It’s the Defense, Stupid

Kurt —  August 15, 2007

Up over at Ballhype is my first post for them, a discussion of Team USA and it’s defense. The numbers will look familiar to regular readers of this blog, but this new post (made after further review of my notes and other thoughts at the time of the Team USA on the international stage, I think you’ll find it interesting.

As for me, posting may be light for a few days as the family and I head off to see the in-laws in Vegas. (Because summer is such a great time to go to the desert….) You may see some posts from other familiar names in the next few days.

to It’s the Defense, Stupid

  1. heres an interesting article,0,4562154.column?coll=la-home-sports

    “Does that mean you will be at training camp?”

    “I have no reason not to be,” he said, and now there’s news. “Your guy, [ESPN’s] Ric Bucher, says you will never play in a Lakers uniform again.”

    “You know what, man, we’ll see what happens.”


  2. I hope stuff like what i found at wont affect you kobe haters too much this year


  3. Has anybody noticed that all is quiet on the trade front, now that the Lakers know Kobe is back on board? Maybe Kobe wasn’t so wrong after all in his tactics. Because, the good soldier role leads to Kupchack smoking blunts on yacht with Buss, laughing about how much dough they are going to roll in with another subpar season.


  4. Re US Basketball.The stories trickling out of the USA team getting beat in scrimmages by the younger squad is disheartening to say the least.
    Including LeBron,no matter how much the NBA PR machine wants him,continues to be a huge mistake. Coach K insistance on Kobe,LeBron,Carmelo together on the floor leaves the US team deficient in rebounding and interior defense. I feel like I’m channeling Han Solo,”I have a bad feeling about this”.

    Continuing on your “It’s the D,Stupid!”,do you or any of your readers feel that so far the Lakers FO has completely ignored the defensive side of things? Or do you feel the replacement of Smush and a renewed emphasis on defense by the coaching staff is enough to turn things around?


  5. #4. Not if K is clever and moves Lebron to the point in a sort of Magic Johnson role. Then he can put two bigs guys in at the 4 and 5 positions.


  6. Sorry I meant to respond to #5 in the previous comment.


  7. LeBron won’t work as a PG in FIBA’s game…


  8. the other Stephen August 19, 2007 at 10:50 am

    I still think the Lakers are poised for a move sometime in the future. Man, I’d love to see box scores of those losses though, Stephen. Hollaa.


  9. Paul,
    Leaving aside Renato’s excellent hint that watching LeBron try to defend other points would be hilarious,do you want to start LeBron over JASON KIDD at point?
    LeBron’s game doesn’t match his name. His jumpshot is too flawed for him to be a reliable main scoring option,the FIBA refs don’t give him the bailout fouls NBA refs do and he’s too selfish/arrogant to be the primary playmaker. He’s a bad fit right now. This should be Kidd’s team,w/Kobe as THe Guy.

    Other my man,
    I have the feeling the Lakers aren’t going to be making any big moves til Dec/Jan-unless Jermaine O’Neal becomes available. They seem to be looking for the home-run trade,not little trades. The Laker FO may well believe that the Lakers of the first part of last yr is their real team and that replacing Smush w/Fisher is enough of an upgrade. If this is right,they will wait and see how the season goes.


  10. I even read that K wants Melo playing PF now – just perhaps to play Kobe, Bronze and Melo together with Kidd. IDK how that works but I think balance is a better thing. Theres too much ego in this team and that will be their downfall. Id much rather have DWade on this team as that guy accepts his role.


  11. In the spirit of D, let’s think about what to expect from the current roster. Let’s assume health–keeping in mind that we now have more personnel ways to get through adversity. Let’s assume team effort. I don’t think Derek will allow us to forget.

    It’s necessary, but not sufficient. Basketball is a team game where 5 role players blend into one. It takes sports intelligence and “attitude.”

    Notice I said 5 role players.

    Both Farmar and Fisher are team oriented defenders and team leaders who execute a team concept and demand it from teammates. They sometimes pay an individual price for team mistakes. Others do the opposite.

    Last year, some of us noticed how the mere presence of Smush on the court in the last 2 minutes cost us game after game–partly due to his meltdowns–but partly due to a sort of team Alzheimer’s.

    That won’t happen this year. No more blaming the Smusher. The playground has moved to Miami.

    The team will actually have an experienced true center (Mihm), with a backup who can play physical fast moving defense (Kwame) . Bynum can be brought in for specific matchups where he won’t be so easily exploited. Having substitution options give the coaches opportunities they didn’t have last year–hopefully, they’ll take advantage. This three headed monster, properly used, could be a lethal weapon.

    Just the IQ revolution at those two positions should bring the Lakers well above Phil’s “slug” designation of 2006. Phil and the coaches will now have to prove that they are a few steps above escargot themselves.

    When Farmar/Fisher is humiliated by a high pick and a speedy opponent, a big will be there on time to slow things down, our pg will fight through the pick and catch up, and another player will rotate over. There will be no free lunch for an opponent. We will cut off passing lanes and defend the dish for the 3 because we will have less freelancing and better communication–not because we have individual hall of fame defenders.

    Lamar, Rony, Mo, and Sasha can be brought on for spot defensive assignments. They all can play remarkable defense with certain matchups. There are others who can pick up the scoring slack for those situations.

    The upgrades in IQ at PG and C will make Cook and Walton look like better defenders. After all, Walton and Cook both played 4 years of college ball at defensively oriented teams. They were brought up around basketball. Luke Walton won a national championship in college. They know how to cover for each other. When they make the right “team” move, they won’t look wrong this year–and they’ll make more stops/rebounds. There may even be more deflections and steals.

    Improvisational basketball looks good. We remember the steals, but seldom count the stops.

    As the discipline of Fisher/Farmar spreads across the team, Kobe may more frequently showboat his defensive role, reduce his freelancing, and become more team Kobe than playground Kobe. There won’t be a Smusher to tempt him any more. He may have enough energy left at the end of a game to make the key stop. He won’t have to attempt the off balance 3 at the top of the key.

    We may miss some of the thrills on offense, but we’ll all appreciate a few more wins!


  12. I also do not understand playing Kobe, Mello and Lebron at the same time. You would think that they learned after last time that talent and athleticism is not enough to win all the time. The other teams have been playing together for years and have great chemistry and know how to play D. I just don’t see any chemistry with those three guys on the floor at the same time.

    Talking about chemistry and defense you have to wonder why a great role player and defender like Battier is likely not going to make the team. I would think that a starting line up of Kidd, Kobe, Battier, Chandler and (any PF they have, too bad Garnett isn’t playing) would be much better than Kidd, Kobe, James, Mello, Howard or whoever. You could have Mello and Miller off the bench; Miller for shooting Purposes and Mello for offense.


  13. Remember, Bowen was left off last year’s team. Is it possible they may have learned anything last year?


  14. With this current roster I would start these five players

    Kidd, Kobe, Prince, Amare, Chandler. Awesome defensive team ; the only weak defensive link is Amare. YOu could throw in shooters like Redd and Miller off the bench.

    The line up that Coach K seems to be going with has no interior rebounding or defense.

    Kidd, Kobe, James, Mello, Amare. Its enough to qualify but I hope they don’t bring that team to the Olympics.


  15. Sorry guys, I’m a little off right now, but who’s still on the roster for the America’s tournament? (Don’t worry about it, USA wins easily… the Olympics will be different for sure)

    I would like to venture a bit and pretend I was coach K, but with proper bench management.


  16. Here is the most up to date roster I could find. Cuts might have been made already though.


  17. Just saw the German national team play China in an exhibition match and got my first glimpse of Sun Yue. Since Germany played a rather small backcourt, the Chinese Coach also used his smaller guards for long stretches. But Sun Yue handled the ball for large stretches of crunch time and didn’t do a bad job outside of missing two free throws with about 3 minutes left in a tight game.

    He’s relatively quick and showed some effective drives to the basket, finishing quite well against an admittedly not very imposing German frontcourt. He didn’t really take a lot of shots from midrange and beyond since most of the posessions went to Yi and Wang Zhi Zhi who both played very well. So of course a lot will depend on how he’ll adust to the physicality of the NBA game but the tools seem to be there to at least warrant a look. He won’t be ready to play this season, but with some NBDL time he might turn into a valuable end of the bench guy.

    After seeing Yi in person in one of his better games, I’m quite confident that he’ll be a very good rotation player for Milwaukee or whomever in a few years. He’s just 19 years old but already quite imposing. He had two amazing spin moves from the low block for made baskets plus foul and used a nice jab step to free himself for mid range jumpers that he made at a very good rate. All that will be more difficult with the big PFs of the league pushing him off his sweet spots but I’m pretty confident that he’ll be much more successful than Wang Zhi Zhi and also other foreign forwards like Skita and Lampe and so on.


  18. the other Stephen August 20, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    13) i think battier was left off because of a personal conflict in schedule


    i’m looking forward to seeing mihm’s developed hook shot this year.


    and when will they ever liberate sasha vujacic, aka the white mamba, from the buttcrack of the bench? i have a dream–where freedom will be bestowed to the people, and slovenian combo guards named white mamba will be allowed to seek their full potential in carrying on the brent barry legacy.


  19. The PG spot on team USA makes the whole thing better – Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups are a whole lot better from the discipline and defense standpoint than an Iverson and Marbury sometime ago.

    For momentum and rotation purposes, would it not be better that Melo and LeBron share the 3? I mean, thats how their games are patterned anyway…

    Kidd / Billups / Williams
    Kobe / Redd / Miller
    Melo / LeBron / Prince
    Amare /
    Chandler / Howard

    This is the part where we feel the loss of Chris Bosh. Why is Boozer not here? Is he injured? KG? I dont see why we should need Collison or Durant or even Prince. We need another PF in there.


  20. Warren my guess would be that at least one of those players is there for the Olympics. I would love to have KG or Duncan but Bosh, Boozer, Brand would be great too. Even Rasheed Wallace would work; actually his game fits in nicely with FIBA basketball, good outside shooter, good rebounder, and a great defender.

    Right now they are good enough to qualify easily, Kidd and Kobe won’t allow them to lose no matter what. But the Olympics will be a different story. I’d like to see some role players on the team, too many me-first stars won’t work to well. Though Kidd should make everyone better.


  21. I agree. We need Balance, not scorers. As if Kobe, Stat and Melo are not enough.

    Beijing lineup?

    Kidd / Billups / CP3 / Deron
    Kobe / Wade / Redd / Miller
    Melo / LeBron / Marion / Prince
    Amare / Boozer / Bosh / KG ?
    Howard / Chandler / Ben Wallace ?


  22. I caught the USA vs. USA game on FoxSports on Sunday (boy, was I pleasantly surprised to see some real basketball on TV in the summer, it was like Christmas). Some observations:

    We’re too in love with the 3. When they go in, we look great. When we break down a defense and get layups and open 3’s, we’d look a whole lot better, though.

    Defense: there was none. Guys were playing with their arms down by their sides except in the last 2 minutes (the Kobe-defense, played by all 24 players).

    Kidd is the most important player on the team. Take Kobe off, and you still have 9 other scoring threats. Take Kidd off, and you have Deron Williams at PG (Chauncy looked REALLY bad, and he’s probably my favorite NBA player (I went to Colordo when he did)).

    I like the idea of LeBron being the back-up PG. When neither he nor Kidd were on the offensive end, people just passed around the outside until someone took a 30-footer.

    Damn, Kevin Durant is good. He just jumped onto my “when his team plays on TV, tune-in” list.

    Best lineup: Kidd, Redd, LeBron, Melo, Howard.
    2nd team: Williams, Kobe, Miller, Durant, Chandler.
    Best defensive lineup: Billups, LeBron, Prince, Howard, Chandler.


  23. Well, I don’t even know where to start on this roster… Seriously, did Nike made the selection or something? Do they know anything about the importance of role players?

    Geez… It hurts to see the biggest talent pool in the world this badly managed. They said it wasn’t about star power anymore, but it’s just that…

    Let me try to explain this once…

    LeBron, although he’s physically impreesive, works terribly in the international game. Same for D-Wade.

    Why? Because their jump shots is terrible and off-balanced and it’s far more difficcult to drive to the rim, as defensive rotations are way better and far deeper than the ones in the NBA.

    Now, about inside play, I can understand Dwight Howard, since he’s a freak of nature and there’s always a spot for one of those but why is Amare on the team? Where is the inside skill set? None of the players for the 4 and 5 spots is a low-post threat.

    Should USA Basketball decide to hire an european coach with total freedom to make the selections (no Nike forcing product LeBron) and use a proper gameplan, and USA would win every single tournament with just enough effort.

    Thumbs up for Carmelo, Redd and Kobe, who will do extremely well in the next olympics…


  24. gentlemen, i put up a large posting in regards to who the us team should use at i will say here though is that arenas should be on the team


  25. I do not like the idea of Arenas playing point for us. Sure he has range, but the team USA rooms will simply burst with ego.

    If we could put up a strict 12 for team USA (not Nike select stars), they should look like this:

    Jason Kidd – for the very obvious. Kidd is the heart and soul of this team. Don’t let any Latino mess with his 28-0 rec.

    PG crop: Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson, Kirk Hinrich.

    If we have to pick one more PG (since LeBronze can play PG too), I’d go with the more conservative yet experienced Billups. He has a 3 that will come in handy in close games. Deron and CP3’s time will come later.

    Kobe Bryant – not the best team ball player but the perfect scoring decoy since MJ. Has 3 point range, break down the defense and simply refuses to lose. He and Kidd are cut from the same cloth.

    SG crop: Mike Miller, Michael Redd, Dwayne Wade, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Tracy McGrady, Andre Iguodala, Vince Carter, Joe Johnson.

    This time, we can choose 2 more. Top of my head is Michael Redd, but he is too streaky and pretty one dimensional. Mike Miller comes in handy as well but he is too trigger happy with the NBA-distance 3. Ray Allen would fit in well to back-up Kobe and I think I will go with Wade as my 3rd SG.

    Carmelo Anthony – yes I will start him over LeBron. Melo has a more refined game in terms of scoring and playing the 3. LeBron meanwhile is a more versatile all-around player. For purposes of discussion, I place him as my PG/SF hybrid.

    SF Crop: Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, Gerald Wallace, Josh Howard, Richard Jefferson, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Durant.

    If I have to pick one here, Shawn Marion is top of the heap. I also noticed Kevin Durant making waves.

    Kevin Garnett / Tim Duncan – These are the type of players that will thrive in a Jason Kidd-led team. They play defense and their backs to the basket. There is no doubt that when USA tries to reclaim lost glory, overkill is not in the vocabulary.

    PF Crop: Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Emeka Okafor, Rasheed Wallace.

    Well, since KG and TD are surely in, better get some young and athletic PF to run with Kidd – Chris Bosh.

    At center, Shaq will not fit in. Its the ego thing once more and there shall be none bigger than Shaq’s. Dwight Howard has shown tremendous progress lately and it he will have plenty of years to play for team USA. Greg Oden will also make a run for Dwight’s money. Depending on how things turn out, these 2 could be the league’s best centers for the next 10 years.

    PG – Kidd / Billups
    SG – Kobe / Allen / Wade
    SF – Melo / LeBron
    PF – Duncan / KG / Bosh
    C – Dwight Howard / Greg Oden

    Theres your cream of the crop. This is how team USA should look like.


  26. tom champbers,
    You bias is clear and many of us here – even when we are really bending over backward to see your comments – would disagree with your SG comments.

    While you give a wave of the hand to defense, you really don’t consider it in any position, except Camby. You may have thought of it at PG, but by including habachi, you toss out the baby with the bathwater defensively.

    Also, SF is a really weak position in your scenario, as well as the existing team, and it is also a critical weakness of the USA team.

    In this international game, why is Amare on the team as a center? He is a power forward playing center in the Phoenix system. That is where he should be positioned in USA basketball.


  27. Warren,

    Chris Bosh did so bad in last year’s tournament I don’t even know where to begin… The guy simply has no skill set and is not strong enough (a la Dwight Howard) to actually impact any game.


    You actually said Wade should be starting (and he forces as many shots as Kobe plus 25 BS fouls every game) and Arenas should be a reserve point guard.
    Arenas is a me-first type of point guard who can’t get an offense running even if he tried. And since that has been the downfall of recent US teams, maybe you should consider that PG selection.


  28. Craig W,
    W/Bosh’s injury,the US team has limited itself to few big men. Because Coach K wants Kobe,Lebron and Carmelo starting,Carmelo has to play the PF spot. Of the 3 true bigs left,Amare is the most skilled offensively.(Whether having Amare’s former owner/GM running the Men’s Olympic Basketball program has anything to do w/the tentative decision to start him,I have my suspicions,but…) I would think the team would be better off starting Howard and use Amare’s shooting ability off the bench.


  29. Stephen I think with Kidd, Kobe, Mello, LeBron there is plenty of offense to go around. So why not put in the best defender (interior since Prince is the best defender) out there; Chandler. Amare is a defensive liability. This team as it stands right now has no interior defense or rebounding. If this is the team that goes to the Olympics it will be another humiliating loss.

    If i could choose from any players to create the team I would go with something like this

    PG: Kidd, Billups
    SG: Kobe, Miller, Wade
    SF: Mello, Prince or Bowen (Bowens a better shooter)
    PF: Duncan (the best player in the world along with Kobe), KG or Bosh (Amare works too but not a good defender)
    C: Chandler, Howard (theres no one not even in the NBA now that shaq is old that is a physical match for him)


  30. I love how major sports web sites keep coming out with articles on Kobe with all this speculative ad lib crap to generate the public’s interest. He hasn’t said anything, yet they turn it into an article in the national media.

    There are far too many sports media outlets and journalists out there with nothing to do but write about garbage.


  31. How about a 12-man roster with…

    PG: Kidd, Chris Paul
    SG: Kobe, Redd, Iverson
    SF: Melo, Battier, Bowen
    PF: KG, David Lee
    C: Duncan, Howard

    See, with the exception of Kobe; Iverson and Howard they all have good fundamentals and easily share the ball. Everyone can shoot the ball good enough to keep the defense in the right place.

    Kobe gives the US good shooting and ability to create his own shot.

    Iverson kills himself on the floor and draws a huge amount of fouls. I actually think he was the key to winning last year’s tournament, but hey… he was benched at key times. He shouldn’t be the PG, but a SG guarding the opposing PG. He can get to the line easily and noone in the world can guard him off the dribble.

    Howard is not a good shooter but he’s a freak. Use him against the best opposing C at times, and he will be very effective…

    Plus, just use the available players wisely!!! Why the heavy and deep rotations? If Kobe only plays 5 mins, so be it… Forget egos and Nike sponsorship and build a team with players who are used to play FOR the team (Kobe would be the exception).

    I still don’t understand why they call Amare and Bosh… Amare lives off the Suns system and Nash, with no ability to create his own shot and terrible defense. And everyone talking about Bosh’s injury and how he should play and even start… Please go see the videos from last year… Please…


  32. What about Marcus Camby as a Center. I’m not sure where he is from though. But he has a good mid range jumper, he’s a good rebounder and a great shot blocker. I think his game would fit nicely in the FIBA rules.


  33. Instead of Howard? Hmm don’t think it would be that much of an advantage but… no harm there.

    David Lee is about perfect for FIBA’s game and happily take a backseat as role player (which he already is)


  34. “[Lebron] works terribly in the international game. Same for D-Wade.” — Renato Afonso

    “Chris Bosh did so bad in last year’s tournament I don’t even know where to begin…” — Renato Afonso

    Interesting statements. Wade finished with the highest PER on the team and Bosh came in 5th, behind Anthony, Howard, and James.

    PERs not everything, but still.


  35. To give that some more context, Wade was 3rd in the entire tournament with 36.25, and Bosh was 15th in the entire tournament with 26.41.


  36. A stat is just a stat. How many plays were botched because of them? How many times didn’t Bosh give help from the weak side? How many times he positioned himself wrong in the offense? How many times he didn’t cut as he was supposed to?

    You can’t measure these things… These stats are better then the old ones, sure, but you can’t base everything around them nor ignore older stats.

    For instance, how many REALLY weak teams did the US play against? If they only played 8 or 9 games the whole tournament, you can use 3 or 4 games from group stage to increase your overall stats. More… they got the bronze medal, so the team wasn’t that bad… And teams that win show better stats…

    Anyway, can you please tell me their PER against the toughest opponents? Those are the games that matter….

    Andrew, I get your point, but I’d rather watch the games and analyze a player myself than look at a stat sheet (old or new) and try to find out who’s the best player on a given team.

    For example, LeBron has an ok FG%. However, if he shoots off the dribble or after a cut and he’s still in motion, he normally throws a brick. That shot, because of his arm strenght, usually goes into the opposing side of the rim, helping Varejao or Gooden to get an offensive board. However, if he’s well positioned and not moving, his shot is more smooth and the FG% increases.
    The good thing? He has a good shooting touch when standing… The bad? He prefers to shoot off the dribble…
    No stat will show this, and shooting off the dribble is not the best option anywhere.


  37. “shooting off the dribble is not the best option anywhere” …. unless you are Micheal Jordan. He made a living going around screens, creating a tiny bit of space, elevating, hanging in the air then knocking down the 15-17 footer at a absurdly high percentage for a jump shot.


  38. There’s certainly a lot that doesn’t show up in stats. My point was simply that these players accomplished so much with the things that DID show up in stats, that you have a big case to make to prove that despite these gigantic accomplishments that these players were actually “bad” or “terrible”.

    I can’t calculate their PERs against the better opponents. It would be interesting to take a look at the box scores from those last few games though, but is down at the moment.

    “Andrew, I get your point, but I’d rather watch the games and analyze a player myself than look at a stat sheet (old or new) and try to find out who’s the best player on a given team.”

    I’d rather do both.


  39. The box scores are up.

    Against Greece, Bosh was only on the court for 5 minutes where he scored 3 points and blocked a shot. Not really much to go on, and the loss could hardly be put on him.

    Wade played 25 minutes and scored 19pts with 64ts%, which is really good.

    Against Argentina, Bosh played 14 minutes and didn’t produce much. 1 Assist, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 rebound, 1 point, 0 turnovers. He didn’t really hurt the team as much as he was mostly a non-factor statistically in this game.

    Wade played brilliantly, scoring 32pts with 85ts%. Those numbers don’t exactly scream “terrible”.