How to Develop a Basketball Primary Fast Break Attack - (Part 3 - continued from previous page)
Laning the Fast Break
To standardize the fast break as much as possible, reduce error. and ensure that the best ball handlers control the ball as much as possible, many coaches have gone to a style of fast-breaking known as laning. In laning the fast break, the coach first assigns numbers to the lanes to be used in fast-breaking. He then assigns corresponding numbers to the players.
Under the strictest laning techniques, the same players always fill the same lanes down court (except on unopposed, breakaway lay-ups), regardless of their court position when the fast break began. For example, the lane down the center of the court may be designated Lane 2, and the team's best ball handler may be Player 1. The sideline lanes (always, within one foot of the sideline) and the players filling them may be designated 2 and 3. The intermediate lanes between the sidelines and the middle may be designated 4 and 5. The later are normally reserved for the team's big men who get the defensive rebounds, make the outlet pass, and serve as trailers on the fast break.
At first glance, this style of fast-breaking may seem to be slower than the old style of allowing the players to fill the passing lanes randomly on first-come, first-served basis; however, two factors tend to make strict laning as fast as, or faster than, the older traditional fast break.
First, having the same players fill the same lanes reduces confusion regarding who fills which lane and permits players to practice spot shooting from areas they know they will be shooting from at the end of the break. Second, strict laning virtually guarantees that the best ball handler will be handling the ball every time fast-breaking opportunities arise.
The chief weakness associated with this is that when substitutes have been drilled in following one lane down court, they may become confused if they have to play other positions involving different passing lanes.
Still, some coaches, particularly those with more than one good ball handler, prefer to give their teams greater latitude in forming the fast break by providing two outlet pass receivers and primary ball handlers, depending upon which side of the court the outlet pass can be made from most quickly.
If, for example, Player 1 (the team's best ball handler) is on one side of the court and transition occurs on the other side of the court, or a defensive rebound is taken, it may be more expedient to have Player 2, the team's second best ball handler, move to the outlet passing area on that side of the court and take the ball down court, with 1 filling 2's lane, than to wait for the other offensive and defensive players to clear the area in order to pass to Player 1.
Many variations of this style of laning exist. The simplest is for both 1 and 2 to serve as outlet pass receivers on their respective sides of the court. If 1 receives the outlet pass, 2 cuts to the middle and takes the ball down, and 1 fills 2's sideline lane after he passes to 2 in the middle. The reverse is true, of course, if 2 receives the outlet pass.
The principal benefit of laning the fast break is that since the same players fill the same lanes every time they head down court, no delay is involved in their moving quickly to their assigned areas. Constant repetition in practice and in games teaches players to find their lanes quickly in all kinds of situations.
Also, the fact that the best ball handlers are controlling the ball throughout the fast break from the time of the outlet pass is made until the final pass at the end of the break reduces turnovers and ball-handling mistakes that sometimes make coaches leery of fast breaking.
So many variations of fast-break laning exist that it is impossible to describe the player characteristics for each of the lanes. Using the system described, Player 1 should be a quick, confident ball handler and capable dribbler who can spot open players down court and make accurate passes under pressure.
2 should be a good ball handler, since he may have to bring the ball down when 1 has to give it up, and 2 should be able to hit the open shot, at the end of the break, whether it be a lay-up or a 12 to 15 foot shot. (Many times, if 3 is a streaker down court, one opponent will be able to get back to cover 3, and a second defender will take Ball Handler 1, leaving no one to cover 2.)
Many coaches assign Lane 3 to their fastest player, hoping to catch the opponents off guard for a long pass and subsequently lay-up. Players 4 and 5 are generally the team's best rebounders and serve as outlet passers and trailers in the ensuing fast break. If, for example, 4 inbounds the ball after scores, he trails the play and 5 fills his own lane as a trailer.
Some offensive patterns are not conducive to players' moving out of their lanes and into a set offense quickly when the break does not yield a high-percentage scoring opportunity; still, this problem can usually be solved by modifying the offense slightly. Finally, when a team has only one capable ball handler, the opponents may overplay or double-team him to deny the outlet pass that begins the fast break. The team hoping to fast break more often than occasionally should have either a secondary ball handler or an inbounds passer (preferably both) capable of making the long pass down court.
There are conflicting theories on the best way to handle a fast break. Some coaches believe that the ball can move down floor more quickly if it is passed back and forth from the center to the lanes. Advocates of this technique feel that in a standard three-on-two fast break situation, it is more difficult for the two defense men to adjust their position if the ball is moving quickly from middle to lane than if it is moving down the middle; however, the ball must be passed back and forth to men running at top speed, and the lane.
I advocate, in this style of fast break, the middle man keep the ball. When he gets the ball in the center position and starts down floor he maintains possession of the ball (in theory) all the way to the opposite foul line and makes the play. The ball is in the hands of the best ball handler, who can advance it down floor as quickly as if it were being passed back and forth. No time is lost in starting the break as a result of this. However, if seconds were lost, it would be preferable to pay that penalty rather than running in a helter-skelter fashion.
The middle position is the most critical position on the fast break, since the middle man develops the play, brings the ball down floor, and decides what has to be done with it when it gets into the penetrating area. The lanemen simply have to get down floor as quickly as they can in the most advantageous positions, depending on the defensive deployment. The wing men must get down floor to the basket as quickly as possible, not waiting for the ball. If the middle man is going to release the ball early, it is his responsibility to make sure the ball gets to them. They should get a step or two in front of their defensive men or lag a bit behind so that they will be open for a pass. The trailer man must also beat his man down the floor. The fifth man down the floor will be several seconds behind the play. If a shot is taken and missed by either the wing or the trailer, the fifth man may be in an excellent position to knife through the middle and make a rebounding shot. If the opponents have regained possession of the ball, he must realize that he is the first man who must get back on defense and do so as quickly as possible. By placing men - no merely allowing the closest man to take the middle position - you can cut down the margin of error, since you always have the ball in the hands of the best ball handler.
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