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Thoughts On the Princeton Offense

http://www.depressedfan.com/img/princetonoffense111409.jpg
Or at least the version of it I saw last night.

I was shocked, and quite frankly appalled to learn that the Sixers abandoned the PO after the first quarter in last night's game. When I read that quote from Kate Fagan's piece, I spent some time soul searching and trying to figure out why I didn't even realize they were running "typical" NBA sets. The simple answer is that I probably should have realized it, but the improved ball and player movement in the second half stood out so much I just assumed this was what the PO was supposed to do.

Since I now know they were only in the sets early on, I can more accurately assess what I saw from the PO. The first thing that struck me was the spacing. As soon as they crossed mid-court, the players were fanning out, essentially abandoning the lane and they seemed fairly disciplined in keeping their spacing. The only problem is that they weren't doing anything with it. The ball was sticking and the players were sticking. Kate talked about how players were failing to cut backdoor, instead faking backdoor cuts and then trying to show for a pass on the perimeter. Meanwhile, whoever had the ball simply pounded it into the floor, looking for opportunities that never came to be.

It seemed like Jordan recognized the problems, and tried to initiate offense in the post with Brand, Dalembert or Iguodala (once or twice). I remember one play where the floor was properly spaced, Williams fed Brand on the low left block, then filtered through the lane on the baseline. All the other players rotated along the perimeter, balancing the floor. Dalembert moved to the high post on the opposite side of the lane. This was pretty much perfect. Brand had an outlet, there was no one immediately available to double the ball in the post. Not surprisingly, Brand went one-on-one with Al Harrington and scored easily. I'm not sure how much the PO had to do with this possession, though. There was nothing intricate about it. It was basically exactly what the Sixers tried to do at the beginning of last season, only with better spacing.

The takeaway may be that this is the only aspect of the offense the team has really grasped. Floor balance and spacing. They don't know what cuts to make, they don't know when to make them. Strike that, it may be a bit harsh, let's say they aren't comfortable enough, as a unit, to know (a) what cuts to make and (b) what cuts their teammates will make in certain situations.

The result of this confusion (at worst) or lack of familiarity (if we're being charitable) leads to over-dribbling on the perimeter, passes that don't gain any kind of an advantage, and a rushed shot at the end of the shot clock.

If we're going to be honest, this is probably where they should be at this point. They should be just getting the hang of the offense. It should look stodgy and maybe a little hectic and indecisive, but there should be flashes right? Maybe 1 out of 10 plays you should nod your head and say, "I get it." "I see how this can work." I didn't have that feeling early in the game.

For me, though, there's a larger problem. This is the preseason. This is not the time to extend your studs past 30 minutes (Brand played 33 and Iguodala played 37) simply to make sure you get a W. While that sin is somewhat forgivable, I can find no logical reason whatsoever for eschewing the PO for three entire quarters. It makes no sense whatsoever. If the Sixers were going to struggle in the PO last night, fine. Let them take their lumps and work on what they were doing wrong within the offense. You don't say, "Well, we have to win this game, so just fall back on your old habits and get the W."

If the future of this team is tied to their ability to properly execute the PO, when are they going to learn it if not in the preseason? And let's not kid ourselves, if the Sixers aren't proficient enough in the offense to properly run it against this Knicks team, which under the best of circumstances is worse than most college defenses, in the preseason, there is an unbelievable amount of work to be done. As far as I'm concerned, the final 36 minutes of last night's game were a complete waste of time and energy.

On a bright note, Thad did have the dunk of the night:

by Brian on Oct 14 2009
Tags: Preseason | Princeton Offense | Sixers |