By: Chad Zimmerman
Even though he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the 2001-2002 season, Tim Duncan thought he still had room for improvement. Determined to take his game to the next level—whatever that is beyond MVP—Duncan turned to Spurs strength and conditioning coach Mike Brungardt.
"After Tim won his first MVP award, that off-season, one of his goals was to improve his foot speed," says Brungardt. "We worked a ton on foot speed drills all off-season to help him improve coordination and quickness."
Furthering skills most would already deem perfect earned Duncan a second consecutive MVP award for the 2002-2003 season. To help him achieve every basketball player’s dream title the second time, Brungardt worked Duncan with Quick Sticks, Goofball Drills and Ball Drops.
"These drills were all part of his quickness training. And the next season, he had more blocks, rebounds and a whole lot of other things than he did in any other season," explains Brungardt.
Duncan performed the following quickness drills three days a week throughout the off-season to help him repeat as the league’s best. Duncan and the rest of the Spurs continue working on these drills every off-season to help them dominate the NBA hardwood.
Although Quick Sticks can be set up in different patterns, the Spurs usually do them in a four-square pattern, performing jumps side to side, forward-back, angle jumps and other combinations.
The sticks are set up in a plus-sign formation to create four squares. Without sticks, use the intersecting lines on the court. Number each square 1 through 4, starting in the top left corner with 1 and moving clockwise. Next, hop as fast as possible from square to square in the given pattern for 15 seconds. For example, the 1-2 pattern entails hopping side-to-side from square 1 to square 2 repeatedly for 15 seconds. You can perform this same pattern hopping only on the right leg and then the left.
The goal of all patterns is to jump for speed, not height. On a given training day, perform a total of 5 different patterns, each for 15 seconds. Perform 2 patterns double-legged and 3 single-legged. Rest 45 to 60 seconds between drills to achieve full recovery.
Example Quick Sticks Patterns
1-2; 1-4; 1-3; 2-4; 1-2-3; 3-2-1; 2-1-4; 4-1-2; etc.
Goofballs are rubber balls with extra nubs, which make them bounce all over the place.
"We’ll do a lot of drills with Goofballs because they’re all reaction drills, since there’s no set pattern to what the Goofball is going to do," says Brungardt.
Start with your back turned to a partner. Stand about two arms lengths away. On your partner’s call, he/she will drop the Goofball. Turn around, react to the ball and try to catch it as it bounces or run it down if it bounces away. Perform 2 to 3 sets of 10 drop and catches. The walk back to the starting position is the only rest between reps, but take enough time for full recovery between sets.
From The Ground
Start on the ground lying on your back. Have a partner, who is standing at your feet facing you, throw the ball high into the air so it lands 10 to 15 feet away from you. Once your partner tosses the ball, get up and catch the ball. Perform one set of 10 reps using the walk back to the starting position as rest.
Brungardt says these drills involve a lot of hand and body reaction.
Stand with your arms straight out in front of your body at shoulder level with your palms facing the floor. Next, have a partner hold a basketball at your waist level (the ball should be 1 to 2 feet below your arms). When your partner drops the ball, you should catch it before it hits the ground.
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps of front drops with no rest between reps. Rest 30 to 45 seconds between sets.
Start in the same position as front drops, but have your partner stand to your side so the ball is beside your waist. Make sure you can see the ball from the corner of your eye. Then, have your partner drop the ball. Quickly drop your hips and turn to catch the ball. Again, rotate and drop your hips to catch the ball. Don’t bend and twist, as this isn’t the quickest way to the ball.
Perform 2 sets of 5 reps to each side without rest between reps. Rest 30 to 45 seconds between sets.
As you progress for front and side drops, use a light medicine ball instead of a basketball. Gradually move to heavier medicine balls as quickness and core strength improve.
*Coaching point: Brungardt says most people try to catch the ball by reaching straight down with their hands. But that isn’t the quickest way to the ball. "The quickest way to the ball is to drop your butt to the ground and then reach out."