Everything you need to know about the role the Pivot-Player in the offense of a basketball team.
The player picked by the basketball coach to “play the pivot” is as important to the basketball team as the pitcher to a baseball team. He's the team's “big man''—in size and in the importance of his assignment.
The Pivot Play came into being in 1925 thus adding to the already growing history of basketball. It revolutionized the style of basketball play, just as the forward pass brought an abrupt change to football.
There's little doubt that the pivot play is the strongest offensive maneuver in basketball. But the pivot play will be ineffective unless the player given this job can carry it out well.
Most young pivot players get the notion that their first responsibility is to take a pivot shot whenever they get the ball. This is not the case.
It is the primary responsibility of the pivot player to advance the offense! Occasionally, this does involve taking a pivot shot. More often, it involves feeding a cutter.
A team's offense against the man-for-man (and often against a zone) is built around the pivot. The player who catches a pass in the pivot and immediately throws it at the hoop is doing nothing more than killing the offense.
To be successful, the pivot player must do the following:
1) Get in position to catch a pass.
2) Catch the pass.
3) Feed a cutter, shoot, or pass out so a new play can be
4) Drive hard for all rebounds.
Some of these things sound simple. They're not. To set up the pivot play, for example, the pivot man has to get into position to catch a pass in a very limited area. There must be plenty of room around him, so that his teammates can run screens.
To get into this tight area at precisely the right moment takes some doing. Most of the time, the pivot man should stay clear of the pass receiving area until the basketball is in the front court. If he is in one of the corners, he's got to time his break so that he can catch a pass in the clear. As the pivot man waits to move out for the pass, he must keep the defensive man busy by feinting and bobbing to any direction but the one in which he must go to get the ball.
Naturally, if the defensive player doesn't follow a fake drive to the basket, then drive to the basket. The defensive man will be left behind and you will have an opportunity to score.
The next time you fake a drive, the defensive man will follow.
“Keep the defense honest,” the coaches say.
Very often, a pivot player will move out for a pass, but the pass won't develop. Unless you're in the three second
area (foul lane), it may be advantageous to hold your position. Never, however, try to catch the incoming pass while standing flat footed. Go get it! Make at least two steps toward the ball as you receive it.
If the defense to the pivot is a very good player, he will constantly work to prevent a pass-in. With the pivot man close to the end line, the defense is apt to play in front, favoring the side toward the ball. If the pivot man is well out, he will usually play in back, but again favoring the side toward the ball. Occasionally, he will dart around in front of the pivot man.
The pivot player should be prepared to make a counter move to any move by the defense.
When the defense is in front, the pivot man can signal for a loop, lead pass over the defensive man's head, or to the side where he has the most room. If the defense is playing on the side that favors the ball, he won't be able to stop a loop, lead pass to the weak side.
The principal point is this: don't let the defense out-position you!
On catching the pass, be alert to the fact that your defensive man and defensive men going by will want to knock the ball out of your hands or tie you up for a held ball. Hold the ball tight, keep it away from your body and move it about.
Sometimes the defense will slack off and double-team you as the ball is passed in. You can often defeat this maneuver by tipping the ball to a teammate, instead of catching it, then trying to make a pass.
When you're playing a bigger, stronger opponent, don't always move into the pivot position. Go into the corners, work into the regular pattern of the offense and let someone else move in and out of the pivot for you.
In this situation, the defense will often be reluctant to
move away from the boards. You have no choice, then, but to shoot from the outside. Remember, though, drive harder than ever for the rebound.
The toughest part of the pivot man's play takes place after he catches the incoming pass. As the pass comes whipping toward him, he should be making up his mind about his next move. He has to give the ball to a cutter, take the shot himself, or pass out to the safety man.
The success of the pivot play—and often of the offenses-rests with the pivot player's decision in this situation. The decision should be made quickly so that the offense can keep moving.
In making a pass to a cutter, the pivot man should first fake a pass or a move away from the cutter. This will discourage a switch by the pivot player's defensive man.
Once the pass is made, the pivot player should turn away from the cutter and drive in for the rebound. This is very important! If the cutter goes to the right of the pivot man and the pivot man turns right, the defense to the pivot man can cover both.
When a cutter's man gets screened out as he goes by the pivot, the object is to force the defense to the pivot to go one way or the other. This can be accomplished only when the pivot man turns away from the pass.
Thus, if the defense switches to the cutter, the pivot player will be in position to get a return pass. If the defense stays with the pivot, the cutter is free.
The pivot player should keep cool and calm as he makes his play. He shouldn't try to “force” a pass to a cutter who is partly covered. If he doesn't have a clear passing lane and is blocked by the defensive man, he should then hold the ball until he has an opportunity to pass out. You don't lose anything by retaining possession of the ball. You may lose the ball game by making a bad pass.
We should say a word here about the pivot player's over-all responsibility. On some basketball teams, the pivot player is often the “big man” in more ways than one. He's the key to the success of the offense as just noted. But he is also the backbone of the defense. He thus carries more of the double burden of defense and offense than any other player.
When on offense, the pivot player must be one of the first players to break into the front court. This means that even though he has caught the rebound off the defensive board and has made his pitchout, he's expected to quickly get into the scoring area. If the forward he passed to scores, all well and good—the pivot man can retreat on defense. BUT, if the pitchout doesn't lead to an immediate score, that means the team will usually have to resort to its offensive pattern.
In most attacks, the offense won't “go” unless the pivot player is in position. Furthermore, you cannot expect to have a good chance at the rebound after a shot, if the Big Man is in the back court.
On the other hand, when the opposing team gets the ball in its back court and starts a break, the pivot player is sorely needed on defense—not only for a normal guarding assignment, but, again, for the vital rebound.
Here's what this all means:
The pivot player should always strive to be the first man down court on the fast break and the first man back on defense.
Naturally, he won't always be able to do it. But, he's got to try. The pivot player who “dogs it” going in either direction can torpedo a team's efforts as nothing else will.