When a player slows their game down, the game becomes slower in return. It’s about body control, but it’s also about reading the game and acting from that rather than reacting.
The masters of slowing down are obviously Luka Dončić and Nikola Jokić. Both of them can basically walk into the paint for a layup, slowing down to a degree that the opponent can’t catch up. It sounds upside down, but that’s the point: most defenders don’t have the ability to slow down in the same way as these two slow masters.
Luka just out here having fun...except its an actual NBA game. pic.twitter.com/a2n2QtMfpP— MavsHighlights (@MavsHighlights) December 18, 2023
On the opposite end, we have the players who are out of control a lot of the time. They run, push or overhelp, frantically trying to make an impact, hustle or show they deserve minutes. But the faster a player goes, the more out of control he probably ends up being, and most likely he ends up missing his shot, in more than one sense.
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about pushing or running in transition, or taking advantage of the defense not being set.
Slowing down is a lot more than that walking a layup. Most of us could try that and we’d be killed in the paint. What makes these two so good at something most of us can do - literally slowing down?
First, there’s the physical aspect: body control. If you have a thick frame like our Balkan friends here it may be a little easier, but everyone can be in control of their bodies. If you cannot stop or turn the way you want to while running, or the game goes by faster than you like and over your head half the time, it’s a good indication. You’re probably not in control. Slow down.
Then there’s the mental aspect - the game slowing down so you’re able to read it easier. It’s twofold: When you go too fast, you don’t have the time or energy to watch and observe. But if you slow down, you are more likely to be able to read what the next step, pass or play will be. The game has now become slower to you and you can read it and respond accordingly.
Josh Green is the type of player, who is often out of control. He is sometimes too fast for himself, forgetting to slow down on offense and overhelping on defense, which causes the defensive rotations to crash.
Green is well aware of this issue, however. The summer before this one, he came into summer camp looking like a different player, a player in control and confident on offense. When he got questioned about what had changed for him over the summer he said that he had spent time working out with Kyle Lowry. Lowry had advised him to slow down, and that’s what he had done to great success.
He seemed like a different player for a while there and still we see glimpses of the Josh Green that could be, when he wins over the urge to do too much and slows down. When he is in control.
Being out of control is something we see more often with young players, who haven’t learned yet that slowing down may help them do more. Maturity is often the key to see what could be, and what can be if you lower the tempo.
Luka Dončić was born with this skill. I’m convinced he had it the day he picked up a basketball, but most of us need more time than that. Dante Exum is a good example of someone, who played for a good amount of time in the NBA, but who often was a little too out of control to make an impact. It took a trip to the place where all role players should spend time to hone their game, Europe and the EuroLeague, for him to learn how to slow down to accomplish more.
Exum does not play slow by any means. He pushes the ball and beats his defender on his surprisingly quick first step again and again, but he never rushes. He reads the game and he is in control of his body and the offense.
A really good example of the opposite is a certain player on the Wizards, who is rarely in control and speeds everything up to the detriment of his offensive game. I’m of course talking about Jordan Poole. The amount of offensive possessions he has ruined for the Wizards this year is extensive .
Olivier-Maxence Prosper, the Dallas rookie still learning and gaining experience, is also often out of control on the court. His arms flailing when he runs and the frantic look he has most times just show that the game is still too fast for him. He will learn and have a great career, I have no doubt, but for now he still has the immature player’s way of moving, with minimum body and mental control.
As a team, a way of being in control as a group, especially under pressure, is running set plays. Not just for the star necessarily, but also for role players, who have a harder time creating for themselves and easily get lost ball watching on offense.
Despite having superstars, who can iso against everyone and at all times, running plays creates much needed involvement of the role players on offense, something that can sway a game. Not all players on a team are stars, and creating more dynamic plays that include more players can help get easy buckets and change momentum. And as we all know, momentum can be the deciding factor in getting the win. It’s often the small things that matter in clutch, and involving role players more can sway a game.
Getting easy buckets is the ultimate way of controlling a game, and not a bad way to foster connection and spread out the responsibility.
Being in control is more than your body doing what you want it to. The mental aspect of reading the game and slowing it down is just as important. Just like in real life, being in control of the things you are able to affect and not worrying about the rest can help you do more, in a better and more efficient way. That’s why players who slow down accomplish more.