I’m just a natural born complainer! The last two times, I was at odds with the 3-point shot, saying it has ruined the classic game and has brought about the invention of a new sport. Today, I’m coming down on the ‘Death of the Organized Fast Break.’ Why is this? Because the point guard DOES NOT STOP AT THE FREE THROW LINE to take his shot (it’s a free throw) or make his pass. Why? Because coaches, mostly in the NBA, have told their point guards to ATTACK THE RIM. That is, challenge the big men in the lane to take it to the basket. Of course, being too close to their teammates, they can no longer make a killing pass.
Then, the psychology. Attack? What? If a guy doesn’t attack the rim, he’s a baby? Players get that subliminal message in a big hurry. So, why do coaches ask them to do this? They want to draw fouls! One NBA coach said he wanted his team to shoot 35 free throws every game. I’m not a believer in that. You don’t try to draw fouls; you try to score, by getting the best possible shot. If you take a good shot, you increase your chances of scoring. And, you know what? You may even draw a foul in the process because your defender is at such a disadvantage. So, I think you can have it both ways: get good shots and even pick up some free throws.
If the point guard stops at the FT line (or the 3-point line), and he is not guarded, he has a wide-open shot! If he penetrates into the defense, he destroys the GEOMETRY of the fast break, the TRIANGLE. He also loses SPACING. If he’s too close to a teammate, his pass is too hard and the teammate will often fumble the pass. Yes, he may drive and score. He may even draw a foul. He might even make a miraculous pass for an assist. But, most of the time (and I would beg coaches to chart this), it ends badly: missed shot (forced shot); blocked shot (against big men); turnover (no geometry); charging foul (not under control).
Am I out of my mind? Well, Red Auerbach, the greatest NBA coach ever, told his point guard, Bob Cousy, the greatest ‘pure’ point guard of all time, to stop before the free throw line, keep his dribble and (a) shoot, (b) pass to one of the forwards cutting or (c) pass horizontally to a trailer. Then, John Wooden, the greatest NCAA coach of all time, used to put a string of chairs on each free throw line to make it impossible for his point guards to break the plane of the free throw line. I’d love to have someone tell me Red Auerbach or John Wooden didn’t know what he was talking about or that they could not coach in today’s game. That’s nonsense.
Two more bad things happen when the point guard penetrates too deep. One, he gets body slammed to the floor by the big defenders, who don’t like ‘home invasions.’ That means injuries. Examples abound. Phil Ford comes to mind. Two, he loses defensive balance, as he is not back to stop the other team’s fast break. So, stopping at the FT or 3-point line (while keeping the dribble ‘alive’) helps avoid a number of technical disasters and increases the percentages of something good happening. Best of all, the point guard’s teammates are kept involved and they are never caught off guard by a ‘surprise’ play. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!