Defenses can't touch guards above the free throw line so pick and roll offenses are becoming all the rage.
Some interesting quotes out of Doc Rivers today. He spent pretty much the whole practice working on defense and in particular pick and roll defense. Not just because the Celtics are getting burned, but because everyone in the league is running more and more pick and roll. Why? Because rules changes have made it very effective. I'll allow Doc to explain.
Why pick and rolls? At least in the early part of this season, there's been an increased use of the play as quick guards take advantage of rules prohibiting defensive players from putting their hands on ball-handlers. Sunday night in Orlando, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis ran an effective pick and roll against the Celtics that erased Boston's second-half lead and led to an overtime game.
"You can't touch anybody," said Rivers. "You can't touch above the free throw line. It's brought the small guard back in the league, it's brought the quick guard back in the league. I watched a game the other night and they never ran another play besides the pick and roll, and they won. It was unbelievable. The other team couldn't stop it.
The flipside to this, of course, is that Rajon Rondo happens to be a quick guard that has benefited from the rules as well.
Rondo's speed and vision - and a little help from his teammates - have helped him to average 13.7 assists per game over the first 14 games of Boston's season. Turn the clock back 10 years and you'll find that the NBA's top assist man, Jason Kidd, averaged just 8.9 APG in 2002-03, according to ESPN.com. That's a 54 percent increase over the course of 10 years that, according to Courtney Lee, is due in large part to a drastic increase in speed and athleticism.
The NBA shifts over time. In the Bird/Magic era there was a lot more run and gun. In the original Bad Boys Pistons era there was a lot of defense (and ugly basketball). The league seems to be tweaking things to encourage offense and the Celtics have to take advantage on offense and look for ways to slow other teams down on defense.
By the way, this is also a big, big reason why Avery Bradley could make a huge impact on this team when he returns from injury. He's one of those guys that will be able to slow teams down with his defensive instincts and tenacity. Hopefully the rules changes won't handcuff him too much but if last season was any indication, he's going to give guards fits.