBJ employ this play quite frequently. And Rasheed Wallace has the range to turn high S/Rs into screen/fades.

In low S/Rs, the screener sets up below one of the elbows, which puts him only one long step from the basket — which, in turn, just about prohibits the defense from switching. Plus, if the ball-handler is doubled, a lob pass to the rolling screener becomes lethal. Moreover, if the ball-handler can turn the corner he's in the bosom of the defense and has multiple options for passes or for shooting. And low S/Rs also serve to flatten out the defense.

Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp ran this play to great advantage.

As with just about every strategy in the game, suitability and execution depends strictly on the personnel involved.

Travels with Charley

Part 2

It was the last game of my varsity career at Hunter College. Back then, freshmen were ineligible for varsity competition, and the number of regular-season games a college team could play was quite limited. So my last game was only the 59th of my entire undergraduate career.


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Nowadays, guys who stay in college for four years can play at least 120 total games. But in my halcyon days the limited schedules made every game an extremely valuable and cherished experience.

Our record going into that game was 11-9, and our opponent was Brooklyn Polytech -- easily the worst team on our schedule that included such notable foes as Fairfield, Bridgeport, LIU, Rider, Hofstra, Farleigh Dickenson, Adelphi, St. Francis (NY), and C.W. Post. Since we were also playing on our home court, the game figured to be a romp.

In larger schools, seniors playing their last game are usually honored in various ceremonies. Perhaps the player and his family are introduced before the game and his mother is presented with a bouquet of flowers. Or else some plaque or trophy is given. And seeing that I had been a record-breaking scorer (the first to reach 1,000 points), rebounder, and three-time team MVP during my tenure at Hunter, I expected some kind of acknowledgement.

Anything would have been greatly appreciated.

However, Coach Fleischer, ever the self-proclaimed innovator, had something else in mind. Me and the other four seniors who had started just about every game — Lyndon Prince, Artie Brennan, Sam Giambalvo, and Hal Mayerson — started this game on the bench!

Coach's rationale was that each of us would get a rousing welcome from the home crowd — numbering about 500 in our tiny gym — as we entered the game.

Meanwhile, I sat on the bench sunk in a profound depression. As a foolish 21-year-old, I knew my points-per-game average from game to game. And, anticipating a bonanza against the weak opposition, I had calculated that a 30-point performance would boost my final number to 23.0 ppg. About a point-and-a-half short of my total as a junior, but good enough to feel good about.

Meanwhile, our second-stringers were having a difficult time with the Brooklyn Pollies. Nor did things improve as my fellow seniors were inserted into the action one-by-one. Lyndon and Hal were taking advantage of my absence by shooting every time they got their hands on the ball, going so far as to grab rebounds, dribble their way downcourt, then hoist up absurd shots. Since I was supposed to be the star, Coach saved my entry for last -- sending me into the fray with only 10 minutes left in the first-half.

By the time I entered -- to modest applause from the crowd — I was anxious to score.

Never had I played with such agonized desperation.

There was no chance of Lyndon, Hal or me passing the ball to anybody, much less to each other. Indeed, whenever I snatched a rebound, I avoided making a quick outlet pass lest my teammates embark on a fast break and leave me behind. Instead, I waved the ball around for a count or two before unloading it to Artie, forcing him to wait until I got set-up in the low-post before initiating the offense, which was primarily designed to get the ball to me.

And why would any of the seniors play even a vestige of defense since foul trouble would only send us back to the bench?

We were fortunate to win the game, 65-60. Lyndon finished with ten points, while Hal and I had twelve each.

Twelve points! My lowest total of the season, reducing my ppg to a mere 21.5! And leaving me with a sad, heavy memory that used to occasionally haunt my dreams.

Anyway, Coach now lives in the L.A. area where he recently celebrated his 80th birthday. I've long ago forgiven him and I hope he's forgiven me.

I still speak to the rest of the guys several times a year. And like all ex-athletes, our recollections of our team and of our individual accomplishments have become happier and more bountiful as we grow old together.

Hey, there, Hal, Artie, Sam, Lyndon, and Coach (and Nick, Saul, and Joe who graduated a year before the rest of us) ... Thanks for the run. And let's have another reunion soon.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: February 24, 2009


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