"Defense is more important than breathing!" I love that quote from the movie "The Air Up There" where Kevin Bacon goes over to Afica to recruit a player and ends up teaching the natives to play basketball. It is a great line and maybe not one that would work in the NBA, but certainly defense is one of the more important concepts in building a championship team. The old saying goes that offense sells tickets and defense wins games.
For 3 years now, Doc and Danny have both talked about the need for a better defense but we didn't see them do much to improve it. At one point, Doc made the statement that he worked on offense in practice and that the team would pick up the defense while working on offense since half the team has to play defense while they worked on the offensive sets. Needless to say, they didn't get the defense very well. We had a few good defenders such as Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo and Perk. But then, we also had our share of poor defenders and the team defense was pretty much non existent. The Celtics were one of the worst teams defensively last season and it showed in our record.
Then, in this off season, Doc seemed to have a change of heart on defense.
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."
So, the emphasis this season is going to be on defense and Doc is going to stress it along with the new assistant that was hired. That assistant happens to be Tom Thibodeau, who is known as one of the top defensive coaches in the league. During Thibodeau's 17 years coaching in the NBA, his teams have finished among the top 10 in fewest points allowed 14 times. In 2000-01, Thibodeau's Knicks set an NBA record by holding opponents to fewer than 100 points in 33 consecutive games. In his first year in Houston, Thibodeau helped the Rockets set franchise records in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. 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.
Doc is suddenly ready to emphasize defense and we have hired one of the top defensive coaches in the league as an assistant. It seems that the commitment to defense that we have been promised for the past 3 seasons is finally happening. And it isn't just the coaches, Danny has brought in players who are defensively minded.
First, Danny landed the Big Ticket who is one of the top defensive players in the league and has been named to the All Defensive teams 8 times. We have Rajon Rondo, who is one of the better defensive point guards in the league with his long arms, quick hands and speed. Danny signed Brandon Wallace during summer league after his strong defensive showing there. Perk was a solid defensive center last season, and has been working on his defense this off season so as to be even better this season. When healthy, Tony Allen is a lock down defender. And the icing on the cake was signing James Posey who is one of the better defenders in the league and who is capable of defending 3 positions.
Defense may not be more important than breathing, but it certainly is essential to winning a championship. We have the ability to put a very good defender at every position with Rondo at the point, Tony at the shooting guard, Posey at small forward, KG at power forward, and Perk at center. We also have a defensive minded coach who can pull it all together. Defense is one of the most important ingredients in building a championship team and for the first time in years, the Celtics should be a good defensive team and that is very exciting.