Fast breaking out of the NBA lockout
All I remember hearing during the time the NFL labor dispute overlapped with the NBA lockout is how NFL team defenses were going to be so far ahead of their offensive counterparts. Mini-camps and voluntary team workouts the lockout wiped away were important for both established and young players alike to develop rhythm and knowledge of their team’s system. The lockout then cut into a significant portion of preseason training camp, but the vast majority of the preseason was preserved. Still, the damage was done. The only offenses in good shape were to be the ones with continuity in both coaching staff and player personnel.
Then they started the games. Turns out, the offenses were fine and the defenses were lagging behind. Some teams, like the New England Patriots, came out guns blazing and decided to test defenses by going no huddle. Mainly because the Patriots are a bunch of jerks. Or so people would have you believe.
But that no-huddle, sprint offense put pressure on opponents who ran the risk of being 1) out of shape and in desperate need of the 30 second or so break between plays, 2) sketchy on their knowledge on where to be in different situations and/or 3) out of shape mentally, which is really a combination of both 1 and 2. Last week, though, there were only five times when teams went no-huddle. Those teams scored touchdowns all five times (Note: Sorry, I can’t find the post where I read that stat, so take it with a grain of salt).
The NBA faces a far dire labor situation with training camps and 43 preseason games already cancelled. A few more weeks and opening week games are on the chopping block. When things do finally settle and there’s a season, NBA teams will run through a compressed training camp and preseason slate, and eventually the games will get under way. If we learned anything from that 1999 season, it’s that conditioning and rhythm are a definite concern. And by conditioning, I mean players getting fat.
With this uncertainty there comes opportunity. The NBA could be in a similar situation to the NFL in that fortune favors the established. A streamlined preseason could limit the time some teams have to get in shape and refresh players’ knowledge of their team’s systems. Like columnists and analysts predicted in football, teams with little change on the rosters and coaching staffs may have an advantage.
The Spurs are one of those teams whose continuity will be a plus. Sure, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are a year older. For them, and guys like Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner, another year is considered a negative. But for everyone else, it’s one more year of experience. For the rest of the team, a no-huddle, 48 minutes of what-the-hell offense could be just what San Antonio needs to get out ahead of the competition. And Tony Parker, the catalyst for most of San Antonio’s combustion engine, is still just 29.
Though they haven’t started yet, the Spurs players are expected to begin informal preseason workouts in San Antonio soon. If the team can improve their conditioning to similar levels to what they would at a normal training camp, the Spurs could already have an advantage on at least half the teams in the league. And starting off the season like they did the last, coming out a a blistering pace (for them) and putting pressure on opposing defenses in order to score more easy baskets, could be necessary. Something to put the burden on opposing defenses in hopes they’ll be too slow, physically and/or mentally, to react correctly. It might be just what they need to overcome the potential Hoover Dam-sized roadblock the Rodeo Road Trip may present.
The Spurs do need to get back to their defensive roots, yes. In the playoffs, it’s all about which team can get stops while still scoring buckets. But the NBA lockout may present a unique opportunity to take advantage of the early season conditioning and rhythm problems other teams succumb to. If nothing else, when the Spurs fast break, they won’t have to worry about defensive players lying down and flopping. Except for Derek Fisher.