Sharman's Practice Plan

How might a Lakers' practice been run in 1971?

Well, L.A. happens to employ a great basketball mind who worked for the organization then and now: Bill Bertka, today the team’s Director of Scouting/Basketball Consultant, served as a scout under Bill Sharman back in those days.

Bertka provided us with a copy of a Sharman practice schedule, then took us through it:

9:45 – 10:00: Shooting – General
When the clock hit 9:45 a.m., but not a second before or after, Sharman would slip into the gym, whistle around his neck, nickel note pad in his front shirt pocket. General shooting was just to get the blood pumping, the bodies a bit loose before stretching.

10:00 – 10:10: Calisthenics
Sharman was a true believer in and innovator of stretching and body preparation for his players, devoting an early segment of practice to jogging and hopping in place, stretching (standing up and lying down), sit ups, hurdle exercise, side-straddle hops and defensive sliding drills. Bertka said this made Sharman stand out: “Other teams didn’t stretch.”

10:20 - ___ :Three-Man Weave
A big believer in running, Sharman used various iterations of the three-man weave extensively, and was what Bertka called a “stickler for missed layups.” If anybody missed, everybody kept going until so many in a row were converted.

10:40 - ___: Half Court
With the bigs (i.e. Wilt Chamberlain) and the smalls (like Jerry West and Gail Goodrich) occupying opposite ends of the court, Sharman would take the players through various half court drills, often involving 2-on-1 situations. Like with the weave, Sharman wouldn’t put an end time on his practice sheet, as these drills would go on until he was satisfied.

He didn’t demarcate the time, but Sharman was a big fan of the “21” shooting drill, which involved three players at each of four baskets. As shown in the below diagram, one player would shoot and follow his shot, one rebound and feed the passer, one pass and then become the shooter. The positions would change with each shot, and the first team to make 21 shots won.

When everything else was done, Sharman would have his squad play 5-on-5, full court. Every day. Since the Lakers only ran three or four key plays, Sharman was a big fan of the players simply figuring out what the best basketball play was to make on each possession, and playing with each other often was the best way to ingrain some of those habits. Furthermore, pushing the ball up the floor on the break and looking for easy baskets was always a major focus. After 5-on-5 concluded, the players would shoot some free throws, and practice was over.

Bertka explained how such a practice compare to one Phil Jackson may have run in 2010-11:

“I’d say that there was much more running in Sharman’s practices,” said Bertka. “The shooting is about the same, but there was more up and down and full court scrimmaging than most of Phil’s practices."

”Phil’s were mostly concentrated on the execution of the triangle, the timing of the triangle and reacting to the recognition of what the defenses were trying to do and your counters. The success of the triangle isn’t so much the initial movement, it’s what the defense is going to try and take away and how you counter it.”