When a dribbler gets by you, there are two possible reactions. The most common is to turn and watch as his rear-end gets farther and farther away from you. The other reaction is to realize you are getting beaten, turn quickly and low and get your mouth down where you could gnaw, or bite, his pocket if it were sticking out. By this second reaction it is possible to get a lot of steals, especially if you force your man to his weak side because his tendency (thinking he has passed you) is going to be to put the ball back in his strong hand, precisely the side you are on. Very possibly, his first strong-handed dribble will be right in front of your face where you can swipe it without having to reach across his body or foul.
The only reason there are not more steals from behind like this is that players who are lackadaisical enough on defense to let themselves get beaten are usually too lackadaisical to think about recovering aggressively and “gnawing that pocket,” hoping for the dribble in front of their nose.
The chance of getting the ball with this type of maneuver is so good that this can be used purposefully at the end of a game when you are behind when you need a steal. Under normal game conditions, a steal is not the point of gnaw-pocket defense. You must get in the habit of beating the ball downcourt and of chasing the ball furiously, desperately, any time it beats you.
Think of the enormous difference in the defense based on the two possible reactions. If you get beaten and just watch as the rear-end disappears, your teammates picking up will have to decide whether to leave their men free near the basket or give your man a short jumper. Either way, the opposing team will probably score.
However, even though you get beaten, if you gnaw-pocket beside your man, your teammates can easily see that they do not have to stop the short jumper. If he stops, you will have time to get a hand in his face. They also can see that he cannot go one way (the side you are on). That means all they have to do is prevent him from driving all the way in for a layup while being ready to recover out to their own men. This kind of help-and-recover situation, where the dribbler’s path is obvious and limited, is often drilled on by most teams and quite well-defended in many cases. The best a team can get is a jumper with a hand quickly in the shooter’s face, not at all the high-percentage opportunity that the turn-and-watch-the-rear-end-disappear situation presents.
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