It emphasizes off-the-ball movement and backdoor cuts, while encouraging post players to handle the ball. While such an offense might sound like the NBA's version of the Matrix, it was actually created in a high school gymnasium in the early '50s. But thanks to one of the best point guards ever, some athletic forwards, and a young coach who likes to let his team run, the "Princeton offense" -- named after the school where its creator, current Kings assistant Pete Carril, perfected this complicated attack -- has received a turbo boost from the NBA team that resides in the same state as the storied Ivy League school. And the offense's success can't be debated; the Nets have ridden it to the last two Eastern Conference championships, while the Kings are perennial contenders in the West.
NBA.com talked to some of the Nets to discover what makes their complex offense so effective and stylish. Here's what the coach and some of his players, as well as a rival scout, had to say:
The Coach: Lawrence Frank
What’s the connection between your offense and the Kings' offense?
“Coach Carril created the offense, although he wouldn’t say that he did, but Eddie Jordan learned it from him while they were assistants with the Kings and so when Eddie came here as an assistant, he brought the offense with him and we implemented it."
Would you agree that the Kings tend to attack the offense on the floor with bounce passes whereas the Nets go over the top with alley-oops and athleticism?
Frank: “No, not really. We have different spacing and different structure, but we have similar principles."
The Leading Scorer: Richard Jefferson
Since this feature is about the anatomy of style, how would you describe your role in the offense in terms of how the body works?
“(I am) the blood. My role is to be a cutter. I’m the one going back door the most and helping out wherever I can on the offense. I create the circulation, keep everything and everybody flowing. So you’ll notice that on the fast break that does not end in a shot, I am the one always cutting through the lane and that keeps the offense flowing.”
What about Jason Kidd?
Jefferson: "Well, that could depend on if we are talking about the fast-break or the halfcourt offense, but in general he would be the heart. Without a doubt. I mean, he keeps everything pumping, he pushes the ball and he gives all the signals.”
The Post Player: Aaron Williams
Why is this offense good for a player like you?
“I think it’s a good offense for me because it allows me to shoot the jump shot. I work on my jump shot a lot, as there are a lot of opportunities for me to take shots from the free-throw-line area. The offense requires a lot of movement from the post player and the offense goes through the center of the court, so I’m always involved.”
What’s it like to play with Jason Kidd?
Williams: “You definitely have to always expect the ball. Even if it looks like he is not going to throw it in to you or there is no room for the ball to get in, he’ll get it in there to you. On the fast break there are no set areas on the floor where we go, we just get the ball to J. Kidd and run out to fill the lane and he’ll find you."
The Back-up: Lucious Harris
As the backup to Jason Kidd what do you try to accomplish when you enter the game?
(Laughter) "It’s funny that ever since I’ve been here, I’m never thought of as the backup, but that’s what I end up doing. But I pretty much try do my thing. I’m not going to come out and try to do what Jason does, as not too many people can do that. I try to see what’s been working and get the offense into a flow. One thing that I do different is that on a break Jason will push it coast-to-coast but I’m more of a pass ahead and let another finish the break.”
The Nets have been successful with the alley-oop so how does that affect the game?
Harris: “It uplifts us and gets the defense off-balanced. We got a guy in Kenyon (Martin) who can get two or three per game. At times the defense is thinking about it coming and they wait and wait for it and they still can’t stop it.”
The New Guy: Hubert Davis
As a player who recently joined the Nets, how difficult is the offense to pick up?
“Oh, it’s very difficult. It takes time to learn. This is my 12th season in the NBA, but it is by far the most complicated offense. It’s not the amount of the plays but the various options off a play, and you have to know where you should be on the floor as one player off throws it all off.”
“It’s a unique offense that I’ve never played in my whole basketball career. The Carolina offense is about passing and having a flow, but it’s not close.”
What’s the purpose of the three-man weave at the top of the three-point arc?
Davis: "That’s a pressure release. That is used to kind of get the offense started or when things break down we can restart the offense with that.”
The Observer: A Western Conference scout
What’s the key to the Nets' success on offense?
“They want you to play tight man-to-man defense, as that opens up all the lanes for the offensive man to go behind the defense towards the basket, and they’ll wait for it to happen. I think that the way to stop them is to play a zone, as they are really not a good shooting team.
"The Princeton offense is really hard to run and the Kings only run a few plays from the system, but the Nets are really the only team that runs it totally, although the Washington Wizards -- with Eddie Jordan as the coach -- try to run it as well.”