My biggest criticism of this team over the last two or three years has been an apparent disregard for the defensive side of the ball. Sure they have paid it lip service, saying it was a priority, but actions speak louder than words and there was anything but action on defense.
That may be changing this offseason. We won't know for sure until the team hits the floor, but the trend is a positive one.
First of all, brining in Kevin Garnett has a huge effect on the team's defense. He's one of the best defenders in the league and his length and quickness allow him to cover just about every position on the floor. Secondly, the majority of young players that we held onto have reputations for being solid defenders. Rondo, Perkins, and Tony Allen would all be right at home in a great defensive scheme. Next, adding Scott Pollard should provide some veteran experience in that role. Don't discount Brian Scalabrine either (who the C's claim was their most consistent defender last year).
Perhaps the final piece of this defensive rebuilding effort was the hiring of Assistant Coach Tom Thibodeau to be their defensive guru yesterday. Tom has a track record of success. Consider his profile:
Tom Thibodeau begins his second season as assistant head coach of the Rockets and 15th year of coaching in the NBA. In his first year in Houston, Thibodeau helped the Rockets set franchise records in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense.
"Having Tom on this staff gives us a tremendous advantage," Rockets Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He is an expert in the areas of game preparation and player development. I feel that he’s one of the finest coaches in the NBA today and should be a top candidate to be a head coach."
Prior to joining the Rockets, Thibodeau spent the previous seven years as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks. During his tenure with the Knicks, New York set a then-NBA record by holding 33 consecutive opponents under 100 points in the 2000-2001 season. Thibodeau and the Knicks coaching staff also helped Van Gundy coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars in the 2000 NBA All-Star Game.
Finally, as I was reading my Sports Illustrated yesterday, I ran across a quote by Jack McCallum that caught my attention:
Garnett, a stout-hearted warrior, should help solve the defensive problem. As the three new teammates huddled in Doc Rivers's office after the press conference, the Boston coach was about to bring up the D word when Garnett beat him to it. "The only way we're going to win anything is if we play defense," Garnett said. Everyone agreed to make it a priority. The consensus around the league: Pierce and Allen are inclined to either yield or commit a needless foul when driven upon, but both have the ability to be terrific defenders if motivated.
I can't imagine a better motivation than a legit shot at banner 17, but helping the cause will be Garnett's overflowing personality and the addition of a defensive guru coach.
Defense wins banners. Sounds like this team is headed in the right direction.