You’ve seen the move hundreds upon thousands of times: the point guard dribbles ball deep into the lane, deeper than what any coach would normally advise. So deep, in fact, that he finds himself underneath the basket. Down here, the air is tight, the oxygen hogged by the mountainous men that make their homes in this space. For most guards, it’s a no-man’s land. For those initiated in the move, it’s as much a part of their territory as the top of the arc. There’s no panic, no fear painted on the point guard’s face, but rather calm concentration. Dribbling back up the opposite side, the point guard emerges, his normal view inverted, the space surrounding him immense. He can attack the basket, pull up from mid-range, kick it out to his shooters on the wing or up top, or hit his man cutting down the lane.
The purpose of the probe dribble is exactly what the name implies: to probe, explore, spelunk. Through this exploration, guards discover new passing angles or scoring opportunities. And while guards such as Tony Parker, Mike Conley and Chris Paul employ it, no player is more emblematic of the move than Steve Nash.
Nash, simultaneously harmonizing with his teammates while also playing in a completely different time signature, whizzed around the court, through the lane and back again, dazzling the crowd night in and night out.
Now, as Nash wallows in Los Angeles, another point guard carries on his probing legacy in Phoenix — Goran Dragic.
Dragic spent his first three seasons in the NBA backing up Nash, studying and learning from the two-time MVP. Among the many lessons gleaned from Nash, then implemented into his own game: the probe dribble.
“I learned, well, I took it from (him),” Dragic said. “When I was a rookie, he was doing that in practice and games all the time.”
Aside from giving the point guard new angles to explore, the probing also puts the defender off-balance both mentally and physically.
“You’re driving so hard and (the defender) has to cut that penetration off,” Dragic said. “If he doesn’t, then I’m on the other side, and he’s thinking, should I take him, should I take my other guy?”
Dragic’s always played with a certain amount of flair, from his behind-the-back dribble to his dazzling, yet risky passes — Dragic says it’s all part of him trying to do “something nice for the fans” — and his mastery of the probe dribble merely adds to his singular style.