The old adage that Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships is very true. Everyone wants to see the high flying dunks and the run and gun offense because it is exciting. But it takes tough defense if you are going to win a championship.
I remember the Pistons/Spurs series from a couple of years back where both teams played very tough defense and we were seeing final scores in the 60's and 70's and everyone was saying what a boring series it was. I really enjoyed those games because I love defense and when it is played the right way, is absolutely exciting. I mean, it is the equivalent of a no hitter in baseball.
A couple of seasons ago, the league adopted a dramatic shift in how it interpreted the rules of the game. The new rules no longer allow for a defensive player on the perimeter to use his hand, arm, or any sort of physical contact to impede or block the movement of a player who is cutting or handling the ball. Gone are the defensive battles like we used to see in the old days of Dumars guarding Jordan or the battles between DJ and Magic.
The new rules give an advantage to the quicker wing players. Because of this, Danny's decision to move toward a fast break team makes a lot of sense. It is no surprise that the quicker wings last season, Lebron, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, and Dwayne Wade were a lot more prominent in their team's offense and why they went to the line a lot more. These quicker wing players have a distinct advantage in that defenses have to give them leeway under the new rules.
Pierce's comments in Shira's article in the Globe will bode well for this new style of play.
If all goes as planned, Pierce will start the season at close to his college playing weight of 230 pounds in an effort to improve his quickness and ability to guard players at different positions.
‘‘The last couple years, I played at 240, 245, but I think I’m going to go back down to my college weight and play at 230,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m at, like, 238 now. Playing at 240 or 245 is not bad, but I want to come in lighter and faster.
‘‘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 is focusing on defense and planning to come in lighter so as to be quicker. This should make him much more effective in the new wing oriented defenses that the league have insituted.
In the 2006 playoffs, it was very evident that the way the game is being officiated made a difference in the outcome. Wade drove to the basket time after time and was able to draw touch fouls each time and if he couldn't finish, he went to the line. There was nothing Dallas could do to stop him and when they tried, they put him on the line. Last year, Parker and Ginobili both benefitted from the new rules.
While the new rules have changed the way defense is played on the perimeter, defense under the basket is still played the same way. Centers and bigs can still be physical under the basket. If we can funnel the offenses toward the center, we will have Perk and KG there to greet them. We have players who can be physical in the paint and who will block shots and alter plays by their size and willingness to play tough physical basketball.
The new rules do seem to benefit the Celtics as they are currently built. We have some quick wing players and a point guard who can quickly bring the ball up the court and other teams will be unable to employ the hand check or physical defense that players could previously. Rondo's defense is made for this type of play as well. He is so quick and has such quick hands that he easily can strip a ball without touching the opposing player.
The bottom line is that defense as we once knew it is no more. We will see teams struggling to run more as that gives them an advantage on the wing. The Celtics seem well suited to playing under the new rules with quick wing players, a very fast point guard, and tough physical players in the paint. We will run more and get past defenses on the perimeter and use our shooters on the wings to open up things inside for our bigs.
With the advantage going to the offensive player in the open court, we need to play a team defense and that is where Tom Thibodeau comes in. Every team that he has worked with has been at the top of the league defensively. Doc also seems committed to defense this season which is why he pushed for Thibodeau to come in as an assistant. With Pierce committing himself to playing defense and Tom Thibodeau and Clifford Ray working with our bigs on defense along with Doc's recent committment to defense, we should see very good things from this team. Offense may put bodies in the seats, and we should have plenty of firepower on this team, but it is the defense that will put #17 in the rafters.