Let's examine the concept of Defense as it applies to the three major American sports: Football, Baseball, and Basketball.
In Football, there are 11 men on the field whose only job is to play Defense. Their livelihood and reputations are built on how well they stop their opponents. Great defenders can make as much money as great offensive players. Ray Lewis comes to mind.
In Pro. Baseball, as innings are divided equally between at bats and in the field, players can not hide from defense. Errors are clearly noticeable and recorded and vilified by management and media. Rarely do baseball players remain employed, no matter how great their offense, if they can't catch and field - in other words, play sound defense.
This is not the case in the NBA. It is easier to hide defensive inefficiencies in basketball. Often great offensive players are given a pass when it comes to defense. I'm talking about playing REAL, GRITTY DEFENSE, the kind that wins games. Unlike Football and Baseball, there is no SPOTLIGHT on the Defensive end of the court, which lasts rarely beyond 24 seconds anyway. Fans may chant Defense! Defense!, but their exhortations are often ignored by players unwilling or unable to play D. A player's defensive error is often overlooked 24 seconds later when he makes a basket. Carmelo Anthony and Dion Waiters (offensive minded players who could play D if they set their minds to it) come to mind.
That's not to say defense in the NBA is ignored. There have been players in the past who have gained a reputation as stoppers, Bruce Bowen, late of the San Antonio Spurs, for example. However, the NBA does not pay big bucks for a defender the way the 49ers do for Alden Smith, Greenbay for Clay Matthews or for Golden Glove baseball players like JJ Hardey of the Orioles and Brandon Phillips of the Reds.
Sadly, there is no hype when it comes to the All NBA Defensive Team. .All Star Games are designed to showcase the greatest offensive stars in the league.
This is a huge problem because, baring a lack of emphasis and incentive, players will be less likely to work on their defensive skills, and believe me, playing good D requires skills.
Even with incentives, Defense still requires players who are WILLING and EAGER to body-up, get down and dirty. And therein lies the rub. Aside from the athletic shot block and the occasional stolen ball, how often do you see NBA players getting excited about closing out, or making a strong switch, or harassing an opponent so he makes a mistake, or blocking a guy off the boards, or forcing a turnover? It doesn't happen. Have you ever seen a player in the NBA thumping his chest over a great defensive stop? However, pound a dunk or pop a three, and it's "look at me, look at me", beat the old chest time.
You don't have to be a genius to know who the teams are that DON'T play defense. They're the ones at the BOTTOM of their divisions, and there they deserve to stay.
Good "D" by James Mckean
after Edward Hirsh
Their center blocks out and the ball
falls into his lap like the coach's book
says it will. Pivot, two-handed chest pass
to the out-let man, his flip
to a guard sprinting up the middle and the crowd
senses a break rolling at half court
and rises now for the finish, the jam
over a nondescript visitor
in knee wraps, invited to play in this gym
well lit on a Friday night in a state
that welcomes him and would send him packing
and bruised except he's hustled back
and turns in their key to wait - all taped fingers
and high tops - before the whole floor,
the forwards in their lanes pumping toward him
fast, two points on the stat sheets
written all over their faces, the guard dribbling
too high, head down as if he
needs a script, the guard who loves his right hand,
who pulls up late, who looks where he
passes, drunk on the home court's
din of expectation, everyone on their feet
for a goal good as given
over the nobody in his dull uniform
who stutter- rushes the guard left, left
hand up, right hand down,
and releases the moment the pass is flung in panic,
the forward rising toward the basket
empty-handed because good defense reads well,
lives in the passing lane and lifts
the ball from beneath. Now, the forward,
who can't come down fast enough,
and the guard, suddenly tired, find far
up the floor the score turned,
the time gone and the crowd at a loss, fumbling
to sit back down, to say anything
for what's been stolen.
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.