One of my favorite movies is the 1994 crime film Fresh. I won’t summarize the film for you here, but the way the main character (a 12 year old black kid in New York) manipulates his situation via strategic plotting influenced by his playing of chess will always be something I appreciate. What can I say, I’m a sucker for smart characters and this kid was smart.
This isn’t a movie review, but I was thinking about chess earlier after I read Zach Lowe’s latest piece for ESPN on the Dallas Mavericks. Lowe goes into detail about how the Mavs continue to win games even though their roster has turned over by more than half and how an aging Dirk and head coach Rick Carlisle are still getting it done.
The passage which caught my eye, however, is below:
It turns out, Dallas needed a slight recalibration, rather than a total overhaul. The team traded a few pick-and-rolls for more intricate pieces of five-man basketball chess: classic Carlisle and Terry Stotts “flow” sets, with Pachulia and Nowitzki helming the elbows and a whir of on-ball and off-ball screens unfolding around them. Only three teams have set more on-ball screens, and only five have nailed opponents with more off-ball picks, per SportVU data and numbers crunched to ESPN.com by Vantage Sports…
The Mavs have collected smart players who read the game in snapshots, guys who can improvise an off-ball screening ballet and understand how to cut against the defense’s expectations. They keep you guessing all over the floor until someone breaks.
The concept of elite basketball players “playing chess” on the floor is not a new one. Back when the Lakers were coached by Phil Jackson and ran the Triangle Offense, I often talked about how Kobe, Pau, and Odom manipulated defenses via expert level understanding of how each action of the offense would impact what their opponents did to stop them.