I’ve noticed that many players love the speed and pace of the Read & React when playing 5 OUT and even 4 OUT 1 IN. This tells me that they WANT to play hard! They want to give their best effort! The Read & React makes them feel like they’ve been set free – as if they’ve been held back by traditional offenses!

I appreciate this attribute in players when I see it, so I want to be careful with my criticism. I don’t want to “douse” their enthusiasm. However, for the inexperienced player, their speed and pace can be too fast for their “still-developing” decision-making skills.

The player who has just passed can CERTAINLY change gears and explode to the goal in their fastest gear! But the player WITH the ball must be in a SLOWER gear. The player WITH the ball cannot get caught up in the speed of the cutter and fillers and screeners. This is what I call the “HOT POTATO SYNDROME”.

A common place where this occurs is in the first layer and with the most common action in the Read & React: the ball has been passed East-West on the Perimeter. The passer cuts hard (just like we train them to do) but the ballhandler has already passed the ball because they are moving at the same speed as the cutter! Many times the cutter is open but the ball is in flight to the next perimeter player! The ballhandler must mentally slow down in order to see the cutter.

The next most common occurrence of the HOT POTATO SYNDROME occurs with the FILLER of the empty spot. As everyone knows, there are four distinguishable, readable, trainable, scoring opportunities for the filler:

Read Line against an aggressive, pass-stealing defender,
Curl the Puppydog against a trailing defender,
Catch and Shoot versus a sagging, disrespectful defender, and
Momentum Move against a defender who almost stole the pass.
But I see the pass being thrown to the EMPTY SPOT ahead of time; with the assumption that the filler will catch the ball at the spot regardless of how his/her defender is arriving. The ballhandler is mentally (and physically) playing TOO FAST. The ballhandler is caught up in the PACE OF PLAY and destroys a chance for the filler to score with one of these four reads! This often leads to a turnover or the filler simply doing everything they can to catch the ball without it being stolen!

I’m fond of telling players that they must learn to use a CHANGE OF SPEEDS in order to become a good basketball player. And they should! Good players have 3 gears. Some of the great players have 5 gears! But in the Read & React, we must extend this CHANGE OF SPEED to players WITH the ball and players WITHOUT the ball. The player reading the situation must slow down a gear!