Many youngsters focus on scoring and 3-point shooting to make it in the NBA. Blame Steph Curry and Klay Thompson for that. But you can also make it in the pros if you defend well and play your role to perfection, just like Doug Christie.
The lost art of defending
Defense is often overlooked now in the ear of analytics, spacing, and outside shooting. Rule changes also impacted the game, and the art of defense is slowly fading away.
Back in the day, the no blood, no foul rule existed. Michael Jordan had been the target of the Bad Boys Pistons era, and they had no choice but to give hard fouls to contain him. But as the game evolved, players have become more mental in their approach rather than physical. A defender must be one step ahead of his opponent and be prepared for any counters. A great offensive player has a deep bag of tricks, so containing Plan A isn’t going to finish the job. A defender must also be prepared for Plan B, C, D, etc.
The likes of Doug Christie, Tayshaun Prince, Bruce Bowen, and Raja Bell all made a career as defensive specialists. They sacrificed their numbers and played their roles well. Christie played in the NBA for 15 seasons, including five with the Sacramento Kings, where he became a household name and a lockdown defender. He now shared some tricks when it comes to limiting the opponent’s production.
Doug Christie’s 3 defensive tips
There’s a reason why Doug was named to three selections to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team and one selection to the NBA All-Defensive First Team: he studied his opponents and prepared himself mentally.
The Seattle, Washington native claims defenders must have short-term memory. This will enable them to focus on the next play. Great players will still score, no matter how hard you defend. Quickly forgetting and focusing on the next play is a must for Christie.
"Players are going to score, especially in today’s game," Doug said. "When someone gets a bucket on you, you can’t take that to the other end of the floor with you. You can’t get into that ‘mano a mano’ battle – it’s a team game. If Kobe [Bryant] has 40 on me, I can’t take each and every bucket and all the different things that go along with it to heart. So if you play great defense and he plays good offense and just knocks down an incredible shot, your memory has to quit and you have to shut it off at that particular moment so you can move on to the next play.”
The former Kings forward also stressed the importance of team communication. For Doug, great defensive teams communicate not only verbally but also non-verbally. Last but not least, a good defender must have anticipation.
“When you talk about anticipation for basketball, I don’t want this to get confused with cheating or over-playing. Elite defenders have anticipation. They can read things before they happen just like a point guard with the basketball. Because a lot of times, when you see something in front of you, it’s done and it’s too late,” Christie said.
So for those hoping to make it in the pros, focusing on the basics and defending could take you to places too. Not everyone could be the next Steph, Kevin Durant, or Thompson, so if the offense is not your calling card, it's better to develop defense and be good at it.