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So you want more Xs and Os, eh?

By admin Published: April 23, 2007

I got a great deal of feedback on my column on Sunday, which was about two things.  One, it was my view of the five different levels at which people watch games.  Second, it was an in-depth breakdown of the Washington Wizards offensive and defensive sets including what the sets are called and how the Wizards signal them to each other.  If you have a second, give it a read, I hope you'll find it entertaining.


There's two things I've learned from reading the e-mail.  1. People overestimate where they rank on my scale (I mean my own mom said she ranked in the "educated fan" level.  I love you, mom, but you're a "casual fan.").  2. Many wanted more detail, craved it in fact, saying the wished the story go on longer.  Well, that's what the net is for.


This is ironic because I specifically watered down the content somewhat so as to not completely lose the reader.  My editors were concerned about too much basketball jargon.  Understand, I just consider myself on the third level, an "insider" as I call it, and the concepts I presented and will give you more of are from the fourth or "pro" level.  What I mean is, I don't get it all either.


WARNING...the following is not for the faint of heart, it is very complex.  If you leave now, no one will think less of you.


So here's some more.  Now, understand that many of these plays are run all across the league.  I'm sharing them with you not so much so you can understand how the Wizards play, but also just how in depth teams are in their systems.


When Eddie Jordan calls plays, they have two parts: the set and the play.  Mike Brown's often have three parts: The set, the players involved, and the play.  As I discussed in the column, the Wizards have five primary sets: Chin, Forwards Out, Basic, Power and Same Side.  As a note, the Wizards have other more basic sets not included in the five.  Jordan uses hand signals to call them.  He touches his chin for a "chin" set, wipes his forehead for "forwards out" and touches his ear for "same side" and so on.  The Cavs sets are called things like "thumb," "fist" and "early."


There are about 15 different plays for each.  As we get into the nitty gritty here, I'm just going to talk about what the Wizards do out of their "forwards out" set.  In general, when the point guard brings the ball up, the forwards will swing from the baseline out to the wings and pass the guards on the way.  Meanwhile the center often sets up around the foul line.


Before we continue, it is out of this play Zydrunas Ilgauskas got caught out of position a few times on Sunday when there was a back cut behind him because he was up on the foul line with Etan Thomas.  Moving on.


Normally, the play the Wizards run most out of this set is "Forwards Out 15."  It is when there is a dribble hand off (known as a DHO in NBA jargon and further in our discussion here) on the wing.  It means the point guard passes off the dribble to a swinging forward and then there's a middle pick-and-roll at the top of the key.  As a note, the Wizards' favorite play with Gilbert Arenas is called "Chin 15."  Chin is a two guard out front set and 15 is...anyone, anyone...a middle pick-and-roll.


There's "forwards out strong" which is a DHO into a post up.  There's "forwards out slash," when after  the DHO the ball is dribbled across the court and the other "forward out" runs a backdoor basket cut.   Not to be confused with "forwards out slash 2," where both a guard and forward cut backdoor.  There's "forwards out fist," which is a DHO into a side pick and roll.


There's "forwards out reverse" which is a DHO followed by a reverse dribble to a post up.  And "forwards out keep," where there's a fake DHO and the guard goes to the rim.  Plus "quick fist" where there's an wlbow pick and roll for top guard.  That's a play the Cavs run as well.  Then the Wizards will run combination sets, going from a side DHO into a two-guard set and then run pick and roll or post up action out of "chin."


Tired yet?  I am.  And that's still barely 10 percent of the Wizards attack.  But I hope it is enough for my point.

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