Ettore Messina clinic notes on pick & roll offense & defense

European legend Ettore Messina recently put on a zoom ball-screen clinic on both offense and defense during the COVID break.  Not only has Messina been a head coach at countless EuroLeauge powerhouses, Ettore has also had a wealth of experience from working in the NBA, most notably under Gregg Popovic. The EuroLeague is a half-court league with lot’s of ball-screens. Below are my notes on Messina’s ball-screen put on during the COVID break.

Ball-screen Offense

  • Pick and roll is used to create an advantage and start a drive & kick game. Teach your guys to read and react. As a coach you cannot have them read too much. He does not want to joystick his players.
  • 3 most important passes to master
    • Pocket pass to a short roller
    • The pass behind (the throw back)
    • The skip pass to opposite corner
  • Spacing and timing are the most important things to offense
    • Spacing – use the corners in pick and roll
      • Adjust the spacing in the course of the action. Depending which way the ball is going we should occupy the corner, have a throw-back, and have a skip option.
      • Any time a big pops, the other big will be cutting to the rim or ducking in
      • Vs aggressive defense – look for throw ahead pass
      • Vs soft defense – get downhill and look throw behind or pocket
    • Timing – everything happens while something else is finishing
      • For example. Pass the ball while guy is getting open, not once he’s open.
      • Timing keeps your advantage that you created earlier on in the possession
      • .5 – spurs terminology. While the ball is in the air anticipate if you have an open shot, drive, or swing. You have half a second to make a play.
  • Screening
    • Setting up the screen – set the defense – reject the screen
      • Always spend time on this. Don’t skip over this
    • Screening angles
      • Screen with your top shoulder. Or on the ass of the defender.
        • If it’s a bad shooter and they want to go under
        • Vs switch so you are already under the switch for the pocket pass
  • Vs aggressive ballscreen D (hedge / next / anything with doubling the ball)
    • Throw ahead pass
    • Big needs to roll diagonally to the middle of the paint so it’s harder to stand up the roller
    • 4 man sets it – short roll – 5 in dunker spot – look high low
    • Vs aggressive ice
      • If 5 sets it flip screen and look for throw ahead pass
      • If 4 sets it pop and 5 either dives to rim or ducks in from dunker spot
  • Vs softer defense (drop / veer / soft ice)
    • Vs drop or next coverage
      •  throw behind is a great look vs drop
      • When the ball-handler comes off and there are two guys in vision of the way he’s driving (wing & corner) baseline guy cut as soon as he comes off the screen, and wing sprint to baseline. Take advantage of their stunt
      • Re-screen is always a good option vs drop
  • Vs switch
    • Direct pass from ball-handler inside should always be a look
    • Look high low as much as you can vs switch and mismatch because it’s tougher to flood from weak-side, it is an easier pass, and prevents the triple switch.
    • Big needs to roll diagonal to create angle and tougher to triple switch
      • Guard needs to keep the switch guy engaged. Can’t back up
    • Set a great screen, keep the switch on your back and get a pocket pass
  • Spend 20-30 minutes per day on skill development. Teach these fundamentals to your guys because it will make your offense better and it will build trust with your guys because it shows you want to get them better.

Ball-screen defense

  • If the key to offense is spacing and timing, defensively you want to take that away Take away their spacing (crowd certain areas) and break their timing (denial of some passes, hitting ball-hander, fronting catches)
  • Guarding the ball-handler
    • Get up into the offensive player. Key at any level, take up the space between defender and ball-handler. Crowd his hip and force one way. Don’t jump to space, jump to the hip.
      • After the ball-screen guard’s hand needs to be low early to take away pocket pass. After that he needs to have high hands for hook pass.
    • Stay in the play – guard needs to keep competing
      • If the guard sees the back of his guy he needs to drop into the bigs leg’s to keep him off the boards
  • Late switch & triple switch
    • Turns it into 2on2 rather than involve 4-5 players. Limits rotation
    • Don’t switch unless it’s below the FT line (between logo and charge circle), Or if it’s a pop for a shooter
      • When late switching a pop the guard should go on the 2nd dribble. Earlier the better on this switch
    • Triple switch is safer from the weak-side than the strong side
    • Do you want to triple switch late in the clock? Or late? It’s hard to work the post up advantage, but there is still rebound advantage.
  • Ice
    • Jump switch handoffs on the side to keep it on a side
    • Send to weak hand in middle of the floor
      • When going to weak hand big needs to be higher so he can’t cross back over to his strong hand
    • Is the screener a shooter or non-shooter?
      • Non-shooter or lesser shooter pops
        • Big recovers to his own guy – with stunts
      • Shooter pops
  • Drop
    • Creates situations where the guards will attack your big
    • Top guy on a loaded side needs to bump the roller. Even if you are on a good shooter you can do it
      • On a single side you need to have the corner defender bump the roller high. If you stay level of baseline you have no chance to get back to shooter
    • Need to be ready to late switch
  • Blitz
    • Zone up on the back-side during the trap. You can even stay zoned up after the trap
    • You can either keep the blitz, or on the retreat dribble run back and switch
    • Have to be ready to x out and rotate on back-side
  • Other notes
    • Big needs to go vertical on the strong shoulder of the offensive player.
    • Be on the line of the ball-handler to your guy. Push your guys to be higher on the wings. The less your corner guys need to help, the better
  • Zone
    • Funnel the ball to the middle up top
    • Side pick and roll forced the ball to the side. Once the ball got dribbled towards the center they fanned out

At the end he made this point, which is very thought provoking.

  • Vs switch you need offensive players that can go score, and it probably won’t be a 3 or a layup…. You need to be able to make a midrange jump shot vs the switch. It’s what the defense gives you.

If you read this far you want to become a better coach. Here are 3 links to help:

  1. Here is another clinic that uses European concepts from another mastermind – Mike D’antoni
  2. Read sprawlball and understand what kind of shots you want to take or give up
  3. Read Culture Code and Talent Code to understand what it takes to develop talent and create a culture that cultivates it

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