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5 Things // The Motion Offense

Five Things is a handful (i.e., five) of thoughts about a single topic. Hopefully, discussion ensues.

A Motion Offense Primer

Everyone always makes reference to Coach Bob Knight's motion offense, but seeing how there seems to be a disconnect between the current program and the fan base, I thought I'd do my part and do a little bit of education on the motion offense. Texas Tech's Pat Knight has continued his father's tradition of the motion offense and this edition of 5 Things explores the basics.

1: Practice Patience

The best website I've found regarding the Motion Offense (MO) is The Coach's Clipboard Playbook (TCCP). There's a ton of information on just about anything and if you're a coach, this would be a great place to start. I get the feeling that most people understand that the general concept of the MO is pretty simple, motion on offense. And to a point, it is simple, but there's more to it than just that.

The first two tenants of the motion offense is having the proper spacing between each player, 12 to 15 feet, and being in the triple threat position (i.e., being ready to shoot, pass or dribble). The triple threat position and having patience is an incredibly important aspect of the MO:

Perimeter players should always receive the ball in triple threat position, where the player has the options of shooting, driving to the hoop, or passing. In triple threat position, outside players should (1) look into the post, (2) read the defense and look for the opportunity for a shot, shot fake, or a dribble-move. Perimeter players should be patient and hold the ball for a count of two to allow the screens and cuts to develop. If the pass is too soon, the cutters don't have time to execute their cuts. The exception is when the defense is coming to trap, then pass immediately.

I would imagine that patience on offense is an incredibly difficult thing to preach to 18 and 20 year old kids, but this is obviously one of the most important aspects of the MO.

2: When to Dribble

I don't think I've ever thought about the concept of when to dribble, but TCCP discusses that there must be a reason or purpose behind a player dribbling. Dribbling to dribble is not an option:

  1. To attack the basket with a drive.
  2. Improve or open the passing lane.
  3. Penetrate gaps in a zone defense.
  4. To get out of trouble and avoid the 5-second count.
  5. To exchange positions with another player. For example, if you want the ball to go to the wing, and the defense is denying the pass, the point guard can simply dribble to the wing, and the wing player can exchange and go to the point.
  6. To run up a weave-screen play.

This is really something to watch next year. As some of the new players (Brad Reese, Theron Jenkins, Mike Davis, Jaye Crockett and David Tairu) work their way into the rotation, I think it will be interesting to see how these new guys are able to be patient and understand the complete concept of the MO.

3: No Standing on Perimeter

There's nothing that I hate more than players standing around the perimeter and watching one player operate. TCCP writes that players must not stand still and they must move with a purpose. Go see the diagrams at TCCP, but the key here is that movement for the sake of movement is wasted motion, but purposeful movement will make the MO hum. TCCP on that purposeful movement:

After passing, players must do one of these:
  1. Cut to the hoop for the return pass ("give and go" play).
  2. Screen away. Example: after the point guard passes to the right wing (O2), he sets a screen for the left wing (O3).
  3. Follow the pass and set a screen for the ball-handler (and then roll off the screen).
  4. V-cut and replace self.
  5. After a cross-court "skip" pass (example from O3 to O2), slide out of the defender's (who should be in "helpside") line of vision and go backdoor to the hoop.
  6. After a wing passes into the low post, he/she should slide down to the corner. If the post player is double-teamed, the corner is usually the easiest pass back outside and is often open for the three-point shot.

4: 4-Out, 1-In

I can't make any promises about what you'll see next year, but the 4-Out, 1-In set seems like something that could be fairly prevalent in the 2009-10 version of the Red Raiders. We've talked about this before, but there's really only two bona-fide post players in Robert Lewandwoski and Trevor Cook, and it's safe to say that Trevor Cook plays better facing the basket. As a result, Pat Knight is going to have to find an offense that takes advantage of the quality guards on this team. I cannot recommend enough this link to Coach's Clipboard Playbook talking about the 4-Out, 1-In offensive sets. I have no doubt that Texas Tech will be a perimeter based offense, but with only a couple of true post players, the perimeter players have got to take advantage of the spacing and drive to the basket. Typically this is something that happens with teams with high-end athletes, but I truly believe that this is where Pat Knight is headed.

5: This Year

In a recent interview with's Aaron Dickens, Pat Knight mentioned that he spent too much on the offense last year, perhaps trying to distinguish himself from Bob Knight:

First of all, our defense. That was my fault. I put such a focus on the offense. I was worried because my name is associated with the motion offense. I'd wake up at night having dreams where we scored 35 points and I did not want to be the guy that screwed up the motion offense. What happened was I screwed up our man-to-man defense. Our offense was fine, we could score with anybody. That wasn't a problem. We've got to start from scratch, we've done that, started with our spring workouts. We've got to get a defensive mindset. Then, from a talent standpoint, a lot of the new guys that I brought in have got to play a lot of minutes. And the guys that might have played a lot of minutes last year hopefully will be coming off of the bench. That just means that we're deeper than we have been in the past. I really think that the key to this level, in one of these top conferences, you've got to be eight to nine people deep and we just haven't been that in the last couple of years.

Personally, I love the fact that PK is moving towards a move defensive mindset this fall and into 2009. I have no doubt that PK and Texas Tech will have more success if the defense is great, but I don't want the inverse to happen either. Becoming a plodding defensive team that can't score isn't the way to go either and I hope that PK is even-handed in his approach to the game. There's no doubt that the defense needs work, but I don't want to see PK lose sight of having a well-balanced team.