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The pick and roll, triple post, and you

Jim Cleamons with Phil Jackson When the Finals roll around, quality access to players and head coaches can be tough to come by, but if there's a perk to the media circus it's that getting time with assistant coaches- guys who often give you more candid and detailed answers than their bosses- is relatively plentiful.  Friday afternoon, I had a chance to talk with Lakers assistants Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw for a few minutes, and heard some good stuff. 

First, Cleamons. 

There's no question the Lakers have operated at a very high level offensively over the last 10 or so quarters, but the manner in which LA tore up Orlando in Game 1 Thursday night wasn't the same as their approach against Denver in Games 5 and 6 in the Western Conference Finals. (I also talked to him during the Houston series.)  Thursday saw a seemingly endless stream of extremely effective Kobe-led pick and roll sets.  When people, be they commentators or fans, see that sort of thing, it's often described as working outside the normal parameters of the triangle offense. 

So I asked Cleamons if that was the case.  

Not at all, he said.  The pick and roll is an important and readily available option.  Cleamons recommended thinking of LA's offense as a department store.  Lots of different options and choices on every floor, some of which look very different but still existing as part of the same larger system.  One common mistake, Cleamons said, was to lean on the term "triangle" to begin with. 

"Technically, it's the triple post.  Out of that, you move your players around and you create spacing for them to play.  And out of that, two man basketball is just part (of the game).  You can play two man basketball- i.e. the pick and roll- all the time.  All you have to do is call a guy out, "come set me a pick."  We stay away from it a lot because we like the spacing (of other options) and to let guys play, but it's just like on the department store.  Floor number four, it's the pick and roll.  You have the opportunity to stop on four, or go to five- men's clothing, or appliances or whatever.  So it's all part of it."

So those who talk of the Lakers abandoning the triangle when they run a lot of pick and roll are missing the point?  Absolutely, Cleamons said.

"The triple post is an offensive system.  And in that system, you've got all these components.  We've got the post up, that's part of it.  Most teams have plays.  We believe you can stop a play.  But the triple post is a system, and out of the system you can pick and choose where you want to go, when you want to go, based on who has the basketball, who you want to attack defensively, and what your whole game plan is in how you want to weave this thing together."

"No matter what happens, there's an option."

At this point, Cleamons has a sparkle in his eye and was pretty animated, at least by his standards.  From a temperament standpoint, Cleamons is about as calm and thoughtful a man as you'll meet.  Philosophically, though, he appreciates the larger purpose of of what they try to do offensively, and the quality of basketball it can produce. 

I note his energy in talking about the team's basketball philosophy, and Cleamons smiles.   

"I get excited because if you have an opportunity to learn the triple post- and it's not difficult to learn.  It's like going from an elementary primer book to maybe a college book- but if you've learned basketball, and I'll use the word, quote-unquote, "correctly," rather than (run a) play here, a play here, a play here, because it is a system, the triple post will expand your basketball ability and ability to play.  It won't hinder you at all.  But you have to be willing to understand that it is a system and it might take you time to learn it.  But once you do, there's a whole new world that opens up to you."

Okay, the leap from elementary school to college seems a little burly to me, but I understand his larger point.  And it does seem to require a certain openness, especially for new players coming in (see Brown, Shannon as an example of a guy who came in with the right attitude and approach), but in the hand of talented players it can be a beautiful thing to watch.

After Thursday's win, Luke Walton was asked if the Lakers are currently operating at a level of efficiency and execution unmatched during his tenure in LA.  "Yeah.  We might have played a well, but definitely not better.  We're constantly getting good shots, and that's all you ask from your offense," Walton said.  "To get high percentage and then by the end of a game, you're going to normally end up winning, if you constantly get high percentage shots and then get the other team to take contested ones."

I can't believe Orlando will shoot under 30% for the rest of the series.  Their shots will fall, Dwight Howard will have better nights, and so on.  But when the Lakers are clicking offensively as were over the last three games, they're nearly impossible to stop. And if Kobe's current level of intensity translates to performances similar to the one he had in Game 1, forget about it.  That puts an enormous amount of pressure on the Magic to score in bunches. 


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The triangle option is a triple post game.

When the Lakers utilize the pick and roll option, its a two man game.

And when they run the appliance option, that's when they hit them with the kitchen sink and the refrigerator. Like they did in game 1. Nice game plan!



that's what i said. pick and roll(the Lakers call it screen and roll) is part of the triangle offense.

thanks for clearing this up BK!

Good stuff, BK. When Either you or AK get a chance to talk with Cleamons, he always has some really insightful stuff to say. But I have one question.

What about the second part with B Shaw?

Just wanted to say... K's, Great interview and article. Keep it going! Happy to see that Coach Cleamons is just as focused, psyched and prideful as we all are for our Lakers and staff, family, and community.


ESPN speaks on LBJ.

They then publish an article before the Finals stating that Kobe is entering his "twilight years" and that this Championship is not as much "due" as it is "overdue".

They then suggest that LBJ is taking unfair heat for his actions and on-court performance.

He had a pimple in his mouth, removed from recent surgery - "he's safe and sound, recovering well in the hospital".

A Finals game 1 to remember ensues.

Kobe unleashes a new, now trademark, snarl. The look of the assassin.

Jordan's tongue now relegated to folk-lore and bedtime stories.


2 days before the game.


Jon Barry almost inaudibly speaks..

"Kobe Bryant still has a lot to prove."

The volume mutes slowly.

The TV fades to black.

It's dark and quiet.

It's time.

The Mamba lurks.

The International Committee for Basketball Brilliance (ICBB)

If it's Chick Hearns's refrigerator in the appliance department, it must be pickle and roll! I'm sure Faith will remind us that there are still three more fridge doors to close, but Plaschke may well be right when he says that it'll be a three game series (the fourth being a ceremonial dress rehearsal... in Orlando... for the Figueroa parade).

Has anyone noticed a parallel between the Lakers (Kobe) and Roger Federer? Towards the end of the Houston series everyone was writing the Lakers off as soft, wobbly and lacking the killer instinct, maybe not even making it to the conference finals. The Cavs and Lebron (Nadal) were about to parade to the new championhsips, in Cleveland and Paris, by divine right. The Lakers (and Federer's) time had come and gone. Even though Federer showed some life on his way to Roland Garros by beating Rafa on Madrid's clay (like the two Lakers victories over Cleveland in the regular season), everyone was saying the French Open belongs to the new MVP (number 1), who had never lost a match here and who replaced Federer last year as number 1.

So what do we see during this first weekend in June? Federer about to take his 14th grand slam (to equal Sampras) and the Lakers about to win their 15th NBA championship, which will still put us two behind Boston. Federer could then hit 15 at Wimbledon.

And what about Lebron and Nadal on this same weekend? Both left behind to watch the respective festivities on TV!

I have no doubt both Lebron and Rafa will be back, but their aura has been tarnished and the mythic qualities of the senior citizens, Kobe and Federer, are back in the spotlight. But where will we see Lebron develop? In NY, with all the hype and uncertainty that will entail, or rotting away in Cleveland? Will anyone find a way of building a championship around Lebron, who quite possibly can't function as efficiently with another superstar or All Star on his team (he and his ego need to be the focus of practically every play) but at the same time can't win a championship without one? Maybe we'll see Shaq replacing Ben Wallace next season, but allow me to doubt the chemistry and the health of that combination.

As for Rafa, I suspect that at 22 (2 years younger than Lebron!) two things are working against him: his knees and the adjustment of other top players to his style of play, which is so intensely physical and relies on his ability to leverage the power of his arms and legs even when executing desperate defense as he tracks down balls most players wouldn't even try to run after. He won't lose his exquisite sense of timing and his fabulous muscular control, but already a number of players have worked out how to vary their game in order to force errors.

One other parallel strikes me after Game 1. It's between Howard in his first finals game and the young Shaq in his first All-Star game. The length of the Western big men spoiled Shaq's All Star début, leaving him frustrated and practically scoreless in a game he thought would be his personal dunkarama. He even whined about it afterwards, thinking All Star games weren't about skill but just putting on a show.

We all know that Shaq was never humiliated again in an All Star game and accomplished quite a lot (thanks to the assistance of Kobe and Wade) in his career. In the same way, Howard will not be so apparently helpless in game 2. He will definitely be back and game 2 may be very different, even if he now realizes that his Superman cape has been Stapled to the floor; he'll shed his cape and try to find a new balance without it.

I see the major differences in Game 2 as being:

a) more leeway (but not too much) given by the Lakers for Howard to score in the low post while both maintaining strong pressure on the outside shooters and creating just enough doubt inside to disrupt Orlando's rhythm,

b) Kobe returning part time to his decoy role as Orlando finally decides to double team him more consistently and eventually runs into the same kind of problem Denver had when they ended up hesitating between the two and getting lost in the middle.

One final curious parallel with tennis: The name "Orlando" is the Spanish translation of "Roland" (Garros). The Roland Garros Open finishes tomorrow. I expect that a Lakers victory the same Sunday will pretty much finish Roland in Florida.

One final bit of trivia: Ronny Turiaf has been seen as a spectator at Roland Garros this week. I don't know whether TP and any other French NBAers have been in the stands. I do know (as we all do) that Mickael Pietrus wasn't able to book a seat. It's all Lebron's fault for not sticking to the plan and cancelling Mickael's vacation!

There was a quote I read in the SI Vault just recently, it was about Kobe entering the NBA.

I think it's a total mistake," says the Boston Celtics' director of basketball development, Jon Jennings, who opposes any schoolboy's going pro. " Kevin Garnett was the best high school player I ever saw, and I wouldn't have advised him to jump to the NBA. And Kobe is no Kevin Garnett."

It's weird how Kevin Garnett is now in Boston but, I wonder if he still thinks the same way about Kobe now??


I don't know if you guys are familiar with those commercials on NBA TV for "Better Basketball", J Kidd and Billups are endorsers, I believe they call it a Read and React offense. How comparable is that offense to the triple post offense? Are they the same in any regard or am I way off? Just wondering, thanks.

The triple post is a beautiful thing. We are running it well.

If Orlando loses the next game, it is all over. If they win, we have a horse race.

Lets have triple - post beauty all game long!

HOW IS TEX "Triple Post" Winters DOING?

Run it for him!


And when they run the appliance option, that's when they hit them with the kitchen sink and the refrigerator. Like they did in game 1. Nice game plan! Posted by: ChicNstu | June 05, 2009 at 11:17 PM

LOL Good One ChicNsTU!


I definitely think Game 2 will be tighter - probably more like the first quarter on Thursday vs. Q's 2 nad 3.

Hopefully, the Lakers will not get too comfortable basking in the glory of the Game 1 blow out and come out with equal intensity. I'm thinking they will - they are close to the finish line and can probably see it/taste it/smell it, but this is likely the key game. Win it, go up 2-0 and it will very difficult for Orlando. Lose it and make it 1-1 and now you're in some trouble.

for me the news from game 1 was the defensive efficiency of the Lakers..

bad dreams of kobe and fish and a series of (late) chases out to the 3 point line against the likes of Pietrus and Turkoglu kept me awake at night.

but game 1 brought a well conceived defensive game plan that exposed Howard's weaknesses and kept their 3 point brigade in check.

exactly how'd they do that?

more importantly...can they do it again Sunday?

is there a conversation with an assistant coach that can enlighten us Kbros?

So much analysis on TV or in print offers us nothing more than what most of us already know. Thanks for bringing us some understanding and insight that I did not know.

Nice topic, great interview with Jim. I really liked his department store analogy. Right now I'm kind of seeing Orlando as Filene's basement during a fire sale.

I was checking out some different papers and there seems to be a quickly developing rift between Van Gundy and Rafer.

Seems to me that the Magic have no chance of winning without significant contributions from the PG, and I don't see Alston giving them that. Nelson probably won't, but there is at least a slight chance. Along with that, though, there is also a chance that playing him extended minutes will throw off the chemistry, and make things worse than if he wasn't playing at all. Not playing him at all would have been the easy way out. I think playing him was the right decision; although it will be second-guessed if they don't win the title.

Shaq is on the roll again. He told Yahoo Sports that he wants to come back to the Lakers. In that same interview, he belittled the Centers before him that may include the Cap, Wilt & Mikan and dissed out Dwight Howard. He hopes that Orlando is swept by the Lakers in order to preserve his own record when he was with the Magic.

~~Wow, what kind of NBA players have we raised in this league? One is a sore loser and this retiring one is an individual hungry for attention. In a recessionary times when people are out of work, losing homes, w/ decreased retirement savings, it is despicable to learn that people who have the means are still not contented with their stature. It is bad example of what is real vs. make-believe commercials and symbolism being promoted that NBA Cares. Well, it is just an exhibit 1 of the generation of David Stern and the Media, akin to glorified commercialism, sensationalism in chase of ratings, exploiting the new technology that promotes greed on sports figures. It is monarchy in another perspective. It would be a great if there is also a "recession" on players' salaries to hundredth thousand level instead of multimillion in order to bring everyone back to earth.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a diehard laker fan but why everybody think the lakers won game 1, the magic gave it to them. They missed wide open shots. We would have lost the game if they went in, so much for the defense, all lakers were collapsing on 1 guy (howard) and neglecting the other 4. if this happen again in game 2 we will loose by 25 or more points, they wont miss this time.

and yes can anybody tell the lakers coaching staff to please stop playing Farmar and Shasha. these 2 are a liability. Brown proved to be a very good substitute and for the love god why not give a chance to Morrisson, he may actually help a lot in 3 points and rebounds. he can't be worst than the 2 stooges who cannot defend, rebound, drible or shoot.

My fellow Laker fans a reminder on an old axiom of Yogi - it is not over till it's over. Please don't be quick in dismissing Orlando after witnessing the first game. I know your fan dome is oozing again and can't wait to meet the euphoria of Championship ecstasy. Enjoy the game and its process, why jump into conclusions? There is still Game 2 to be played and the Orlando series, don't jinx the Lakers march to invincibility. We want a parade, however we need to labor more to get to that parade route. Let's keep on praying for a W and maintain our utmost respect of Orlando. Win Game 2 for the indefatigable efforts of Jeanie Buss.


The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind! Great movie but not the GHF celebration one might expect from the title and a rare appearance by Jim Carrey among my favorite flicks. Also not a bad blog name for a poster who is an eternal optimist. Nice segue, Andy.

Like Jim Carrey clutching his fading memories of Kate Winslet, Lakers fans are hanging on to these last pre-championship days with high hopes of rings and quiet fears of withdrawal heading into the long, hot, cold-turkey days of summer without a Lakers roundball fix.

Only an NBA championship will keep the blog and its Lakerholics from falling into a state of self-mutilating anguish and despair over the summer. Only the successful launch of the Lakers Fourth Dynasty can assuage our fears and restore our placidity as basketball fans. Call it the Championship fix because it will keep us humming and high until autumn.

As for letting yesterday go, that is nothing more than another modern sports media cliché. The only way we know tomorrow is here is when today becomes yesterday. It’s like saying that there is no such thing as momentum and each game is its own island, which I never bought because basketball, like life, is a seamless continuum with all interconnected.

The Lakers know this. They know the Magic can play better. They respect what the Magic have accomplished to get here. They know that Dwight Howard is a beast. But to think that they don’t KNOW they are the better team or that they don’t KNOW that there is no way that Orlando can defeat them if they play their game would be incredibly naïve. The Lakers know they have the formula for victory and now just playing out the set.

The worrywarts and naysayers say do not forget last season or underestimate the Magic. But last season might as well have been the last century as far as these Lakers are concerned. What counts is the way the Lakers have been playing the last 3 games. Keep playing like that for 3 more and the Lakers will win their 15th NBA Championship.


Edwin Gueco

I agree with you this time regarding Shaq. In my previous post I said that I do not have a problem with Shaq being a Laker again but not anymore after that picture he posted on Dwight. Outside of Lakers players I like Dwight. It shows Shaq insecurities what he is doing to Dwight. Shaq never grew up he is still acting like an eight year old. He is not funny anymore and I would be very happy if he teams up with LBJ, they are bith immature.

Regarding the ESPN video regarding LBJ, I just wonder if these "experts" are still feeling the same way regarding LBJ after what happened in the ECF. During these times that you appreciate Kobe more. He does not the media's approval to show his greatness. He proves himself on the court that even the haters cannot hate anymore but appreciates the talent. Players should always remember that the media can create you and at the same time can destroy you.

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Bryant the leader,Gasol,Bynum & Odom at the post & at the defensive end=The championship trophy

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