In a basketball game, two factors determine who wins: how many points you score and how many points the other team scores. In an era when it's easier to score than to defend, a guy who can stop the other team from scoring is often more valuable than someone who can put the ball in the basket. Danny made that decision last season and reinforced it in the off season.
My favorite scene in a movie comes from "The Air Up There" where Kevin Bacon plays a coach who goes to Africa to recruit a player for his team. While there he ends up teaching a group of natives how to play basketball. In explaining the importance of playing defense, he tells them, "Defense is more important than breathing!" at which point one player holds his breath until he falls over. I just love that scene. But, there is a lot of truth to that phrase as well. The old saying goes that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships.
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 often 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. In Avery Bradley and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics have both of these elements.
Last season, Doc showed that he understood the importance of defense in winning a championship when he put Avery Bradley in the starting lineup in place of Ray Allen. We all loved Ray, but we also all knew that he was the weak link on defense. He could put the ball in the basket, but on the other end, he gave up as much or more than he scored. On the other hand, Avery Bradley is one of the best on the ball defenders in the league. He may not be the game's top scorer, but then again, neither will the guy that he defends. With Avery's insertion into the starting lineup, the Celtics instantly became a better team.
The commitment to defense continued in the off season as Danny sought to replace Ray with Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, both players who are known as good defenders. Lee, especially is a very good defender. When he signed a back up center, Danny signed Jason Collins, a player known for his post defense and ability to stop the bigger opposing centers in the league. Doc and Danny have clearly committed to being a defense first team and that bodes well for the Celtics' success this season.
Defense may not be more important than breathing, but it certainly is essential to winning a championship. The Celtics have brought in players who can defend and we have a coach who can pull it all together. The Celtics have made a commitment to defense and have improved their roster with defense in mind. And even though the Heat brought in a couple of scorers, they may not find it all that easy to get their points against the Celtics this season.
What she said! Nice article. As much as Ray's marksmanship created space for teammates on offense, even more his decline on defense forced collapse and fouls and open shooters in the wake of Allen's losing contact with his man. I agree with your observations on the other signings, this may be the most stingy Celtics' defense in history. I think voting for worst defender on this team might bring the greatest variance of any poll you could pose.