When we detailed Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart's obsession with game tape last week, the focus was mainly on the shockingly poor defensive work turned in by his Kings last season, a season that Smart estimated less than one half of 1 percent of his team's defensive possessions were fielded with all five players in proper defensive position. A lesser anecdote, in Ailene Voisin's feature on Smart, discussed his recent acquisition of decades' worth of old basketball DVDs, and how he spent the summer endlessly clicking through team after team in order to build up a pretty significant basketball cranium a few decades in the making.
For the Kings' newest wrinkle, Smart is looking all the way back to the 1943 Harlem Globetrotters; a team that was running a sound five-man system 21 years before Smart was even born. According to Keith, via the Sacramento Bee, he'll be installing a triangle offense inside the Kings' repertoire based on a clip he found off of one of those DVDs purchased over the summer. From the Bee:
"I was looking at a video from 1943," Smart said. "The Harlem Globetrotters were playing over in Europe, and I got a chance to see — when you get beyond all the theatrics the Globetrotters did — they were technically in a situation where they were in a low-post triangle action."
Smart won't schedule the Washington Generals or ask any of his players to dump confetti on an official, but that triangle action will be a part of what he adds to the Kings this season.
Smart introduced the triangle offense during training camp last week in Colorado Springs and will run it tonight at home during the team's first preseason game against the Phoenix Suns.
This is the part of the story where you point out that, in the years before there was a viable pro basketball league in America, and before the NBA was desegregated, the Globetrotters were not only the best show in town, but also the most dominant basketball squad in North America.
Honorary Globetrotter Bernie Koppell (Getty Images)The Globetrotters didn't play exclusively by the book, there were still in-game shenanigans that wouldn't seem out of place amongst the antics we've seen from the 'Trotters over the last four decades, but by and large the club was built to barnstorm from town to town, kicking tail against a series of would-be Washington Generals years before the Generals were created to serve as the Globetrotters' designated ringers.
And though Tex Winter deservedly takes in credit for refining the Triangle Offense in the mid 1950s and basically writing the book on the subject, Tex will be the first to tell you that the principals behind the offense were around for decades before his book was published, and that he developed most of the elements behind the triple-post offense while working with Sam Barry at USC.
The spacing is almost natural — the ball goes into the post, two players cut, and two other players cut based off of how the defense reacts to the initial cuts, with half the battle already won because the ball is just 12 or so feet from the goal. Notice the word "dribble" wasn't used in any part of that description, Tyreke Evans.
It doesn't have to include Shaq. It doesn't have to be bailed out by Michael Jordan. It just needs five players committed to trusting the unknown over instinct. "Instinct" is often used as a positive when detailing a basketball player's attributes, but "instinct" also leads a competitive basketball player to try it all themselves when the going gets uneasy. Giving in fully to a team concept means eschewing instinct.
Even if you're cribbing notes from an 80-year-old basketball set, as executed by a team that went on to do some of its finest work on Gilligan's Island:
Out of nowhere, the Kings are going to be a real fun watch this season.