Communication Is The Key On D
RICHMOND -- Randy Foye remembers hearing Kevin Garnett's loud voice shouting at him almost every time he got in his defensive stance his rookie year in Minnesota. Garnett wasn't being critical. He was being helping. He'd let Foye know when he didn't have any help, when and where the pick was coming. His lips were moving nonstop, his bark impossible to ignore.
"You hear it before it's coming," Foye said. "That you why Boston, he was a big reason why Boston won it all. he was so vocal. He got so much energy. A guy like that, you got to follow his lead."
The Wizards don't have anyone on their roster who compares to Garnett, a former league most valuable player and defensive player of the year.
"We have Brendan" Haywood, Foye said. "Brendan talks. Antawn [Jamison] talks and they let us know what's going on. It ain't going to be no KG, but if you can get two or three guys doing it together, then you know everyone can do it."
The Wizards will enter another season hoping to improve on defense, a declaration that is often treated with the commitment of a lazy couch potato who makes a New Years' resolution to work out more and lose some weight. Everything is okay in the beginning, with frequent visits to the gym, but by the end of summer, he settles back into the comforts of his Snuggie and a bag of Doritos.
But this year, Coach Flip Saunders has found a group of players who seem more receptive to making a commitment on the defensive end of the floor. And that begins with constant communication. Haywood said that at different times this training camp, Saunders has stopped practice, "Not because guys were in the wrong spot, but because we wasn't talking on defense."
"I've always believed you have to talk," Saunders said. "If you don't talk, you can't play. What talking does, it lets your teammates know you know what you're doing. If you're talking, you're not thinking about yourself. You know where your help is coming from."
Saunders has also spent a good portion of practice repeating the message that players need to trust each other in order to become a better defensive team.
Eddie Jordan tried to get the Wizards to play defense, but he often lost them with a confusing message. He also never fully committed to a system. Saunders has a solid defensive scheme, based largely on man-to-man and the matchup zone, that he has used at each step of his NBA career. Saunders told his team this week that in his early years with Garnett in Minnesota, he asked Garnett to keep a journal. "A lot of defensive concepts he taught KG, he still uses them wherever he go," Foye said.
Jamison said that will help the Wizards this season. "In the past, [Coaches would say,] 'This is what we're going to do and if it doesn't work, we'll switch it up. But I think with this, we're saying we're going to make this work and if we don't then we're going to find some guys that will get it done."
Dominic McGuire said that he really doesn't see much difference between the basic tenets of Saunders's system and the one used by former Wizards assistant Randy Ayers.
"We didn't want to give up middle last year and we don't want to give up minutes this year. You always want your big man to stay low and help baseline. It was the same as last year," McGuire said. "I think we're actually starting to buy into it. That's the big difference. Everybody is taking pride in it. I think new coaching staff. Everybody is real upbeat about this season. We want to win this year. Maybe it's because of 19 wins, but we have everybody back and we know we're going to be a good team this year."
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