Nate McMillan’s ‘gimmick’ to stress rebounding in practice

October 19, 2018 / DrillsWinning Hoops
The Indiana Pacers ranked 27th in team rebounding during the 2016-17 NBA season, a dismal showing that was second worst among teams that made the postseason.

indiana pacers rebounding
Photo: Matt Velazquez, Flickr

Head coach Nate McMillan was determined to improve at the boards this offseason, and Mark Montieth at highlights how he did it. McMillan used a trick familiar to basketball coaches by treating rebounds as scores during team scrimmages.

Here’s what he did, from

McMillan’s gimmicky scoring system in the Pacers’ training camp scrimmages was a cruel way to get a point across. But it helped get some rebounds across.

An offensive rebound counted three points for the offense and deducted three points from the defense. Corner 3-pointers, meanwhile, were worth four points. Grabbing an offensive rebound and kicking it out to a shooter for a corner 3-pointer would be worth 10 points in all for the scoring team.

What changed was McMillan’s training camp emphasis. He delivered a Day One goal of finishing among the NBA’s top ten rebounding teams, which would be a startling improvement for a team that was in the bottom fourth of that category last season. Every drill in camp ended with a rebound, and every scrimmage placed a greater premium on rebounding than scoring.

“If we didn’t rebound we lost, simple as that,” Victor Oladipo said. “We were losing points for everything, goodness gracious. But especially rebounding. It’s going to help us throughout the year.”

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The sample size is small, but the Pacers’ season-opening win against the Memphis Grizzlies shows the gimmick might have worked. The Pacers outrebounded the Grizzlies 57-28 (best since 2003) and won the game by 28 points (the franchise’s largest margin of victory in a season opener).

McMillan’s strategy is a good reminder to coaches that they should spend time emphasizing what they truly value in team performance. Don’t just tell players to attack the boards — make it important by assigning it value in scrimmages. Coaches can do the same with steals, deflections, mid-range jumpers or by limiting dribbles. You’re only confined by your own creativity, so brainstorm with your coaches staff ways you can zero in on your weaknesses and take a leap forward.

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