It's tempting to say that defense is simple. All you need to have is the courage and toughness to go after an opponent. Of course Courage and Toughness are essential traits a defender must possess, but defense is hardly a matter of JUST willingness.
There is a lot of talk from Sacramento Kings coaches and players about how badly they play defense. You won't get an argument from me. Defensively, they suck royally - individually and as a team. However, the Kings are not the only team in the NBA this season that is playing atrocious defense. Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Utah, the Knicks, New Orleans, Denver, Minnesota, are all AWFUL.
I want to make a few observations about defense, that by no means provides all of the things a player needs to be aware of to play good D, but I believe are the principal keys to becoming a strong defender.
Primarily, the burden of how good a defensive team is falls on the INDIVIDUAL There are many professional basketball players who don't know how to play defense. Either they were never taught or they refused to learn. (Shame on any high school or college coach who uses only zone defenses and does not teach man to man D. You know who you are.)
There is one overriding principal for playing strong INDIVIDUAL defense. Just as players must ATTACK on OFFENSE, players must ATTACK on Defense. They must do their best to unnerve the opponent they are guarding. That means a defensive player must get in his opponent's face, belly up, refuse him the opportunity to go where he wants to go or to have a good view of the passing lanes.
If your opponent picks up his dribble, as a good defender you must swarm him. Make him make a difficult pass. If your opponent is cutting, make the cut hurt. If he is running off a screen, force him back the way he came. In all circumstances, BE PHYSICAL!
A defensive player one pass away from the ball must crowd his opponent so the ball handler can't make the easy pass. All players must know where the ball and their man is at all times and be ready to HELP. All players must stay alert to the skip pass and be ready to CLOSE OUT fast and hard. In today's NBA, this is essential. In today's NBA, it is also essential that players learn how to defend against the pick and roll.
#1 All good jump shooters must be fouled hard on the first shot they attempt.
#2 No player should make an easy layup. Contest everything in the paint.
#3 Playing defense hurts. Suck it up and live with it.
#4 When you fight over a screen, be sure the screener feels the effect of your effort. He'll not be
so eager to set the next screen.
#5 NEVER give up on a defensive assignment.
#6 Take every defensive assignment personally.
The following is one of my favorite poems about sports and life by David Allen Evans
Bus Depot' Reunion
Just over the edge
of my Life a young sailor
bounds from a Greyhound's
hiss into his mother's hug,
steps back, trades hands
with his father, then turns
to an old, hunched man
maybe his grandfather -
no hand, no word goes out,
they regard each other,
waiting for something, and
now their hands cup,
they begin to crouch
and spar, the old man
coming on like a pro,
out a hook like a lizards's tongue,
the boy ducking, countering,
moving with his moves,
biffing at the bobbing
yellow grin, the clever
head, never landing a real
punch, never taking one
until suddenly, exactly
together they quit,
throw an arm around each other
and walk away laughing.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.