DALLAS – Any standard-issue basketball court already has a doodler’s dream worth of lines and stripes on it, from the free-throw lane and the 3-point arc to the sideline hashmarks and the semi-circle of the restricted zone.
But one end of the Dallas Mavericks’ practice floor inside American Airlines Center looks like some tagger decided to up the ante.
White stripes attached at both ends of the foul line angle down toward the baseline and out toward the corners, creating a very broad trapezoid of space. There are a pair of taped slashes that start at the 3-point line and extended several feet toward the basket, parallel and a bit wider than the lane.
Then there is a strange little hook of tape that runs from the baseline just left of the lane for about eight feet, angles toward and into the paint and cuts straight across the lane, stopping before it reaches the right side.
Some sort of crazy crop circles left by an alien life form? A remnant of Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson’s international hoops days?
Nope. Training tools. Very fresh ones, designed for Dallas’ defense in the playoffs.
The hook-shaped line left of the lane? A reminder of where Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles’ Pau Gasol liked to set up shop. Mavs big men were encouraged to keep their man outside of that crooked “L.”
“You practice to that,” Dallas assistant coach Dwane Casey said Sunday, after his team’s shootaround session in preparation for Game 3 of The Finals. “If a guy’s in there, get him outside the tape. What it does, it just gives guys a visual for where the post-up is.”
It would apply now to Miami’s Chris Bosh, too, except that the Heat don’t run nearly as many post-ups for Bosh as the Trail Blazers and the Lakers did for their guys.
The angled tape spreading out, foul line to the baseline? That indicates the area inside which Dallas might opt for double-teams defensively.
None of this is revolutionary stuff, and it certainly isn’t high-tech. It’s dependent on players getting comfortable and actually visualizing the guidelines in real games, when they’re not there.
“It’s nothing too unusual,” said Casey, a veteran assistant and head coach in previous stops. “We did it in Seattle, we did it in Minnesota, we do it here. In the old days, in Seattle, we used to do the quadrants. We broke the floor into quadrants so you knew where to rotate to.
“I’ve always done it with the teams I’ve worked with just to make sure. In Minnesota, we had boxes in the corners of the court, which was where you wanted to send the ball. We’d say, ‘You want to send the ball to jail.’ “
Sounds like a pretty good investment by Mavs owner Mark Cuban: A few rolls of white tape in return for a defense worthy of The Finals.
Said Casey: “Ah, you need those expensive players to send them to those places. That helps.”