In a basketball game, two factors determine who wins: how many points you score and how many points the other team scores. The game is becoming a wing oriented game with very few dominant centers in the league. In an era when it's easier to score than to defend, a guy who can stop the other team from scoring is more valuable than someone who can put the ball in the basket. This past season, the Celtics proved that they could put up points, but they couldn't stop the other team from scoring.
Offense may get the ooh's and ahh's from the crowd, but defense is what wins games and ultimately, championships. Defensive minded players who aren't afraid to do the dirty work are at a premium in this league. Good defense doesn't always show up on the stat sheet and so a player has to be unselfish if they commit to playing tough in your face defense. Every team needs at least one lock down perimeter defender on the team as well as a good defender in the paint. The Celtics have 2 great perimeter defenders in Rondo and Tony Allen. Perk proved this season that he can be a defensive factor in the paint. Powe is also a good defender in the paint. If we win the lottery and draft Oden, that will give us a very dominant defender in the paint at all times.
But, even with good individual defenders, there has to be good team defense and that has to come from the coach. The Mavericks didn't make it to the top tier of teams until Avery Johnson took over and made them a defensive minded team. Detroit won its championships with defense. San Antonio is known for its defense and won it's championships by concentrating on good team defense. The Heat won last year mostly because of their defense.
The Celtics have good shooters and their offense is developing, but they have not developed defensively since Doc took over as a coach. Defense has been one of our biggest weaknesses. Last season, Doc made the comment that he worked on offense in practice because that was the hardest to get and they would pick up the defense while working on offense because after all, while they were working on the offense, half the team had to play defense. Is it any wonder that the Celtics can't defend the pick and roll? The pick and roll is one of the most basic plays in basketball but yet the Celtics rarely run it and are constantly burned by it.
On the last day of the season, Danny had this to say about the team.
We need to make more of an effort at the defensive end. We need to become a better defensive team. I think the number one element of that is personnel. Doc [Rivers] had a really difficult job with the personnel we had, the inexperience, the lack of size in the backcourt. We’ve had a lot of games where Allan Ray’s been playing small forward. We need to get better defensively, it’s just that simple. Our defense just isn’t good enough.”
I agree with Danny that we need to get better defensively but I disagree that the biggest element is personnel. I think the biggest element is the coaching. Doc puts offense before defense in practice and therefore in games. If we are to become a better defensive team, it has to start with the coach. If Doc comes back, Danny needs to get him a defensive minded assistant coach who can develop the team defense. Most of our players will work on improving their defense in the offseason but until the coach realizes the importance of defense, we won't improve in that area no matter how good individual defense becomes.
I love that movie "The Air Up There" with Kevin Bacon. My favorite line in the movie is where he is teaching the natives to play ball and he tells them that "defense is more important than breathing." If only our coach had this attitude, we would be a much better basketball team.