Thursday, August 23, 2007

Offensive "tells"

I played a game of one-on-one basketball yesterday against my best friend. He was much better at basketball than me when we were younger. By the time we reached high school we were pretty even, but I might have had a slight advantage. These days, I have a bit of an unfair advantage--I'm five inches taller and outweigh him by 60 pounds. That doesn't mean I always win, but it certainly gives me an edge.

Despite the fact that I've been playing my friend for 25 years now, it really wasn't until yesterday that I noticed that he takes a full step forward on his jump shot (right leg starts behind his left leg, and then he steps forward so that his right foot is in front before he jumps). It's a fairly deliberate step, and one he doesn't make when continuing his dribble (or when he's shooting from inside the 3-point line). Having noticed this "tell," I was able to block a few of his 3-point attempts off the dribble (this "tell" didn't help if he hadn't used his dribble yet because he could turn the step-forward into a jab-step and go). I've always been pretty good about figuring out "tells" for the people I'm guarding, but I'd never been able to pick one up for my friend before.

Finding this "tell" made me think: what "tells" do NBA players have? I don't just mean tendencies ("he likes to go right"); I mean actual "tells" (Player X always does a left-to-right crossover if he cups the ball in his left hand near his hip on the dribble). Even professional poker players often have "tells" (even if they're very subtle), so I can't imagine professional basketball players are completely immune. In one of the articles about Team USA (I can't remember which one, or I'd find it and link to it), Andre Igoudala made a comment about knowing what Kobe likes to do, but he wouldn't share it.

I think this is the sort of information that broadcasters could share during a broadcast to really give fans an inside look at the game--talk about the "tell," and then show both the play in slow-motion and in real-time. This would allow fans both to see the "tell," and also allow them to see how difficult it is for a defender to actually act on that knowledge during a game because of the speed at which the play occurs. At the very least, it would give fans a bit of insight beyond the usual blather that we get from announcers.

What other sorts of information do you wish announcers would give during games?

1 comment:

Louis said...

I would like commentators to pay more attention to defensive mistakes, forced passes, and general blunders that players make as well as the great switches, picks, and team play. They spend too much time talking only about a given team’s star and their statistics and not enough time discussing the team play.

As for your friend’s tell, I hope that he can find a way to minimize your discovery otherwise it will be difficult for him to swing the victory-pendulum back towards even.