The case for a press and Four Minutes of Hell

Leandro Barbosa would be the key to a potential Suns pressing lineup on both sides of the ball.

Leandro Barbosa would be the key to a potential pressing Suns lineup both offensively and defensively.

A few months back, Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell debated the lost art of pressing in the NBA.

Both writers wondered why no pro team is willing to take a chance with the press these days in an era in which many college teams still run it.

Sure, you can say NBA athletes are too good for the press to ever be effective, but what if the athletes they’re going up against are even better?

Simmons makes a compelling argument for the press, saying five or six guys on an athletic team could be schooled on it. They could then be utilized for the first five minutes of the second and fourth quarters against the opposition’s bench.

Simmons writes:

“Wouldn’t that be an ENORMOUS advantage? Wouldn’t that swing a few games? Wouldn’t opponents dread playing them? Wouldn’t opponents have to waste practice time preparing to break that press? Wouldn’t it be even better at home with the [players] flying around and their fans going bonkers? The key would be not putting ‘press miles’ on your top guys and your wealthiest guys.”

Simmons goes on to suggest having a team throw out one of its top five scorers with its last four guys on the bench.

I think this premise is genius, and here’s how I would make it work for the Suns:

First off, you don’t want to put “mileage” on your starters with the press, and I don’t see how effective Nash, J-Rich and Amare would be in such a system anyway. So they’re out.

I’d put Goran at the one so you can have a (semi)-ballhandler at the other end and Barbosa at the two. He’s got the length and explosiveness to be a perfect press player, plus he would be the guy who can carry this unheralded offense when he gets hot.

Having pressed at Louisville and with his length and athleticism, Earl Clark would have to figure in any pressing alignment. For his hustle and scrappiness, I feel like there also couldn’t be a pressing Suns lineup without Louuuuu Amundson.

The fifth player is where it gets tricky, and I’ve actually spent more time than I should have debating who my theoretical fifth guy would be.

You could go with Taylor Griffin for his athletic gifts. This would be great for team morale from the “everybody is contributing to this thing” standpoint, and he possesses the hunger to really give it absolutely everything during his limited court time.

At the same time, I’m not sure how much I’d like Griffin getting consistent minutes night in and night out.

Therefore, I’d rotate the final spot between Griffin, Jared Dudley and Robin Lopez. Dudley has the smarts to be an effective press player, and he’ll at least give you something on offense. I’d go with Robin against a bigger team because otherwise you’re pretty short with Lou at the five and a tweener forward next to him.

I’m also not sure if I would do this for five minutes a half. That’s almost a quarter of an entire game, which seems like just too much for me for that type of lineup.

Instead I would throw the press out for the first four minutes of every second quarter. Like Simmons points out, you’d be going against backups, which greatly increases your odds at success.

I’d love to see how opponents would react. This would become something they have to prepare for before playing the Suns, and it could cause fits in a playoff situation.

It would be the ultimate trump card to use when you’re down 15 in the middle of the third quarter and you want to inject some energy into your lifeless team, that extra wrinkle to make you just a little less predictable.

Obviously a press would work much better at home than on the road, so you wouldn’t even have to use it every game if you’re playing against a veteran team on the road that you don’t feel would be shaken much by a press.

Granted the press wouldn’t work every night. There would be nights in which it fails and you look like an idiot for running it.

But all in all, I think the Suns would be the perfect team to press four minutes at a time. They already used substitution line shifts at times last season, and with their propensity to play fast such a maneuver would play right into their hands.

The Suns have the perfect combination of athleticism and length along with a go-to scorer in their “pressing” lineup and a rookie who played this way in college who will feel right at home in the press.

It’s a style that can shift games and when you consider how close NBA games are, that four-minute stretch to start the second quarter with Nash on the bench anyway could make a huge difference for the Suns.

It won’t exactly be Nolan Richardon’s old “40 Minutes of Hell” system, but “Four Minutes of Hell” to start every second quarter could help the Suns revolutionize the NBA once again.

Tags: Jared Dudley Leandro Barbosa

  • N8lol

    Dude. Nice article. I love it when people think seriously about something important and try to apply to the a situation. I would LOVE the press for us. We seem to have the prefect guys for it off the bench too. I am not sure if 4 minutes would be too much, but I love the concept.

    On top of all the other things you said it would add another dimension of fatigue for the other team. If your first line is running running running until the other team gasses then you bring out a second line the presses them so hard they are working non-stop just to get court position while your runners are resting…by the time the 4th comes along the opposing team is spent. If you do this with a team who has one superstar and a bunch of role players (like Wade and the Heat for example) I think you have a recipe for huge success. +1 man. Nice.

  • Bob

    Interesting piece but it was better a few months ago when debated on another Suns site

  • The Hoops Manifesto

    I'm all for it. Since the Suns aren't going to be successful playing traditional defense (considering they don't have any good defenders) this could be a great "gimmick" defense to stir things up.

  • Scott

    Great idea. I agree that it could definitely work – but as you say likely only against another team’s second unit.

  • thomas c

    maybe if you didnt read the begging of the article but this idea was orignally thought of by malcolm gladwell and bill simmons. Credit goes where it is deserved. you can check bill simmons out on espn page2

  • jyoung4

    Great article! I would love to see teams with rosters similar to the Suns run something like this. The Wildcat has taken football by storm, changing it up can work well if you are the first to do it. – NBA News and Discussion

  • Martin

    i dont know what to say….Brian, you take away my words. Great words, All these things of coincoussnes and tappa’s and related topics we’re been made and have been practicioned “to brought us back””to be here””right now””in this moment” And not wandering in our past or even worse…in that future that never comes, as we believe it wolud come. I say thanks because lately there was were i was, its good to have friends like you. The ones with open mind. You brught me back to reality from my matrix. Thanks again.