To hear Raptors guard Doug Christie tell it, being an effective
NBA double-teamer takes more than long arms, quick reflexes and
acute peripheral vision. It also requires skin as thick as the
leather on a regulation NBA basketball. "We tried to double-team
Grant Hill at half-court," Christie (13, right) recalls of a
game last year against the Pistons. "He didn't like us forcing
the ball out of his hands, so after he'd pass the ball, he would
grab both defenders and fight through us so that he could get it
back. He was smacking us in the head and jamming his fingers in
Christie, 28, knows all about the dangers--and fun--of playing
the role of human wet blanket. With Toronto (6-12 at week's end)
short on good man-to-man defenders, he is often deployed as a
rover, using his 6'6" frame to help teammates guard foes. Partly
as a result of that harassment, Christie finished among the top
three in steals in the league for the past two seasons. This
season he's currently ranked third with 2.56 steals per game.
Christie says a good double team starts with a scouting report.
"Before every game we have what we call red-shirt guys,"
Christie says. "Players like Karl Malone or Shawn Kemp, whom we
intend to double all night. We also add names to the list during
the game. We might be in the huddle, and Coach [Butch Carter]
will say, 'John Stockton is hot, so as soon as he crosses
half-court, double him to get the ball out of his hands.'"
Once the target has been selected, Christie says, the Raptors
double on either the pass, the catch or the dribble, depending
on the target's skills. "For example, when we play Grant Hill,
usually we're coming as soon as he catches the ball because we
don't want him putting it on the floor," says Christie. "With
Charles Barkley, though, you don't want to double on the catch
because he's so good at passing out of the post. He'll hit an
open man right away, and the next thing you know, Scottie Pippen
will be shooting a wide-open three. You want to come at Barkley
on his third or fourth dribble, when you know for sure he's
going to the basket."
The proper technique for initiating a double team, according to
Christie, is to move quickly (but warily) toward the target with
arms raised high to block his vision. Upon arrival, the
double-teamer puts his foot behind his teammate's, locking legs
and forming a wall. "Also, you want to get one arm up and out a
bit in case the guy pivots quickly," Christie says. "If a big
guy like Shaq swings around and catches you with an elbow, he
could knock your head off."
Although a lot goes into executing a proper double team,
Christie says it's mostly a matter of hard work. "The two best
double-teamers in the league are Scottie Pippen and Gary Payton,
guys who are very proud and driven," Christie says. "They fight
and claw to get the ball. That's what it's all about."
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO