Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Two Points Is...A Gift From the Heavens

Before I start, a word on Gerald Wallace. He is worth the price of admission. The man wreaks havoc like I've never seen in person. A dreadlocked bull in a China shop that is magnetized to contact, I fear he will either rip the rim off its hinges...or fall and not get back up. Onto the post...

I'm continuing to expand on why Basketball is about individual harmonies combined for one team goal. Last post, I used the Sam Young Grizzle Fake as a substantiation of how something so fundamental in the sport can be taken and embedded into one's Hoops Soul. Today, I'll outline something that is the inverse of that. More after the random picture...

At the beginning of the year, the fine folks over at FreeDarko linked to this insane clip of a HS team successfully connecting on the double-lob alley-oop. As Shoals wrote, it appears that there is some purpose to the passes because of how insane the timing is from start to finish. Like Sam's fake, this also is a microcosm of the fundamental makeup of the Realm of Basketball. It's always expanding, forever changing its parameters as its inhabitants discover and unlock new tendencies. There was a time, a time a little before mine, in which the alley-oop was only reserved for wide-open fast breaks; and because of that, was frowned upon by those who once played on peach baskets—the Bobby Knights of the world. Then, the implementation of the backside, backdoor lob came into existence as coaches began seeing the need to run offense above the rim. The latest (I can't say "new" because it's been around here for awhile) is the use of the pick-and-roll oop as a method of keeping big men interested in defense and rebounding.

As I'm sure you know, the leaders of this kind of oop are Chris Paul-to-Tyson Chandler and Jameer Hedo-to-Howard. But what has struck me as a little strange is the lack of illumination of some of the names of those that have been on the business end of the oop. For example, Chris Paul has no hesitation running this play for Sean Marks (okay, that wasn't an "oop," but I've seen it). Erick Dampier has rolled to the basket knowing a pass for him was on the way. Again, Chris Paul has thrown oop passes to Sean Marks. If that doesn't strike you as amazing, then I'll have to explain it a little more.

In Shoals' post, he expanded on the future of the alley-oop involving the backboard in a coordinated, super-McGrady-off-the-glass way. I'd like to examine two other aspects of the alley-oop's evolution. First, it's interesting to me just how the oop has become a resource. As I stated earlier, there was a time not too long ago that it was viewed as showboating and completely unnecessary. But as the game continues to discover more possibilities above the rim, the oop—especially the pick-and-lob to the big man—has been a way to get a cheap bucket. Even notorious antithesis of fun Coach K has dialed up a few baseline out-of-bounds tosses for his thoroughbred Gerald Henderson (finally). The alley-oop's foundation is that the recipient can out jump any defender. Just throw it up there.

Second, I've seen the alley-oop as a play that can only be done if a both the passer and dunker possess a certain flair in their respective games. What I mean is that there should never be such an occurrence as a, "boring alley-oop." That's why I think it too so long for true seven-footers to get involved in it. Only the ones with a bit of agility, rebelliousness, and pure swag, if you will, could properly execute a nice oop. Shaq was the blueprint, and ferocious dunkers like Howard and Chandler are the ones that add that necessary element of funk to it. Even Howard pauses in the air once he catches the pass to give it that extra emphasis that does the oop proper justice. Think about the Warriors of Oop—Wallace, Iguodala, and now Rudy F and Jamario Moon—all wingmen. The reason I believe swingmen get the most lobs is because they look the best doing it. They have the absurd hops and coordination, so it doesn't look like something from the bland mind of Tim Duncan. But they have enough height so it's a little more difficult for defenders to disrupt the catch. The Bobby Knights of the Basketball Universe would say, "two points is two points." But if that was the case, then the alley-oop wouldn't carry as much momentum as it does. It's awaken slumbering wing players and capped 14-2 runs in the third quarter. It's the reasoning behind the Blazers throwing lobs for Roy and Fernandez and not Joel Pryzbilla.

So the next time you see Josh Smith come down from the Heavens with a thunderous slam from a well-timed lob, remember that this sort of play was once banned and viewed as unimportant.


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