BOOK-of-the-MONTH: “The Basketball Coaches’ Complete Guide to the Speed Game”

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 offense.

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 successful.

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 be successful.

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 overall success.

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 fastbreak.

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 the offense.

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 game.

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 re-strengthen.

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 deficiencies.

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 fastbreak 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 player’s talents/skills.

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 opposition.

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.



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