Today I want to continue with the defensive theme I started yesterday. 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. We also may have another in Brandon Wallace, who showed that he is a very good defensive player capable of guarding the bigger 3's. Perk has proved that he can be a defensive factor in the paint. Powe has shown that he is also a good defender in the paint and Big Baby may be a good defender as well as he showed flashes of very good defense in Summer League. Last but not least, we now have one of the best inside defenders in the game in Kevin Garnett.
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 Celtics have great offensive players in Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen and we have shooters coming off the bench in Eddie House and possibly Reggie Miller. Defense has been one of our biggest weaknesses in the past and in spite of the big three and a great offense, how the defense develops is going to be what determines how far this team goes. There have been some good signs that this season our defensive fortunes may turn around.
‘‘I’m focusing on my defense, being able to guard all three positions. The stuff I think about is if I have to go to shooting guard and defend and take pressure off Ray [Allen]. I don’t need that much extra weight. I just want the footwork and quickness to guard shooting guards.’’
Pierce has committed to getting his weight down to 230, where he was in college. He has also committed to working on his defense. One of the concerns I have seen from fans is Pierce's ability to defend and with this renewed commitment to defense, I think that will answer these concerns.
Second, Doc is planning to focus on defense this season. In the past he has said that he worked on offense in practice and figured that the defense would come along since half the team is playing defense when they practice the offensive sets. He seems to have done a 180 on this. From the MetroWest Daily:
Doc Rivers has an answer to critics who say that his teams in Boston have been indifferent to the concept of defense since he arrived three years ago. He's taking over. After guiding the offensive play his first three seasons, while top assistant Tony Brown oversaw the defense, Rivers revealed he will be the main person handling the defensive scheme now that Brown has left the Celtics for an assistant's job with the Bucks. "Right now it's with me and I don't mind that," the coach said after watching his team play a second straight spirited defensive game in the summer league on Monday. "My first year as a coach (in Orlando), when I won Coach of the Year, I didn't let anybody but me deal with defense. Since then I've tried to focus on offense and have always hired a defensive coach. It's been Tony here. "Offensively, we've run the same system and we know that now," he continued, "so I am going to give that to one of the other coaches. I will have (summer league coach) Armond (Hill) run the offense this year and I will take over the defense, along with whomever I hire (as another assistant). That will be my focus."
For the first time since he came, I believe that Doc is ready to focus on defense. Another key is the assistant that Doc hired, Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau has coached in the league for 17 years and of those 17 years, his teams have finished among the top 10 in fewest points allowed 14 times. That is impressive. In his last position as an assistant in Houston, Thibodeau guided the Rockets to a top five ranking in the NBA in both opponents’ scoring defense and field goal percentage in each of the past four seasons. Between Doc's commitment to defense and Thibodeau's excellent record coaching defense, we should have a very good team defense this season.
Finally, our defense will be greatly improved with the addition of Kevin Garnett. KG is one of the top defenders in the league who can block shots and rebound along with intimidating players in the paint. Perk and KG will be a formidable team to greet opposing players when they venture to the basket.
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." While I wouldn't go quite that far, I would say that defense will determine the success or failure of this team in winning a championship.