It’s safe to assume that every year the road to the NBA Finals in the Western Conference will go through San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs have made 11 consecutive playoff appearances, concluding four of them with the ultimate prize in hand, the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Spurs’ fast and stingy defense is one reason for their continuous success. To find out how they get after it defensively, we hit up the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Mike Brungardt.
STACK: Why is it important to have speed with your back to the basket?
Mike Brungardt: On either the perimeter or post, your ability to move laterally with a quick first step and to recover fast to get to a spot to cut off an opponent are key. To help, we do Lane Slides.
STACK: What are Lane Slides?
MB: Wearing a weighted vest, the athlete slides from one side of the lane to the other in a good power position. Sometimes, a partner with a ball makes a move to one side from the top of the key; the defensive player has to react. We remove the vest for the last rep and go with just body weight. Perform 3 to 5 reps for 15 to 30 seconds, resting 60 to 90 seconds.
STACK: What are you looking for in terms of body mechanics?
MB: I want to see a bend in the knees and hips, rear end dropped, flat back and chest up. You want to cover ground with your first step, so don’t bring your feet together. Usually one arm is extended to the side and the other is up. It can alternate depending on where the offensive player is holding the ball. You want to make sure you cut off passing lanes.
STACK: What’s the benefit of wearing the vest?
MB: Adding weight means the player has to overcome resistance to get to a spot. Therefore, he has to generate more force and power to get there.
STACK: How does boxing benefit a basketball player?
MB: The foot skills, balance, and reaction you get from boxing directly correlates to the movement basketball players make on the court. We also use it for handspeed as well. Getting to spots and reacting to your opponent in the ring is very beneficial.
STACK: Are they trying to knock their opponent out?
MB: No. The guys are hitting mits that their partners are wearing. The partner with the mits is moving around forcing the other to react as he’s boxing.
STACK: How long do you perform it?
MB: When we’re working on speed, we do it for 30 seconds. They’ll perform three to five reps with 60 to 90 seconds rest.
STACK: When do you perform it?
MB: We’ll do it during the off-season on our upper body days.