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Getting Open and Being a Threat Without the Ball

This is an excerpt from Basketball for Women-2nd Edition by Nancy Lieberman.

Getting Open and Being a Threat Without the Ball

In my opinion, trying to get open is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game of basketball. It involves a lot of player-to-player moves and a great deal of deception. The player guarding you might be a great defender. To get open, you must know how to use angles and change of pace, and you must understand where you are on the court and how you're being guarded.

In this chapter, you'll learn effective ways to change your pace, use angles, and establish your position. This takes hard work, determination, patience, and intelligence. By using fakes, screens (picks), and cuts, you can free yourself to get to the position you want. This enables you not only to get open, but also to find a good shot.

Setting Screens

Being able to set a good screen is essential. By setting an effective screen, you will enable your teammate to get free for a potential scoring opportunity. In many cases, you, the screener, will also get an open shot. With so much happening on the court—especially when using motion offenses, the flex, or spread offenses—setting a simple screen is no longer the only way to be effective, but it's part of executing the developing play.

To set a screen, you first need to identify the person you will screen. Once you have identified your target, begin with a jump stop, staying low and leveraged with your knees bent (figure 6.1). Maintaining this balanced position, cross your arms at chest level. You must set up in a stationary position to block the defender from the offensive player who is trying to get open. Square up to your opponent, setting the screen at chest level or under her chin.

Your screens will be much more effective if your teammates master the art of setting up the defense with a move in the opposite direction, followed by a hard cut off your screen. Here's my rule: When a teammate is screening for you, take two steps away from the screen before cutting to use it. This will allow a better screening angle for you to get open. Another effective way to set up the screen is to walk, then run. Walk your defender into the screen action, then run out of it. Conversely, running to a screen (specifically on a post pick-and-roll) can force the defense into motion and not allow them to be set.

The player with the ball must keep her dribble alive and be patient, giving her teammates time to perform screens effectively. When you screen for her, she must cut as close to you as possible (using the two-step rule mentioned previously) so the defensive player does not slip between. If the ball handler is on the outside, she'll find the open shot. If she's on the inside, she'll drive hard to the hoop. Always be alert and look for a return pass; if the ball handler drives, she may pass up the shot and make the pass to you for the score.

Reading the defense is yet another aspect of learning how to screen. If you are setting a screen on a smaller player, she will most likely fight over the screen. If all of the players involved in the screen are of similar height, the defenders may choose to switch. You might even set a brush screen, rubbing off the defender. You must try to create confusion for the two defenders as they determine whether to switch or not. This is part of the reason why an offense uses screens. Next, we'll discuss what you should do after you set a screen.

Roll to the Ball

After you set a screen, you should perform a reverse pivot as you see your teammate going off your screen. Then roll to the side that the ball handler is traveling toward. See how the defense plays the screen. If the defense switches on the screen and you have a smaller player on you (we call this “a mouse in the house”), you should automatically roll to the front of the rim. Own the paint! If you are in front of your defender after the screen, again, roll to the basket. You have the lane, and the defense is behind you. If the defense has played the screen smartly and sagged into the lane, you might stay high and look for a pass for a shot (we call this a pick-and-pop). You can't predetermine the situation. You have to read your options. If the screen is solid, the defense will be forced to switch. You could potentially have a mismatch. If the defense has jumped to the ball handler and gotten over the screen, you should keep rolling. You might receive a quick pass as you go to the basket. Or you might be able to set a second screen if your teammate can set up her defender. Always have your hands ready to catch the pass. Try to keep the defense on your back. Use your body to shield a defender who is trying to front you. Be a big, wide target.

Screen and Roll

If the defense is not alert or is not communicating, a blind screen can be quite effective for your team and a bit painful for your opponent. The idea behind the screen-and-roll is to provide a teammate with an open shot. It is difficult for defenders to both guard their own opponent and watch for other offensive players getting in their way. This creates confusion and communication problems for the defense. Any split-second delay could create the desired shot for the offense.

To execute this option, move to either side of the defensive player who is guarding the ball handler and perform a jump stop to gain good balance. Remember, when setting the screen, you should first run to the point of the action, then remain stationary with your feet spread shoulder-width apart for proper balance. Place your arms across your chest to avoid being called for illegal use of hands.

The ball handler must then use the two-step rule to set up the screen; she then steps foot to foot with you (as close as she can get to your screen, trying not to allow the defense to squeeze between, separate the two of you, and recover) as she begins to rub the defensive player into the screen (figure 6.2a). The ball handler continues to dribble with her head up to watch for you as she heads toward the basket. As the ball handler goes by you, you should use a reverse pivot and roll toward the basket (figure 6.2b). The ball handler reads the defense to determine whether to shoot, continue driving, or pass the ball. The success of this maneuver depends on the defender's reaction to the pick-and-roll. Remember, when setting a screen, always keep your eyes on the ball handler and be prepared to catch a quick pass.

As the ball handler uses your screen and goes by you, you should notice if the defenders have switched and if you have space. If so, you can “short roll,” and the player can pass the ball quickly to you. You can also “long roll” to the rim if the ball handler draws the defensive trap off the screen and pulls the defenders with her.

On either roll, use a reverse pivot and roll toward the basket. The only time you don't use the reverse pivot is when you are slipping the pick—that is, faking as if you are going to set the pick and then slipping to the basket to receive the pass. This is used before the defense can get into a trap.

Use nonverbal cues to let the ball handler know you are open. Use your hand to show her that you are open and where you want the ball thrown to you. If neither you nor the ball handler is open at this point, in many cases, you can rescreen on the other side. This takes great communication between teammates.

Step Out (Pick and Pop)

By reading the defense, you might see that the pick-and-roll isn't your best option. Let's say you have set the screen for your teammate, and her defender has gotten over the screen but is still trailing the play. Your defender might hedge out to keep the ball handler from turning the corner. Normally, you would pick and roll. But you see the defense clogging up the middle. Why go into traffic? Step away from the defense but stay within shooting range (figure 6.3). Be ready for the pass. Take the shot if you're open. If the defense takes away the pop, revert back to the screen-and-roll!

Read more about Basketball for Women, Second Edition by Nancy Lieberman.

More Excerpts From Basketball for Women 2nd Edition