T Nation

Footwork on Defense In Basketball

This may not be the right forum for this question but I’ll give it a try. I’ve always wondered why even though I’m fairly quick, guards can get by me on the perimeter pretty easily. Then a friend of mine explained to me that you should be moving horizontally to try to get to the position before the player, whereas I move half horizontally and half backward.

It might be easier to demonstrate this with a diagram but it basically helps the offensive player get by me because I don’t cover as much horizontal space. Any ideas on how I can correct this?

I’ve tried telling myself while playing, “move horizontally” but it’s really not a movement you can consciously think about before executing. I only play intramural ball but I’m very competitive and I want to improve my game. Thanks!

Good defense comes from sound fundamentals and good anticipation. I am not the fastest guy on the court, but when I play pick-up ball I either get assigned to the smallest guards or the strongest post players.

If you are having trouble keeping guys in front of you, give them a little extra space. A few things to remember: DO NOT play defense with your hands. Keep an athletic base and slide to where you need to go. If I want to go to my right, I pick up my right foot and drive hard with my left. Do not get your feet crossed up, try to remain in that athletic position.

The Better Basketball videos have some good demonstrations of this on their Defense DVD. Practice by putting your hands behind and just work on working side to side, then back and to the side. Then use your arms to help you move to where you want to go. Have a friend or someone dribble against you and work on staying in front of them.

Anticipation comes in knowing your opponent. I played against a guy all the time who was alot quicker than me. What I realized was he liked to drive down to the baseline and pull up for a shot. This was his bread and butter. So I just started beating him to where he wanted to go.

I’d get there first and make him pick up his dribble. Because I was all over him he wouldn’t shoot so he had to pass, or put up a bad shot. I could go on and on, but if you have anymore specific questions, just ask.

What your friend said is right in a sense. The goal is not actually horizontal movement. It’s to keep your man the same distance from the basket and not allow him closer. The way to do this is to imagine a circle (like the 3pt arc) with its center in the hoop. Technically speaking, here’s what I’ve found to work:

  1. Foot speed - I’ve found that there’s nothing like jumping rope for this. Focus on decreasing the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground. This is a speed exercise so nothing more than 30 seconds at a time. I do 20 seconds on 20 seconds off. Do as many difficult foot movements as you can (Xs, wide outs, one leg, alternate, two feet).

  2. Aggressive defense - You have to intimidate your man. It’s not just about getting to the spot, although that’s the most legitimate type of aggressive D. When you’re going to make contact, expect it and brace yourself so he feels the impact. When you have the upper hand in terms of stamina, just get up in his face and be a general pain in the ass.

  3. This is a situation where you need to keep your cool. An important part of this is getting your body ready to move before you need to. Don’t stand still when he’s running at you. Get your feet moving before he gets to the point where you know he’s going to get past you. Happy feet: get in Defensive position, on your toes, and start tapping your feet. Pick a side to force him towards.

Hope that helps. For what it’s worth I’m a D3 ball player. I’m a shooting guard and am relatively big (mass and height) for my position in my conference, so this was unbelievably important to me.

Thanks for the great replies!

I love when people quicker then me guard me. One fake and their gone.

I won’t repeat what is said above, all good sound advice. For a quick fix to use while you are working on the above stuff. Just handcheck. Its intramurel ball so the refs usually aren’t top notch, do it till you get called on it.

The best way to do it is always keep one hand up and one hand in to tip any crossover dribble. With that hand thats in, you keep it right on the opposing players hip (Cuz this is a good place to tip a crossover). For a guy to blow by you he has to square up his hips, without making it obvious just put some pressure on the hip when he goes to turn it to slow it up.

As long as you don’t extend much, and your hand is right there to begin with, even real refs will have a hard time seeing it, let alone some intramurel ref. Do that while you work on your foot work until you don’t need to anymore.

I used it for 4 yrs of hs ball (I am a bonafide center who played @ a small school in a man only defense kind of team). I spent 4 yrs chasing kids who should be guards around and doing that was the only way not to get beat (I have a slow first step).

Work to improve and get better, but until then you can use this to keep up.

Good luck with it.

Your post reminded of this article:

http://inno-sport.net/First%20Step%20Quickness.htm

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
I love when people quicker then me guard me. One fake and their gone.
[/quote]
I am much quicker than most people but they cannot fake me so easily. Quickness with no control is worse than not being quick. I am sure if someone is a good defender, and quick (under control), you cannot fake them just because they are quick.

To the OP, what you are focusing on when you are defending. I focus on their midsection. I don’t focus the ball or their upper body. Think about the cross over…almost everything is heading in one direction except for their hips…the hips are more dependable when trying to defend someone.

I have always been a great defender both in high school and the leagues I have played in over the years. My teams usually stick me on the best ball handler to try and shut down the offense. I won’t repeat what others have said so there is my 2 cents.

Ok…one last thing…do you want to be a good defender? I love playing defense and most great defenders have a big desire to play defense and shut down as many people as possible. If you don’t have that passion for defense it may be tough.

There are definitely some technical aspects to this that a lot of other posters have addressed.

I’ve wondered about this area for a while from a power standpoint. I’ve usually had a great first step forward and lateral. I do all the usual drills on a basketball courts for lateral quickness, like all manner of shuffle drills. They’ve always helped me. I think those are great at working your abductors and adductors to move your feet sideways into place quickly.

The question I’ve always wondered is, can you do anything off the court, in the weightroom, to improve lateral power (aside from the usual staple of DL, squats, Oly, etc.)?

Something to really target that first reaction step as a defender where you have to push off and explode sideways to block the guy from going around you. I’ve tried things like side lunges, twisting lunges, and side squats to try to get some lateral push off action going. Does anyone have any exercises they think have helped improve their power moving laterally?

[quote]vbm537 wrote:
Airtruth wrote:
I love when people quicker then me guard me. One fake and their gone.

I am much quicker than most people but they cannot fake me so easily. Quickness with no control is worse than not being quick. I am sure if someone is a good defender, and quick (under control), you cannot fake them just because they are quick.

To the OP, what you are focusing on when you are defending. I focus on their midsection. I don’t focus the ball or their upper body. Think about the cross over…almost everything is heading in one direction except for their hips…the hips are more dependable when trying to defend someone.

I have always been a great defender both in high school and the leagues I have played in over the years. My teams usually stick me on the best ball handler to try and shut down the offense. I won’t repeat what others have said so there is my 2 cents.

Ok…one last thing…do you want to be a good defender? I love playing defense and most great defenders have a big desire to play defense and shut down as many people as possible. If you don’t have that passion for defense it may be tough.[/quote]

That’s great if they can not fake you but what i’ve seen in my lifetime all great defenders and quick people I see in the NBA and on the streets get faked out pretty easily. The difference is the great defenders recover VERY WELL.

Allen Iverson is terribly quick but people blow by him all the time because once you get around him he doesn’t give a fuck and goes running down the court. Most clips of bowen against great defenders he gets faked left and right so hard to the point I’ve seen him jump out the picture, but returns before the offensive person can get 1.5 steps towards the basket. I’ve seen bowen get pushed to the floor come back and block a shot. In fact Prince’s most famous block he recovered half the length of a basketball court.

OP
I didn’t mention any techniques because most of the above sounds good. However I do think the biggest seperator is the passion for defense. Thats what gives you the desire to recover.
When you get this desire you find you will want to guard the best person every time you play. This creates a cycle of getting better.

A good way to get better is in pick-up games try to stay on people like white on rice. I mean get right up on them. it will be hard at first but soon nobdoy will be able to leave you. This will increase your endurance, and instinct. And if you are quick and can jump high you can let people get a step on you then come back and block or steal the ball. Dwayne wade is Excellent at it. Watch his clips.

[quote]beans wrote:
There are definitely some technical aspects to this that a lot of other posters have addressed.

I’ve wondered about this area for a while from a power standpoint. I’ve usually had a great first step forward and lateral. I do all the usual drills on a basketball courts for lateral quickness, like all manner of shuffle drills. They’ve always helped me. I think those are great at working your abductors and adductors to move your feet sideways into place quickly.

The question I’ve always wondered is, can you do anything off the court, in the weightroom, to improve lateral power (aside from the usual staple of DL, squats, Oly, etc.)?

Something to really target that first reaction step as a defender where you have to push off and explode sideways to block the guy from going around you. I’ve tried things like side lunges, twisting lunges, and side squats to try to get some lateral push off action going. Does anyone have any exercises they think have helped improve their power moving laterally?[/quote]

I read this when studying speed a while back those who are fast running forward are fast running sideways too.

All that stuff will increase your lateral speed a tad, but if you don’t have exceptional speed going forward don’t expect it going sideways.

Jumping rope will increase your reaction timing. And keep you light off your feet.

all out sprinting for a 1 minute from sideline to sideline or baseline to freethrow will help alot. Specially if you make it a point to touch the lines with your hands, turning around and EXPLODING off the blocks.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
Allen Iverson is terribly quick but people blow by him all the time because once you get around him he doesn’t give a fuck and goes running down the court. Most clips of bowen against great defenders he gets faked left and right so hard to the point I’ve seen him jump out the picture, but returns before the offensive person can get 1.5 steps towards the basket. I’ve seen bowen get pushed to the floor come back and block a shot. In fact Prince’s most famous block he recovered half the length of a basketball court.
[/quote]

I don’t think Allen Iverson gives a shit about defense. To be a good defender I believe you have to really love defending. And your point about Bowen seems to contradict what you initially said. Either way…I see your point. There are some dumb debates on this site (I don’t want to get caught up in one) so I will agree to slightly disagree with you and slightly agree with you.

Also make sure you create the right force vector by maintaining a positive shin angle for the leg opposite the direction you want to go (that is, for the foot you push off). When moving laterally to your left, this means that your right knee should be closer to the center of your body than your right ankle is.