Kevin McHale was the guest speaker at adidas Eurocamp on Monday, and spent his 45-minute session with the players giving a teaching clinic on low-post play. The video clip above shows the opening five minutes or so of his lecture, where he talked about the need to fight for position to get the ball down low, and having a plan with what you want to do with the ball once you get it.
McHale said that as a player his goal was always to try to get to the middle of the paint, right above the restricted area, where he knew he could convert a jump hook over his defender at an extremely high percentage. He chastised players for not fighting hard enough to get that low-block position, and pointed out that if you receive a pass with your back to the basket 18 feet from the paint, it’s not a post-up situation — it’s a wing isolation.
McHale’s signature move as a player was the up-and-under after getting the ball in position on the low block. He said he’s constantly asked why players in today’s game don’t try to emulate it, and the answer, he said, was a simple one: Defenders don’t respect the offensive skills of the post-up player, so they never bite on the pump fake, which makes the move obsolete.
After the session was over, McHale lamented the lack of good low-post play in the NBA, while pointing out the decline has been a steady one that might be reaching an all-time high.
“It’s really odd,” McHale said, when asked why there’s such a dearth of low-post players. “I don’t know why because it’s such a valuable element of the game. I just think big guys now, there’s an infatuation with the three-point line, and like I said — you’re going to get better at what you practice. You’re going to get better at what you work at, and they all work at their perimeter games, so they’re all better at that.”
McHale implored the young players during his lecture to practice short jump hooks and shots over each shoulder on the low block, hundreds at a time, until they became automatic. He also said that the lack of development in that area is part of what’s led the NBA game away from it in recent years.
“It’s been a weird dynamic that I’ve seen over the last 20, 25 years, and it’s really kind of hitting an apex right now,” he said. “You watch the NBA, and no one’s even dropping it into the post anymore. It’s all about perimeter stuff. I’m telling you, that post right there — you don’t have to have a million moves, but if you can just get a basic couple of moves down there, you can really affect the game.”
McHale also believes that post play won’t return in force to the NBA until the players capable of playing down low make a conscious effort to develop that skill set at an early age.
“I think it’s more incumbent on the players,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to me to be a priority when you’re a 16-, 17-year-old kid. Everybody says ‘I want to shoot the three, I want to be a spread four.’ You very seldom hear guys say ‘I want to be a power post offensive guy.’ It’s hard to really say why. I can just tell you that it’s very noticeable when you watch the NBA game right now.”
The question came up of how important it was for a big man to be able to learn to pass out of a double-team in the post — a skill Lakers center Andrew Bynum has struggled to develop as he’s started to face that extra defender inside. McHale said that’ll come, but smiled when the question was asked, because it’s really the very last step to come in a competent post player’s game.
“First of all, there’s like three prongs in that thing,” he said. “One, you’ve got to get good down in the low post. Two, you’ve got to get good enough to beat your man steady. Three, they double-team you — that’s the third prong, and then you’ve got to pass out, OK?
“You learn pretty quickly, because in the NBA especially, when you start getting double-teamed a lot and when teams have success, they’ll do it every single night. Bynum a year from now will be a very good post passer. He’ll know where to go, he’ll be relaxed, he’ll read it, and pass it out. Then you’ve got murder on your hands because the guy can score down there and he can pass out. And any time two (players) guard one in our league, three have got to guard four. And three cannot guard four in the NBA, the players are too good.”
It’s no surprise McHale is passionate about skilled post play; he had a Hall of Fame career in the NBA after working so hard to develop his own. His teaching on the topic was straightforward, easy to understand, and on-point. Whether or not the young players will choose to listen remains to be seen, but McHale remains committed as ever to his principles.
“The game is won and lost in the paint,” he said.