As many fans have long speculated, there are scripts in sports. They just aren’t used in the way you think they are.
No, there is no predetermined plan mapped out for how the entire NBA season will unfold. There is no master puppeteer orchestrating everything of significance from the shadows. When we talk about scripts in sports, we are talking about the practice of planning out the first couple of offensive plays before the start of the game.
This practice is especially prevalent in football, where it is not uncommon for a coach to have the first eight to ten plays they want to run in their mind before the game even begins.
Given the free-flowing/spontaneous nature of basketball, it is far more difficult to script out as many plays as you can in football. So, most coaches refrain from that sort of planning. Instead, many coaches will opt to script out the first play or two of the game.
For example, last year, the New Orleans Pelicans would often start their games with some sort of handoff action. The one they usually relied on was what is commonly referred to as a Chicago Action (a pindown followed by a dribble handoff). Here are some examples of them beginning games with this play:
The reason they do this is because two of their best scorers (Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum) are very comfortable operating out of this action. And as a general rule, it is always good to get your primary guys in rhythm early on.
With this in mind, well-prepared teams will pick up on these tendencies and notify their defense to be prepared for these scripted procedures. For instance, when they played the Golden State Warriors on March 28th, Jonathan Kuminga was able to rip the script up into shreds by aggressively denying Ingram the initial pindown screen – leading to a turnover and transition layup.
When something like that happens, the onus then shifts over to the original screenwriter to create a counter to the opposing team’s counter. In this case, maybe next time you instruct Ingram to backcut Kuminga’s aggressive ball denial (similar to what Klay Thompson does on this play here).
In any event, the duel between script creator and script killer is one of the many micro-battles taking place during the beautiful game we call basketball. So next time you’re watching, be sure to pay close attention to what’s going on immediately after tip-off.