Raja Bell Summer Basketball Workouts

By Don Kelbick

July 13 – Raja Bell begins workouts

Today is one of the best days of the year for me. Today, Raja starts his workouts in preparation for next season. This year we are starting a little later than usual because we want to make sure he is healthy. He missed the last 8 games of the season with a calf injury. It is the same calf muscle he tore in the playoffs in 2006.

I truly admire Raja. He is a self-made player. He is not physically gifted and is not a great athlete, but he is carving out a great career after taking the long road to the NBA as an undrafted free agent. His work ethic and focus is remarkable and he is committed to maximizing every ounce of his physical potential, every day. Once we start, I usually have to be pretty firm and say “that’s enough for today,” or he will stay in the gym forever.

Raja started strength training about 3 weeks ago and is now incorporating yoga for more flexibility. He lifts 3-4 days per week. We try to schedule his lifts after we shoot but that is not always possible. The first couple of weeks we will work on the court 3 days per week and get about 350 shots in a workout. We will work up to 5 days per week with about 500 shots and then taper back a little about 10 days before he leaves for training camp. We try to keep most basketball workouts to about an hour and we definitely don’t want to ever go past an hour and fifteen minutes.

One of the great things about Raja is he always has a goal. He doesn’t just go out and fire them up. Each year he looks at what he wants to improve and comes in with a list. This years list includes getting to the basket more, getting better and having more options as he comes off screens and to continue his climb as one of the best 3 point shooters in the league. After 4 years of playing for Phoenix, he thinks he has become too much of a standstill shooter. Now playing for Larry Brown, in Charlotte, he is going to be called on to do more things he needs to recapture a lot of his old skills.

Most of the drills we used can be found in the basketball workout program found here. All the drills are multi purpose so I might use one drill one day as a warm-up and the same drill the next day as a ballhandling drill. We also shoot 5 foul shots in between each drill. We work on made shots so each drill works to 10 makes. We also work both sides and both directions.

The first few workouts, I just want to get the ball back in his hands. We start out by shooting 140 shots in a drill I call short long. It is a great rhythm drill and really gets up a lot of shots in a short period of time.

We then moved on to some wing shots from about 17’. Just coming to the ball for a catch and shoot. We also worked on going away from the ball. We worked both wings and on top.

We then moved to wing screens. Setting the screen at about 19’ and curling which produced a 17’ shot.

Next is wing catches with a 1-dribble counter opposite the pass. In other words, if we were on the left side, he would come to the ball, from the baseline (passer was on the top), make the catch and rip toward the baseline for a 1 dribble shot. The emphasis is I would like him to get more length on his dribble so he covers more ground, and to take straighter lines to the basket. He wants to get to the basket more so he has to start thinking about covering ground and using the pull-up as a counter move.

We then moved to a little ballhandling/break work. Coming from mid-court as if he was on the break and catching a headman pass. He gets 1 dribble to attack, a second dribble, in close quarters (I use chairs as obstacles) as a counter dribble, into either a pull up or a finish at the rim.

We finished up with a quick game of “Beat the Pro,” starting at six points. Eventually we will start at 9, which means if he misses his first shot, he’s a loser. We played a foul shooting game then, it was out of the gym. We made 320 shots in just under an hour.

July 14 – Raja works on footwork, ballhandling, and shooting

Today was one of the days Raja had to lift before we shot. He lifts at a very high intensity so we have to be careful of fatigue.

We started with footwork to loosen up. We did multiple sets of chair pivots, using each of the 3 main pivots, drop step, front pivot and inside pivot. The only counter we used was the inside pivot/sweep counter. We start with the drop step with the chairs just outside the block. Remember, in the NBA, they have a 16 foot lane so it is a pretty good stretch. We then go front pivot, in which the chairs are moved out to about 17 feet, inside pivot from 20’ and then the pivot counter with 1 dribble 25’ which leads to about a 19’ shot.

We then went to wing L cuts, first with a catch and shoot, and then with a 1 dribble move for either a pull up or rim finish. Yesterday, all the 1 dribble moves were rips away from the pass, so today we went with 1 dribble in the direction of the pass.

We then moved on to break shots, simulating catching the ball on the run as if on the break, with a catch and shoot.

We then worked on some dribble explosion from a ballhandling position where we simulate him bringing the ball up the floor and making a 1-dribble explosion to beat his man and get his shot.

We finished up with a 5/7 where we pick 7 spots and he has to make 5 out of 7 shots before we move to the next spot. If we don’t make 5, we start over from 0. He lost from the second spot and then proceeded to make 28 in a row. He doesn’t like to lose.

We finished up from the foul line.

360 made shots in 50 minutes of work.

Tomorrow is an off day on the court. It is the one day he will lift without shooting. We also try to schedule at least 1 day where he will shoot without lifting.

July 22 – Raja Bell and Sean Kett

We got back to work today after a forced layoff. I was called away on a family emergency. Raja worked in the weight room but was not on the court.

Today we wanted to just get some repetitions. I brought in a high school kid, Sean Kett, to rebound for us and make things go a little smoother. Having a rebounder gives the workout some pace. In addition, Raja gets a little break while Sean is shooting. In return, he gets a pretty good workout. Raja is a good mentor for kids. He enjoys showing them little things that will make them more effective. Last year we had a kid that had just graduated HS work with us. When he told Raj that he was going to try to make his college team as a walk-on, Raja called the coach and put in a good word for him.

We started with a 5/5/5 drill from 7 spots. This is a footwork drill that gets the shooter going both ways. From there we went to wing shooting, from each side and on top. From there, we moved onto the same drill, but added a 1 dribble rip to it. One of our objectives is to get him to be more effective on the dribble.

The next drill was a little guard play where we attacked a chair with the dribble with a 1 dribble change into either a pull up or a rim finish. In either case, there was no 2nd dribble. Whatever he was going to do, had to be done with the change dribble.

We then took a piece out of Charlotte’s offense. They set a small/big backscreen for the high post and the screener steps out looking for either the shot or the drive. We went from each side. Then, we used a simulated defense. Sean would follow him up and he had 3 choices: close out short, close out long to the right, close out long to the left. Raja had to read and make a play with a 2 dribble max.

We finished up with making 5 out of 7 shots from 7 spots and then foul shots.

All in all, we had about 300 makes in an hour and 10 minutes.

July 23 – Raja short shots and screens

Due to the gym schedule, today Raja lifted before we shot. I knew he would be fatigued so we made an adjustment by limiting his range.

We started with short/long. A quick 140 shots to warm up.

Next was a set of intensity shots. Since he lifted upper body and we were going to go with shorter shots, we decided to put more conditioning into the workout. The intensity series gets you shots from a designated spot but contains some good footwork and continuous running for conditioning. First set was layups, second set jump shots, third set 1 dribble jumpers, fourth set dribble jumpshots with a second dribble change.

From there we worked on wing play, receiving the ball on both wings and the top. First jump shots, then 1 dribble shots. We finish with Sean showing defense so Raja would have to decide shoot or drive.

We then went to wing screens, curl on the dribble, hide behind for shot and turn downs. It is one of the ways we work ballhandling into the workout.

We finished up with “Beat the Pro” (as Raja says, “I should win because I am a pro”) and foul shots. We worked for about an hour and 10 minutes with 370 makes.

One of the challenges with established players is having them make small adjustments. They are already very good at what they do and I don’t want to change anything and make it worse and they are a little resistant to change. Right now Raja reacts to everything as a jump shooter. Short dribbles and often stepping to the side. Since he now feels he needs to be better getting to the basket, little by little, I hope to lengthen his dribble and get him to go in straight lines. The trick is to get it done without him noticing.

July 23 – Raja Bell and Anthony King

Anthony King joined us today. Anthony graduated from the University of Miami in 2008 and played last season in Frankfort, Germany. He played, last summer, for the Miami Heat summer league team and then went to Europe for some seasoning. He has already made a decision to go back to Europe this season and then try to push for an NBA spot next year. At 6-8, he is a little undersized for a power forward so we’re going to try to work on his intermediate game and the things he can do to out quick bigger players. He is an excellent defender and rebounder, but to have a chance, he needs to score better than he does.

King is a good workout partner for Raja. He works very hard and needs to improve some of the same things that Raja wants to improve on, 1 and 2 dribble moves and scoring in the mid-range. We can work on screens, ball screens and option off them from both perspectives.

We warmed up with chair pivots, using all pivots and counters. We started on the block with drop steps and gradually moved out to 16 feet for front pivots and 20 feet for inside pivots. The counter, because they involve a dribble, were moved out to about 23 feet.

We then when through the intensity series, first layups then jump shots, then 1 dribble and finally 2 dribble changes.

Then we went to split post shots, front pivots from the low post and inside pivots from the high post. Then we reversed the sides and the pivot feet.

We then went to some 1 and 2 dribble moves, off the catch, from on top and on the wing, starting with about a 22 foot catch. We went catch and shoot, catch – 1 dribble move and then catch – 2 dribble move with a change in direction.

We then worked on ball screens with a slip, passes coming from the weakside. In order, shots were catch-jumpshot, catch-jump hook and then catch-drop step counter.

We finished up with wing shooting from 3 spots and then beat the pro. The total was 300 makes in 1 hour.


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When Did Steve Nash Start Playing Basketball?

By Joe Haefner

According to an interview posted by NBA.com, Steve Nash did not start playing basketball until he was 12 or 13 years old. Yes, a 2-time MVP of the NBA did not start playing basketball until he was nearly a teenager.

There seems to be this myth circulating among parents and coaches that you need to start a child early in “Organized” sports in order to be successful. The sad thing is that the complete opposite often happens, because kids:

  1. Lose interest, because sports aren’t fun anymore.
  2. Get burned out.
  3. Get injured – play too many games.
  4. Don’t get enough playing time.
  5. Get too much pressure placed on them to win.

The list could go on and on.

I’m not against organized sports. I think with the right approach, it can be very beneficial.

Here are some things I guarantee that occurred during Steve Nash’s childhood:

  1. Played multiple sports – This helped him develop into a great overall athlete. Did you know Nash was a very good soccer player? I believe he still plays some during the offseason.
  2. Developed a passion himself – I can almost guarantee he wasn’t forced to practice by his parents. Do you think you would be passionate about something if you were forced to do it?
  3. Plenty of free play – played sports in the backyard or playground without adult supervision and instruction. Don’t you think it would be beneficial for kids to solve problems and socialize without an adult instructing them how to do everything? We’re not developing robots, are we?
  4. Coaches made it fun. When I say fun, I’m not talking about hosting practices where the coaches and players skip around together singing Kum-Ba-Yah.

I’m referring to coaches:

  • Being positive.
  • Complimenting way more than criticizing. Try using Phil Jackson’s magic ratio of 5 compliments to 1 criticism or Morgan Wootten’s sandwich technique with a compliment – criticism – compliment. I honestly don’t even like to call them criticisms. I think using the term “teaching point” puts coaches in a better mindset to teach rather than just point out a flaw.
  • Disciplining (not punishing).
  • Using fun drills & games to improve skills.
  • Teaching with some enthusiasm.
  • Challenging the athletes through progressions while not making it too difficult or too easy.

Let’s stop all of this ultra-competitive athletics at an early age and develop KIDS the right way!


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International Basketball Trip – Last Day

By Don Kelbick

July 6

Today is the last day at the camp for me. We worked out in the morning, ate lunch, said goodbye and then it’s off on the 5-hour ride to Athens. My flight leaves at 7 AM so I have to leave the hotel at about 4:30 am.

Had a great workout with the kids. I found out a couple of interesting things about the “closed gym,” as they call it in the camp. It is a small gym with only 1 court. It has a couple of small locker rooms and not much parking outside. It is poorly lit though better than some of the other places I have traveled to. It had about 500 theater-type seats on one side of the gym in the stands. There was a school across the street so my American orientation told me the gym belonged to the school. It had 2 large emblems on the floor proclaiming “2006 ‘The Year of FIBA Women’s Basketball.’” I thought that was kind of odd.

It turns out, the gym was built for the Athens Olympics in 2004. It housed the women’s basketball competition, all the way up to the semi-finals. Once they reached the semis, the competition moved to Athens. As much as we would like to believe how far women’s basketball has progressed, the fact is that the games played on the world’s biggest stage only 2 Olympiads ago were played in a dingy little gym, 5 hours from the main event with little expectation of spectatorship.

My Greek basketball experience was priceless. Basketball is truly a universal language. I do not speak a word of Greek yet I was effectively able to teach 180 kids about the game. From my experience, I don’t think that these kids, though, are taught to have fun. The coaches I worked with are all great coaches and teachers. They love the sport and love the kids. But, their experience as players and coaches are with people who believe that they should be yelling and screaming all the time. They had a little trouble adapting to my approach, having patience, allowing time for kids to correct themselves and motivating them to keep trying. They could not argue with the results once the kids started to understand the concepts they were presented with.

We are all aware there are cultural differences between societies but we have to be aware that when we teach or coach basketball to international players, there are cultural differences as well. One of the coaches told me that the first Greek word every American learns is “Malakas”. When I asked what that means he said “Asshole.” I spoke a lot of basketball with the coaches. They have great knowledge and passion for the game.

For 5 hours I spoke basketball on the ride back to Athens. The coach that drove me back was an assistant on one of the 1st division pro teams and he gave me some insight as to how much pressure Greek coaches are under constantly, at all levels. For all their innovative methods of training, and many are truly way ahead of their time, they are very traditional once they get between the lines. For that reason they approach their teaching the same way they learned and played. One coach said that in Greece, if you don’t play professionally, no one plays after they are 21 years old. So there are no pickup games at the park, no old guys playing at the beach, not fathers playing their sons in the driveways. That is unfortunate because they really love the game.

I loved the trip. I am very tired. There was little time to relax. Even when there was time it was difficult. There are many things we take for granted in the U. S. that are not present elsewhere. The most difficult part of the trip was going into someone else’s home with different values and methods and asking them to assume yours. I hope they had as much fun as I did. Being exposed to my kind of craziness can drive anyone nuts, even if they understand me. Imagine what it is like for someone who doesn’t understand me. I learned a lot. I hope someone came away with something new from me. I hope I get to do it again.

The second part of my trip, to Colombia, has been postponed until August. Just as well. I have some guys I need to start preparing at home.

International Basketball Trip – Day 6 & 7

By Don Kelbick

July 4

If there is one thing that makes me appreciate the country in which I live, it is being elsewhere on the most important day in American history. Other places are great. Filled with great people and interesting culture, but I am glad I live in the U. S. Happy birthday America.

Today was a great day of basketball. We had 4 hours of workouts, 2 hours in the morning, 2 hours in the evening. The kids were great; the coaches were fun to work with. I think they both appreciate seeing something different. I think that there is no better reward in coaching than seeing a kid smile (of course winning and getting paid are pretty rewarding, too).

I had another discussion with one of the coaches whom I have developed a lot of respect for. He played professionally in several different countries for 11 or 12 years. It is interesting how image and reality might be the same. He was telling me how there is no emphasis on teaching fundamentals in Europe and all their time on tactics. He admired the way we concentrate on fundamentals. Our image in the U. S. is exactly the opposite.

We also look at European training as being innovative. In truth, their off court training truly is. But he said that once they get between the lines, any departure from traditional basketball might be grounds for dismissal. Coaches here are constantly afraid of getting fired. Sure, it is part of coaching life, but I don’t think that it is part of everyday life in the U. S.

July 5

Today, we are off in the morning. These kids come for 16 days at a time so they get some time off on Sunday. The groups also change. There are 120 kids in the camp, 60 left yesterday and a new 60 came in. So, this morning, we visited the place where sport was invented, ancient Olympia.

Visiting a place that is so significant in human history and a place that is so old can be overwhelming and difficult to comprehend. Seeing the Temple of Zeus, walking out into the original Sports Stadium and walking where people walked 2500 years ago is not an opportunity that comes around that often for me. Seeing the actual sculpture of Hermes and Nike (now I know where the company name comes from) is difficult to put in perspective. I stood in the place where they now light the Olympic Torch for each Olympiad. I thought that was pretty neat. It is definitely worth the trip.

After coming back from Olympia, we stopped for lunch with some of the coaches. People eat more here than anyplace I have ever seen. A cardiologist would have a heart attack here. Huge amounts of food, everything fried, lots of fatty meats and cheese everywhere. It sure tastes good, though.

I worked out with the new group this evening. Since I had 1 group and had 2 ½ hours we were able to get through quite a bit. We went through the entire footwork series that took a couple of days with the other groups. They pick it up really quickly and they are really hungry to learn. Had some more great discussions with the coaches about traveling and how hard it is to coach teams that have players from different countries. Player come from the U. S. for big dollars and it creates jealousies amongst the national players. Differing styles of play generate some issues as does differences in language.

Who said coaching basketball was easy?

International Basketball Trip – Day 4 & 5

By Don Kelbick

July 2

Today was the first full day of working with the players. I found them very adaptable and very eager to learn. It is amazing how universal the language of basketball is. Some of the players spoke a little English but most didn’t understand me. But we we spoke about basketball, everyone understood.

The camp is built on top of a mountain. The courts, of which there are 3, are tiered so going from court to court requires going up and down significantly. Just going to the courts is a workout. There is a 4th court, which is located in the town at the bottom of the mountain, and they transport the players by bus. To me, it is a gym, to them it is a “closed court” because it is inside.

I had an interesting discussion with the coaches. I am amazed that how much they are held by tradition. I have always thought that European basketball was much more scientific and progressive than American basketball but, at the same time, more programmed. We got into a discussion of coaching styles and stretching. As I mentioned earlier, they spend a ridiculous amount of time stretching where I like to do multi-purpose drills, such as ball handling drills, to get loose. They thought that was a pretty good idea, however, if they held a practice and did not stretch they all said they would get fired immediately.

They watched my teaching technique and thought is was very effective. However, I do not yell and scream at players nor do I stop an entire group when a mistake is made and get after everyone. Their feeling was they are expected to yell and scream at their teams. They felt that if in a game, they were not up and yelling at their team all the time, they would get fired immediately.

I find that a very interesting perspective.

July 3

Good day of basketball workouts. Players really picked thing up quickly. If you have read any of my work before, you know how important footwork is to me. Here, everything stems from shooting the basketball. By working with the player’s footwork, they quickly started to shoot better. Watching them shoot, they often are not facing the basket because they never get their feet around. I believe by getting them to understand their feet, they were able to self correct their shots and be more effective.

The most important basketball here is NBA basketball. I am amazed that they think that, because I have worked with a few NBA players and have scouted for a couple of NBA teams, I am an expert. I have reporters everywhere I go. I have given 5 interviews and had a full-page story printed in a major Athens newspaper. Everywhere, they want to know about the NBA. They want to know if there are any Greek players that might be stars in the NBA (I don’t know), and the biggest question is do I think that a Greek professional team can compete for a championship in the NBA. There seems to be a lot of talk about the Greek League champion, Panathaniokus, joining the NBA. I asked who is doing that talking and they said it was mostly Greek basketball experts. I really don’t think the NBA is talking about that.

The camp is in a town called Krestena, in the city-state of Peloponsis, and is the closest town to Olympia, the ancient city where the first Olympics over 3000 years ago. A reporter asked my yesterday what my opinion was about teaching basketball in the city were sports was invented.

Kind of makes you think.

International Basketball Trip – Day 3 (Greece)

By Don Kelbick

July 1

Earlier I mentioned using basketball as a vehicle. Last night I had dinner at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. For some reason I don’t think that accountants get to do that in their line of work.

Today I have a 4-hour drive to Olympia for the camp. The weather here is hot, not Miami hot, but hot just the same. For some reason I don’t think the air conditioning is Miami air conditioning either.

The trip from Athens to Olympia was about 41/2 hours. The temperature was in the 90s and the car we were driving had no air conditioning. About half the trip was on major highways and the other half on 2 lane roads. I use the term 2 lane roads rather loosely seeing that there were 4 lanes of traffic on those 2 lanes. Drivers here drive half in the breakdown lane and half in the travel lane. This is to allow for cars to pass on another. In the U. S. the lane markings on the road have some meaning, dashed line you can pass, double line you cannot, etc. It did not make a difference what type of line there was on the road, straight road or not. If you came up on a car in front of you, you passed him. There were times I thought we were trying to drive between the headlights of the on coming cars and they were trying to do the same to ours. The drive can only be described as long periods of boredom, punctuated by moments of stark terror.

European basketball is much different than U. S. basketball

We arrived at the camp, which is on the top of a mountain about 4000 feet up. I worked for about an hour with a group. European basketball is much different than U. S. basketball. It almost seems like ballet compared to the emphasis on power in the U. S. Their practice habits are also much more leisurely. Of course, the most difficult thing for me to adjust to is the 45 minutes they spend stretching inside an hour and a half basketball workout. That really doesn’t leave a lot of time for work. Players also seem to be much more programmed in the way they do things. Everyone does the same thing and they don’t like to experiment. It has its benefits but I think that experimentation is a key to learning. There are many things that I think the Europeans do better than we do but I think the resistance to other ideas stunts their growth. They also seem to have an emphasis on pleasing the coach. I believe their primary motivation should be to get better, not please me.

Now it is time to make the 3 mile, 20 minute drive down the mountain to relax.

International Basketball Trip – Day 1 & 2

By Don Kelbick

June 29

Basketball is a great thing. Especially when it is used as a vehicle as opposed to an end unto itself. Basketball has made me some great friends, given me a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, provided for my family and has allowed me to go places that I know I never would have gotten a chance to go to if it were not for the game we all love.

I am at the start of a journey that will take me from Miami to Athens, Greece to Tunja, Colombia just to teach some basketball. I thought it might be fun to take you with me. It will be interesting to see if there are different attitudes and outlooks toward the game in the different countries. In Greece I am going to be giving a clinic at Camp Olympia, a camp for kids of all ages. My target group is players from 12-16. In Colombia, I will be at a camp for players aged 10 -18 in the morning and conducting a coaches clinic in the afternoons.

I left Miami for Athens, through Rome at 4:15 this afternoon. I knew it would be a long flight when I got my 2 boarding passes as was told, “This one is for today and this one is for tomorrow. As I boarded the Alitalia flight, I was not charged for checking luggage nor was I charged extra for my aisle seat. That seems to be an U. S. airline phenomenon where the more trouble the airline seems to be in, the less customer friendly they become. In addition, upon entering the aircraft they had a newspaper rack filled with newspapers filled with newspapers from all the countries they fly out of. I was able to pick up a Miami Herald I missed in the morning. I was also given 3 meals and could have had seconds, if I wished, at no extra charge.

June 30

It was a long flight to Rome, 9 hours. We landed at 8 am local, which is 2 AM Miami time. 9 hours is a long time to be in an airplane. I slept for a couple of hours. The flight seemed longer because my entertainment system was not working. It was a full flight so there was no chance to change. Just had to grit my teeth and fight the boredom.

My flight to Athens doesn’t board for about 2 hours. I had to go to another terminal spur for this leg. Through security again and I had to go through passport control. That is where I started to learn the difference between Europe and other places that I’ve been.

I have traveled many times to Latin America (all on basketball business). Living in Miami has made me pretty comfortable with the Latin culture. I have also become fluent in Spanglish. In Miami or other Latin area a simple, “No hablo Espanol,” or an “Hablas Englese?” will usually start a more productive conversation. Needless to say, in Rome it doesn’t have the same effect. Going through passport control is a great illustration. I got at the end of a long line with a sign that said, “E. U. Only.” Anyone in Miami will tell you that E. U. stands for Estados Unidos (United States). Upon reaching the front of the line, the gentleman informed me that in Europe it stand for European Union. It took a little while but I finally got through the other line and got to my terminal.

I am now learning that grilled ham and cheese is a breakfast food in other parts of the world. It is true in Colombia; it is true in Mexico and now I know it is true in Rome. I stopped to grab a quick bite and there were at least 10 people in front of me. Each ordered a grilled ham and cheese. Of course they ordered in Italian which made it sound a little more romantic.

I think they are calling my flight now. Of course it could also be a flight to Brussels or Vienna for all I know, I’ll just follow the signs and see what happens. Of course, in Greece they don’t even use the same letters so it will be interesting to see how that works out.

Well the day just got a little longer. While sitting on the plane they have just announced that we are delayed at least 1 ½ hours due to traffic. Sounds just like Miami. Just another opportunity to get some sleep.