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"Get to the Altar" - Building Your Help & Recover Defensive System


(See more by Avery Johnson)

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"Get to the Altar" - Building Your Help & Recover Defensive System



"Get to the Altar" - Building Your Help & Recover Defensive System

Train players to "get to the altar" from the weak side to help on-ball defenders in your man-to-man defense!

  • Take away your opponent's short pass options with crisp help defense rotations
  • Learn to defend pick & roll sets with an empty corner or with a shooter filling the corner
  • See how to double the post and recover without giving up an easy scoring opportunity


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with Avery Johnson,
University of Alabama Head Coach;
former Head Coach of the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets;
2006 NBA Coach of the Year;
2x SWAC Player of the Year for Southern University where he led the NCAA in assists for two straight years (1987-88)

Avery Johnson made a career in the NBA being one of the best defensive point guards in the league. Now, he's taken this no-nonsense approach to coaching.

In this video, Johnson preaches the importance of playing great help defense, regardless of the skill level or coaching level. He sums it best with the quote, "If you're not in help position, you're in the wrong position." He discusses the close out and how important it is for your team to prevent paint entries.

Basic Help Defense

Johnson often refers to 'the altar,' which is a player on help defense in the middle of the paint. By closing out and forcing sideline, your help defense is able to cut off baseline or the elbow area when penetration is achieved. You'll always have a player in the altar, and if middle leaves the altar to cut off baseline, a player will fill. With the movement, your defense remains active and can take away penetration and force jump shots if rotations are correct.

Working from a base 4-out-1-in set, Coach Johnson covers:

  • Close outs
  • Defending cuts
  • Screen defender's positioning
  • Weak side defenders roles
  • Passes his team tries to take away
  • Direction to force the ball handler
  • How to deal with a pass made to the screener after they roll to the basket

Pick & Roll Situations & Coverages

With the game changing over the years to include stretch 4s and 5s, you must be able to defend both the roll and shot off the screen. Players will learn how to defend various pick & roll situations while being able to defend the altar and recognize how to help and recover.

Johnson doesn't hedge off the screen, but the defensive player on the switch sags off to be ready for the switch. Your help defense will rotate to cover the roll, and you'll have two players available to trap the basketball. You are also able to cover the shooter on the switch without trapping the basketball.

Post Defense

Your team must be able to adjust to neutralize a strong post presence in man-to-man defense. Johnson covers:

  • How the defender denies the post.
  • Dealing with teams that have great shooters surrounding the post.
  • Double teaming the post and the rotations out of it if the post passes out.

Special Situations

Coach Johnson uses on-court demonstrations to go over rotations within your help defense, covering certain scenarios that include trapping in different areas of the floor. Cutters are also covered, as well as a way to trap with the cutter going through. Johnson doesn't deny first pass away, but uses more of a gaps concept with the one pass away defender sagging off with a step toward the ball to take away middle penetration. The rotations are geared toward limiting points in the paint and easy baskets.

Coach Johnson covers:

  • Defending floppy action
  • Ball pressure
  • Lock and trail
  • Teams that have a 5 that can shoot
  • Staggered screens
  • Coming back in transition
  • Defending the middle pick & roll
  • Defending baseline out of bounds plays

This is a great video for any coach who's looking to step up their team's help defense. Johnson provides a solid foundation you can use for your team.

Produced at the 2017 Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Clinic.

71 minutes. 2017.

See more products by: Avery Johnson

See related products: Man-to-Man Defense
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