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I Want Your Players to Be Selfish

I Want Your Players to Be Selfish

Not what you would expect from me, huh?

But it’s true.

I want your players to be selfish – not in life or as people – but at least while running the Read & React. And you should too.

Here’s a quote that puts words to why that assertion makes you uncomfortable.

“There is a tension, peculiar to basketball, between the interests of the team and the interests of the individual. The game continually tempts the people who play it to do things that are not in the interest of the group. On the baseball field, it would be hard for a player to sacrifice his team’s interest for his own. Baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team one: by doing what’s best for himself, the player nearly always also does what is best for his team. “There is no way to selfishly get across home plate,” as Morey puts it. “If instead of there being a lineup, I could muscle my way to the plate and hit every single time and damage the efficiency of the team — that would be the analogy. Manny Ramirez can’t take at-bats away from David Ortiz.” from an article on Shane Battier

If you understand the tension in the above excerpt, you’ll understand some of the reasons behind the structure of the Read & React Offense. Wherever I could do it, I built the actions of the players on the baseball premise above.

“Selfish” actions of the individual players provide the fuel that fires the Five-Player-Coordinated-Teamwork of the Read & React. I designed the R&R specifically with the hope, no… the expectation, that your players would be selfish.

Take the Pass & Cut Layer as an example. If you pass the ball, you must basket cut. That’s the rule.

Why?

What motivation am I tapping into?

Am I selling this cut because it’s “what we do in this offense”?

Not if I’m a smart coach.

This is how I sell it to the players. The player who passes in the Read & React will be rewarded with the first scoring option. Whether the passer Front Cuts or Rear Cuts, the first option is to give the ball back to the cutter. I’m not asking the passer to cut to the basket as an unselfish act for the team (even though it is) – I’m counting on the “selfishness” that comes from an individual’s desire to score. The fact that this basket cut is good for the team is secondary (in terms of the motivation of the passer).

The next rule of Pass & Cut: Empty spots must be filled by the next teammate.

Why?

Because the offense demands it?

Because it’s the unselfish thing to do?

No. Because there’s a scoring opportunity when filling the empty spot: (the Read Line Rear Cut.) Again, I’m counting on the “selfish” desire of the individual to score.

Every Layer of the Read & React has this “selfish” component to the action. Here are a few of them:

When you feed the post, you must choose one of four cuts. Your cut moves the rest of the team, but again, that’s a secondary motivation. Regardless of the cut that’s chosen, the player who fed the post has the first scoring opportunity. Can you hear the message? Feed the post and the Read & React gives you the first scoring opportunity.

When you are Dribbled-At with a Speed Dribble, you are to cut to the basket. The scoring opportunity is for the cutter, not the dribbler. So, don’t cut to “get out of the way”. Cut to score!

When a North-South drive occurs, everyone on the perimeter must Circle Move and anyone in the post must slide according to the rule.

Why?

Because the Read & React places those without the ball in the best pass-receiving-window. If you want to increase your chances to score when a teammate drives, then you are highly motivated to learn these two layers as quickly as possible. I’m counting on the players’ desire to score – not their sense of duty to the team.

I never teach the Post Screening Layer as “just screen for the cutters”. The emphasis is: Screen for a cutter and then immediately shape up your position to receive the ball. Screening for a cutter is a means to get yourself open for a scoring opportunity.

What about the Back Screen Layer?

Isn’t the Back Screen meant to create a lay-up for the cutter?

Of course, but that’s not how I’m selling it to the player setting the Back Screen. The one who sets the back screen is to immediately shape up for the shot. Motivating players in this fashion means your best three-point shooters should become your best Back Screeners!

I could go on and on with every action of the Read & React and you would find this theme running behind every layer that’s taught: an individual’s action or re-action (whichever way you wish to view it) gives that individual a chance to score. And here’s the great part for the coach of the Read & React: This “selfishness” will not conflict with the creation of teamwork!

• I could point out how this dynamic keeps constant pressure on the rim and forces the defense to guard everyone at all times.
• I could point out how this dynamic makes every player feel like they have a chance to score or at least contribute on every possession.
• I could point out how this trains players to be decisive and aggressive.

These are all true, but they would miss the point. The Read & React recruits the “selfish” scoring desires of each individual player to create the spacing, ball-movement, and player-movement characteristics of an unselfish, five-player-coordinated team.

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