Coaching Basketball’s “Speed Game” With Primary and Secondary Fast Breaks
By John Kimble
Chapter 1: Why Implement the Speed Game With Primary and Secondary Fast Breaks?………………………………………………………………………………13
Chapter 2: Odd Front Secondary Fast Breaks Into Man-to-Man Continuity Offenses……………………………………………………………………………………..23
Chapter 3: Even Front Secondary Fast Breaks Into Man-to-Man Continuity Offenses……………………………………………………………………………………..54
Chapter 4: Secondary Fast Breaks Into Zone Continuity Offenses……………………..74
Chapter 5: Press Offenses Into Primary and Secondary Fast Breaks………………….87
Chapter 6: Drills to Promote the Speed Game……………………………………………….101
Chapter 7: Analyzing the Options of the Secondary Fast Breaks………………………122
About the Author………………………………………………………………………………………………………125
With the extreme pressures of winning that basketball coaches are under today and
the high level of scrutiny that coaches come under, it is very easily understood why
coaches would want to have full control of their offensive and defensive basketball
teams. In the past, a coach’s desire to control could possibly force a team to play
with a very slow, cautious, deliberate, half-court style of play, and some players with
exceptional offensive skills might be restrained by the offensive style and system the
coaching staff was forced to utilize.
Coaches who were very intent on having full control over the team might also make
their team so deliberate that opposing teams would try to capitalize on that offensive
style by applying various levels of defensive pressure.
Coaches who felt the need to maintain that control could very likely be more easily
scouted and therefore more predictable to the opposition’s defenses. This deliberate
style could make the offense more predictable and more passive, which could
sometimes encourage or at least allow opposing defenses to be more aggressive,
causing even more offensive stress and problems. This style could cause an offensive
team to lose confidence in themselves, their teammates, and their overall team
But the idea and concept of expanding the offensive package into a full-court
offense along with primary and secondary fast breaks can cause a defensive team
to be less aggressive and possibly even passive to a certain degree for the opposite
reasons that they were originally aggressive. It can somewhat free up the offensive
team and also build the confidence of the offense. Confidence can feed off the initial
burst of offensive success a team can suddenly have, while more offensive success
results from the new confidence instilled, and on and on.
Defensive teams that attempt to apply full-court defensive pressure can be beaten
by the quick long throw over the top of the press, which causes that defensive team
to become less aggressive to the point of being passive and cautious. That defensive
passivity can build the offensive team’s confidence and overall success.
Having single (and possibly multiple) primary and secondary fast breaks can greatly
limit the defensive team’s ability to scout and predict the offensive action, which can
lead to more offensive success.
Having more secondary breaks that specifically cater to particular offensive
players’ outstanding talents and skills can make that offensive team more productive
and successful. Having certain secondary fast breaks can also minimize players from
having to utilize their weaker offensive skills, which should make the offensive more
Offensive teams that possess an offensive package that instantly flows from the
primary fast break directly into secondary fast break and then instantly into a continuity
offense always allows the offensive team to put constant and consistent pressure on
the opposition’s defense. This type of aggressive and ever-attacking offensive scheme
prevents defensive opponents from being able to transition easily, from recovering,
relaxing, or reorganizing. These factors all give the offensive team more opportunities to
The coaching staff that wants to maintain control and still be able to manage his
basketball team can accomplish this while enjoying all of the positives discussed that
an offensive team can gain by implementing the “speed game.”
A Special Note on the Diagrams: The numbers (players) with circles indicate the
initial position of the player as the primary break ends. The numbers (players)
without circles depict where the secondary break begins. All possible passing
options are listed in the diagrams.
Why Implement the Speed
Game With Primary and
Secondary Fast Breaks?
A simple and short, but fundamentally sound overall general philosophy for basketball
coaches is to put individual players in positions and situations where they are more apt
to succeed, both offensively as well as defensively. Assisting individual players in their
opportunities to succeed gives the team a much better opportunity for its overall success.
The speed game is a combination of both (organized) fast break offenses as well as
(organized) full-court defenses. A well-organized combination of both of these phases
of the game can wreak havoc on an opposing team. The (offensive and defensive)
speed game can control the tempo of a game, which is a major contributor to a team’s
The offensive and defensive speed game is a two-headed monster that can
discover and then attack various types of weaknesses of every type of opponent—big
teams, small teams, athletic teams, organized teams, teams that are not well organized,
and oftentimes even fundamentally sound teams. When your team is behind, the
opposition’s lead is never safe because of your team’s full-court pressure defensive
scheme and your team’s full-court pressure offensive system.
Full-court press defenses are very important, but your team must score in order to
get into their defensive pressing action. The offensive speed game, however, provides
a team with far more easy basket opportunities. Full-court pressure defenses can also
provide a team with more easy scoring chances.
While the defensive component of the speed game is vitally important, this book
will only discuss the offensive side of the speed game—its primary fast break system
as well as its secondary fast break system that flows immediately from the primary fast
The offensive portion of the speed game has somewhat similar objectives and
overall goals that the defensive half of the speed game possesses. Simply put, it is
to make the opposition play at a pace that is uncomfortable to them, to physically
and emotionally fatigue the opposition into making mistakes on both sides of the ball,
and to capitalize on those breakdowns. The speed game is always organized, while
never allowing the opposition to become organized. The speed game never allows the
opposition to recover from any types of trouble they have gotten themselves into, be
it through individual mismatches or defensive weaknesses that have been exposed to
One important ingredient of both sides of the overall speed game is the commitment
that must be made for all players to constantly play as hard as they can, to hustle and
never take a rest while on the court. Every player and every team can have an off night
in their individual shooting and the team’s overall half-court offensive production for
one reason or another. Both portions of the speed game rely on such a large amount
of hustle that the speed game never should have an off night.
Offensive success is accomplished by attempting to achieve numbers advantages
with the speed game—a 2-on-0, a 2-on-1, a 3-on-1, or a 3-on-2 fast break. Offensive
success can be achieved with the speed game by being more organized than the
opposition’s transition defense. The offensive fast break must be fundamentally sound
with a structured attack via primary and/or secondary fast breaks.
Offensive success can first be gained with an immediate (and organized) conversion
from defense to primary fast break offense(s). More success can be further achieved
with the smooth transition from the primary fast break to secondary break attacks. Even
a greater level of offensive success can be accomplished with a fluid change from
secondary fast breaks into a designated continuity offense.
The selection of secondary fast breaks should be determined not only by the
effectiveness of that offense, but also how easily and quickly the primary break can
transition into the chosen secondary break. And, there must be a maximum amount of
smoothness in its transition from secondary break to continuity offense.
The selection of a continuity offense should be determined not only by the
production of that offense, but also the speed, efficiency, fluidity, and smoothness that
the secondary break can flow into that offense. The speed game allows a team to
accomplish the following:
- Attack the defense (in an organized manner) before the opposition can set and
organize its half-court defense.
- Constantly put offensive pressure on the opposition’s defense and physically wear
down the opposition by making all five defenders run the entire length of the court
after each of their offensive possessions.
- Neutralize any half-court defensive strengths and advantages of the opposition. If
the offensive team attacks the defensive team before the defense can get set up
and properly organize, any defensive strengths would be neutralized and overall
team defensive strengths can be exposed and then minimized.
- Accent or highlight the various and specific individual strengths of any or all of your
individual offensive players. Every player has his own forte, and if various options
allow those players to use those strengths, the more successful those individuals,
and therefore that team will be.
- Make the opposition’s scouting and preparation extremely difficult (because of the
speed of the transition offenses and the numbers of primary breaks, secondary
breaks, and options that are utilized).
- Motivate players to play defense more aggressively by convincing them that their
defense actually is the beginning of the speed game offense.
- Utilize the depth of your bench, since the transition and the speed game most likely
will require more than the usual number of players. Non-starters on the bench will
practice harder, pay more attention during the games, and play harder if they know
they are a valuable part of the team and that they will receive important playing
time during each game.
- Wear down the opposition physically and mentally by dictating tempo of the game.
It is easier to defeat a fatigued opponent.
- Increase the number of offensive possessions your team can have for each game. The
more possessions an offensive team has, the more chances that team has to score.
- Control the tempo of each and every game to the speed and pace it chooses—not what the opposition desires. The game is played to your team’s comfort zone, to your team’s strengths and possibly to the opposition’s weaknesses.
- Take advantage of a controllable factor such as physical conditioning in the outcome
of games. A coaching staff cannot make his team taller and cannot change his
team’s quickness or speed, but a staff can have control over a team’s stamina
and physical conditioning. Using the speed game can make physical conditioning a
huge factor in the overall success of your team.
- Be a team that uses the pressure offense and the pressure defense style of play.
By using the speed game, a team is never out of a game. Full-court offenses, as
well as full-court pressure defenses, gives a team the capability of scoring more
points in a fewer amount of possessions of the game. Basketball has initiated its change in overall coaching attitudes and philosophies with defenses applying different types of aggressive pressure, such as full-court defenses, and half-court traps and blitzes, and multiple defensive schemes.
Offensive-minded basketball coaches can counter these type defensive pressure
actions with primary fast breaks to beat the defenses down the floor. The standard
belief is that an offensive team should run to beat the opposition’s zone defense down
the floor. Why not run to beat any type of defense down the floor? That philosophy
does not allow the opponent’s defense to organize and be as effective, regardless of
the type of defense the opposition uses. The primary fast break is the first step in the
initial assault of the opposition’s defense.
If the primary fast break is not successful with a quick score, many offenses
retreat to reorganize and set up a new planned method of attack. This approach gives
the defense a temporary morale victory as well as giving the defense dead time to
reorganize, recuperate and establish its half-court defense.
An aggressive offensive mind-set runs one (or more than one) primary fast break
(if a team is mentally able to execute more than one break) that flows smoothly, easily,
and fluidly into one (or more) secondary fast breaks Just like in football’s modern no-huddle offenses, basketball would not have to back the ball out, reorganize, set up the
offense, and call a play to attack the defense that has been given the opportunity to rest,
reorganize, and set up defensively. Having a smooth transition from a team’s primary
fast break into the team’s secondary break (or breaks) would allow the offensive team
to attack the opposition’s defense in organized and fundamentally sound waves or phases with absolutely no delay time between any of the phases.
If this type of offense is coupled with an aggressive continuous defensive style, all
opposing coaching staffs and teams will have to use tremendous amounts of practice
time and energy to prepare for the pressure styles on both sides of the basketball.
Opposing teams could be in a pressure-filled and grueling basketball game (both
offensively as well as defensively) from the very beginning to the very end of the
Different degrees of defensive pressure can be applied in many obvious ways.
Various types of full-court pressure in the form of zone presses and man-to-man presses
exist. Pressure basketball (both offensively and defensively) is difficult to prepare for and
to actually play against. If used properly, pressure basketball is an invaluable weapon
for any team to possess.
If the designated primary fast break (with all its distinct advantages) does not
produce points, it could also serve as a smooth conduit into a predetermined secondary
fast break. From the secondary break that does not produce points, a continuity offense
could be implemented that also has a fluid transition from the secondary fast break.
All three phases (or waves of attack) of the offense should take advantage of the
offensive personnel’s major strengths as well as capitalize on the opposition’s defensive
weaknesses. Once the ball is in your team’s possession (whether it is after an opponent’s score,
after a defensive rebound following their missed shot, after an opposition’s live or
dead turnover), you do not necessarily have to have any type of delay from a primary
fast break into a secondary fast break and eventually into a half-court continuity attack
(Illustration 1-1). This pace gives the opposition’s defense absolutely no time to relax
or regroup. With this offensive style implemented, a 32-minute no-huddle basketball
offense has been created that gives an opponent no time to recover, reorganize, or
An offensive basketball team could use multiple primary and secondary fast breaks
as extended and accelerated full-court plays in the same manner they use typical
offensive half-court plays. If a team can handle the multiplicity factor, it could use
different variations of primary fast breaks and secondary fast breaks as part of their
entries that flow into the same continuity offense. Selecting the particular primary and
secondary breaks as well as the continuity offense would depend on that particular
squad’s individuals and team offensive strengths, limitations, weaknesses, and
A primary fast break could be utilized on each and every change of possession of
the basketball, whether it is after live turnovers (fumbles, interceptions, steals, etc.) or
dead-ball turnovers-(from some type of an opponent’s offensive violations). This fast
break could also result from securing a defensive rebound off of an opponent’s missed
field goal attempt.
There is absolutely no reason why either type of fast break could not also be
initiated after the opponent scores a field goal. The defense-turned-offense could
instantaneously take quick possession of the ball by immediately inbounding the ball
and running the same primary fast break to get the ball down-court and try to score as
the opposition attempts to set up and build their defense.
A mentally sharp basketball team could possibly have one primary fast break
(from turnovers and missed field goals) and then a different primary fast break off the opposition’s made field goals. These two primary fast breaks could then flow into one
(or more) secondary fast break and eventually into the designated continuity offense.
These various breaks could be dictated by calls from the bench each time down
the court, or by time and situations. For example, if the ball is obtained via defensive
rebound or turnover, a specific primary and secondary fast break could be utilized.
Different types of scoring (an inside shot, a perimeter shot, a free throw, or a three-point
shot) could dictate which secondary fast break would be executed.
Running the primary break (into the secondary break) to one side of the floor could
dictate a specific option, while running the break to the opposite side could necessitate
a different option. This method could be used for the multiplicity and unpredictability
factors, but more importantly different secondary fast break options on opposite sides
of the court could be executed to highlight or accentuate a specific individual offensive
The philosophy of both fast breaks is to assign a specific lane (along with those
particular assignments and responsibilities) for each of the five players. One player is
the designated Trigger, while two other players are the designated outside lane runners.
No player may switch assignments because of convenience or proximity when the
break begins. Faster fast breaks occur when each player has one and only one lane
assigned to him. The lack of confusion erases any doubt and therefore improves the
speed of the primary fast break.
Secondary Fast Breaks—
Odd Fronts and Even Fronts
Coaches and players should always remember that all secondary breaks are run to
either the left or to the right side of the court. Just as a team does not want to be one dimensional by using just one side of the court in its half-court offenses, so should that team utilize both sides of the court in its execution of primary and secondary fast breaks.
This approach will make the opposition defend the entire court, both horizontally as well
as vertically. Stretching the area that is to be defended in both of those directions thins
and weakens the transition defense and therefore makes the opponent’s defense more vulnerable.
For simplicity’s sake, all secondary fast breaks will be categorized and labeled as odd
front alignments or as even front alignments. Odd front secondary breaks can be defined as secondary fast breaks that have their primary break end up in a one-man front. The odd front has the designated Trigger (also called the “second trailer”) conclude the primary fast break when the ball is reversed to the “Second Trailer” at the top of the key just outside of the three-point line.
01 always ends up at the free throw line extended on whatever side is declared
the ballside. 02 or 03 end up at the ballside deep corner area with the opposite player
at the free throw line extended on the weakside. The designated first trailer (04), which
could also be called the “rim-runner,” always sprints the floor. When the point guard
(01) declares the new ballside, 04 then slashes across the lane to the (new) ballside
mid-post area—on the first notch above the block.
The majority of the time, a circle-to-circle-to-circle relationship should exist between the
first trailer (04), the point guard with the ball (01), and the second trailer (05). In other words, a certain amount of spacing should be placed between 04, 01, and 05. Ideally, 04 can get out and run the floor quickly and be only a few steps behind 01, while sometimes possibly ahead of the ball.
As 01 reaches the front court circle (around the free throw line area), and declares a
ballside, 04 should have either crossed or in the process of crossing the 10-second
timeline as well as being in the horizontal center of the court (so that he can still attack
either side of the floor). He is to then sprint through the (newly declared) weakside
elbow area before then slashing diagonally across the free-throw lane to post up on
the newly declared ballside mid-post area. This slash cut originates from the new
weakside elbow area because he wants to start his attack from behind the scrambling
defensive team. 04 does not want to be seen as he catches the ball from either wing or from 01 and instantly score. If by chance, 04 is ahead of the ball, he
should continue his sprint to directly in front of the rim and look for the ball. If he does not receive the ball in the middle of the lane, he should then post up on the newly declared ballside block. The designated Trigger/second trailer (05) lags back somewhat as a defensive safety as well as waiting to see what side of the floor is going to be declared the ballside and what side is the weakside. This spacing allows 05 the opportunity to also make a read and fill in the last of the five spot-up positions of the designated secondary fast break. By the time 01 has declared a side, 04 has then made his read, slashed across the lane, and posted up on the (new) ballside mid-post area. 05 should then be about to settle in to his designated spot-up position in the secondary fastbreak (Diagrams 1-1 through 1-3).
Even front secondary breaks should be defined as secondary fast breaks that
conclude the actual primary fast break in a two-man front. 01 always ends up on the
ball side as part of the two-man front—slightly above the free throw line extended and
just outside of the three-point line. The Trigger (05) always ends up opposite 01 as
part of the two-man front. 02 or 03 end up at the ballside deep corner area with the
opposite player at his deep corner on the opposite weakside. Once 01 has declared
the new ballside, the designated first trailer (04) always slashes across the lane to the
ballside mid-post area (as he does on all odd front breaks) (Diagrams 1-4 and 1-5).
Half-court offensive plays/entries should also take advantage of the offensive
personnel’s strengths and avoid their own offensive weaknesses. Half-court offensive
plays/entries should also probe the opposition for defensive weaknesses and then
should attack and take advantage of those defensive weaknesses.
If a team can mentally and physically handle more than one secondary fast break,
more than one should be taught. These secondary fast breaks serve as extended and
accelerated entries that are not necessarily called from the bench.
For example, an offensive team could run a particular secondary break (with an
Option) on a designated side of the court that highlights a certain player’s outstanding
skills. A different secondary break on the opposite side of the court could be utilized to
accentuate a different player’s strong offensive skills.
If an offensive team has more than one secondary break, or has options to their
Breaks, those breaks should have certain keys to dictate which one to execute. Those
keys could be based on how they just obtained the ball—did they get the ball from a
defensive rebound, did they get the ball as a result of a live turnover, a dead turnover
(where they first have to take the ball out of bounds), or did they get the ball after the
opposition has just scored?
The breaks could even possibly be based on how the opposition scored—a
made free throw, a made inside shot (in the lane), a made two-point field goal, or
possibly from a made three-point shot. Any of these scenarios that took place with the
opposition’s offense should tell your team which secondary break should be executed
on that particular possession. This approach would make it easier for your team to
know what to run and very difficult for the opposition to know what to expect. If the
opposition does not know what to expect, they will have a more difficult time trying to
defend that secondary fast break. Quarter breaks, halftime breaks, or time-outs could
be a time for these keys to be changed to further add to the unpredictability factor for
the opposition’s defense to know what to expect and how to defend the offensive
waves of attack.
Reasons to Incorporate Various Even Front Secondary Fastbreak Options
Reasons to incorporate and utilize various options of the secondary fast break are many.
Options to any secondary fast break are very important and can be very essential in the
overall success of the speed game.
One major reason is that different options can permit your individual players to
utilize their best strengths and talents and can allow them to also avoid their weaknesses to thereby minimize their offensive mistakes. Each option chosen and used can utilize certain strengths of different players. Players can play within their own limitations, which can oftentimes reduce the number of mistakes and turnovers. Reducing turnovers makes the offensive team offense more efficient and productive.
Another reason to use various options is that different options can and will attack
the defense in different manner. The options actually probe the opponent to search
out their team’s general defensive weaknesses as well as the weaknesses of individual
defenders. Those various options can then attack the discovered weaknesses of the
Different options (designed possibly for different players) makes it much more difficult for
opposing coaches and their defensive teams to know, understand, and prepare how to
defend your offensive attack. Various options can be added or deleted for specific
opponents to fit your team’s needs for that particular game. Certain options can be
determined to be on that particular game’s ready list or game plan. Scouting your next
opponent can tell you which options you want on the ready list that will be the most
productive for your offensive team.
The concept that football offenses apply could also be applied for basketball. Just
a select number of options could be used for one particular game, while other options
could be implemented and worked on in practiced and then utilized for the next game.
A team’s confidence, and therefore performance, will grow when they know that
they have options that can counterattack any defensive adjustment the opponents could
throw at them. They know they have a plan to neutralize the opponent’s defensive
plan, regardless of what it is. Players will have confidence that the coaching staff has an
answer to whatever the opposition throws at you and their team. Those counter-options
can be discussed during time-outs, quarter breaks, and halftimes. Morale can grow
when the coaching staff makes adjustments and the team then successfully carries out
those adjustments on the court for scores against the opposition’s defense. And those
adjustments have already been practiced instead of just dreamed up on the sideline,
and therefore have a much higher degree of success.
Certain options can place certain offensive players in more ideal locations
and situations where they can succeed more frequently, making the offense more
productive and efficient. If a particular offensive player has an outstanding skill or talent,
it is prudent and wise to take advantage and incorporate that player’s forte into the
secondary fast break system.