• More than anything… I hope this young team all got together on New Year’s Day and made a resolution to buckle down on defense.

    I apologize for wasting bandwidth on the obvious. I’m not posting this for all you fans. You already know my redundant educational posts. But our team doesn’t seem to get it yet. So I’m posting it in hopes that it is one more source of info for these guys to consider and perhaps act upon it.

    Here is my remedy for fixing our defensive woes:

    1. Do a better job scouting - Everyone knows that Travis Releford was perhaps the best lockdown defender in the Bill Self era. How did he do it? What most people don’t know is the amount of time and dedication Travis committed to the video room. Travis spent hours upon hours scouting teams and players he knew he would face in coming weeks. Travis became familiar with the tendencies of every player he faced. Knowing those tendencies allowed Travis the luxury of playing his man tighter and also giving him insight on how to hedge against his opponents’ tendencies. Proper scouting will not only help players play better defense, it also helps them prevent unnecessary fouling. Just knowing how opposing players use head and shoulder fakes, ball fakes and other moves will typically prevent several fouls during a game.

    2. Taking personal responsibility - Players need to be held accountable for stopping their man. Team defense is crucial, but you can’t always expect weak side help to prevent players from scoring. The most-aggressive defensive front line is directly on the ball, and directly away from the ball to deny the pass. By reducing the times opposing players blow by our guys or get an easy feed in scoring position, our team defense isn’t pushed to the limits, which usually means there are less scoring opportunities created by our opponents. The purpose of running an offense is to break down defenses, force weak side help, and create scoring holes or seams in the defense so scoring opportunities are exposed. It all starts when a defender can’t manage who he is guarding… can’t keep up with a drive… can’t fight through a screen quick enough… can’t disrupt the passing lanes… Every defender is on their own personal front line, responsible for preventing the chain reaction breakdown of the defense.

    3. Helping a helper’s helper - Team defense is about bringing help when individuals breakdown. Team defense is responsible for closing down driving and passing lane openings exposed by opponents executing their offense, or attacking a shooter on his shot. Team defense also needs to be proactive; hedging around ball screens to prevent their effectiveness and even creating an opportunity to pinch ball handlers. Team defense is responsible for creating most TOs by anticipating passes and getting to the ball first, or doubling up and pinching the ball to force a TO.

    4. Hustle, hustle, hustle - No defensive strategy will work without hustle. And it only takes one guy not hustling to create continuous opportunities for the offense. Almost any defensive strategy will work if all players hustle. We can be effective running M2M or about any kind of zone, if we just keep our motors in drive. Playing with more energy than our opponents also is a key psychological factor; energy brings momentum, energy brings confidence, energy brings opportunities! Hustle means going after loose balls, going after balls that could be loose, playing defense with hands up, moving feet at all times to fight for better floor position and to make opposing offenses feel like they’re playing aboard a ship in a storm.

    5. Better communication during play - Guys need to call out blind screens, need to call out for help, need to direct each other, need to take control. Everyone has to holler out so the defense can execute together, as one.

    6. Block out for rebounds - If we don’t block out for rebounds, we give up too many second-chance points. Second-chance points kill defensive momentum and build opposing team’s offensive momentum. Playing great defense to force up a bad shot is half the victory, but the entire victory on that position doesn’t occur until we gain possession of the ball. Giving up points after playing tough defense for most of the shot clock can take a toll on the esteem of a defense.

    7. Learn for 40 minutes - Opposing teams are going to score sometimes. Take mental notes. How are they getting most of their points? Who is scoring? How is he scoring? How can we stop him from doing it again? Stay focused on what has happened the entire game. Sometimes it takes 39 minutes to figure out how to stop someone, and figuring it out in the last minute is the difference between an “L” and a “W”…

    8. Create a shot-blocking monster - Embiid is the man. His ability to affect and block shots is improving game-to-game. As he learns to foul less, he’s able to stay in games longer and have a bigger impact on the game. I have little doubt he’ll get there soon; to become the next Withey! His ability to clog the middle will help our entire defense because reducing inside scoring eliminates what should be the easiest scoring option for our opponents.

    We are just over a third of the way through our season and we really need the light bulb to go on in this entire team’s head.

    We don’t need through-the-legs highlight dunks now. We just need guys to execute the basics. Every player on this team is capable of playing good defense. Defense is less about talent and more about attitude! Have the desire and go execute!

  • I’m guessing our guys are working on all your points, as we speak. I’d like to add, playing hard-nose D results in many high-flying dunks!

  • In all fairness, with the current rules, Releford would have likely fouled out In most games by half time; although he is a smart player and would have (hopefully) adapted to the new rules.

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