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Fever Dreams and Inbounding

10/20/2009

Yesterday I got some crazy kind of fever. I stumbled home from work, vision blurry, head in a fog -- feeling really weird.

I know what you're thinking: Swine Flu!

Anyway, I went to bed. At like 7:30. Without dinner. I never ever ever do that.

And I laid there for about an hour and a half, in a totally darkened room. Not really sleeping, but not really awake either.

Suddenly, an idea struck me, and it was so momentous, I had to throw off the blankets and search around for a pen and paper to jot it down before such brilliance was lost to the ages.

Then I slept for a zillion hours, and I can't tell you how much better I feel.

In the morning, by the bed, was a notecard that said this:

Why are all the offensive players standing still when a team starts to inbound the ball?

(How messed up is my head that this seems like a huge deal! I'm not even feverish anymore, and this still seems like a big pressing question of life. Which means I think about basketball a weird amount.)

The basic idea is that at almost all times on the basketball court, there is movement. And that movement is generally initiated by the offense, whom it favors. The movement creates space, and a player with the ball and space is a player who is dangerous.

About the only thing you could do to guarantee that every single offensive player was 100% covered would be to have them all stand still, and wait for the defense to line up next to them.

Meanwhile, inbounding the ball is tough for one reason, and one reason only: You only get five seconds to do it.

And yet nearly every time every NBA team gets the ball from the referee to inbound, everybody is covered. That first second, against a defense that cares, the passer may well have zero planned options. You start your counting -- one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand -- the soonest somebody might be open is after the second or two it takes the first option guy to run off a screen. If that doesn't work, you've only got a couple of seconds to try something else. Then you're in the red zone, and things can go wrong. There are oodles of bad passes at the end of the count, and even some five-second violations (like Dwyane Wade a couple of days ago).

My thought is: Why not start that action earlier? Why not try to have somebody start running before the ref hands over the ball? With any luck, you'll either time it up and get it to him, or have nearly five full seconds to execute plans B and C.

What's more, if you move way early now, you'll surprise everybody, because this is such a weird idea. 

I called David Thorpe about it, and he was full of reasons why this was not a breakthrough idea. One especially good point he made was that without the ball in the inbounder's hands, you can go under every screen, making screens not so complicated to deal with.

But all of his reasons it probably wouldn't help, were just that: reasons it probably wouldn't help.

But he didn't really have any reasons why it would hurt.

If I were a coach, I'd at least mess with it in practice. Right?