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Thread: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

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    Default Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Lame-duck coach? Larry doesn't mind

    Indy Star
    by Bob Kravitz

    Posted: April 22, 2009




    It wasn't big news to learn Tuesday that Larry Bird isn't the least bit concerned with having his contract extended over the long term.

    What was news is that a few days after team co-owner Herb Simon sounded lukewarm about extending the contract of coach Jim O'Brien, Bird was just as tepid about the idea of tying up his coach beyond a deal that ends next season.

    http://www.indystar.com/article/2009...TS15/904220359

    "When I coached, I went my last year without a deal," team president Bird said at his annual postmortem news conference. "It really didn't matter. Some people, it might affect different than others. But (O'Brien is) under contract and we expect him to fulfill his contract."

    Look at it like this: O'Brien isn't in any immediate trouble, isn't operating with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, but Bird wants to see progress, especially on the defensive end, before he's going to commit to O'Brien beyond next year.

    Fair?

    It's only unfair if Bird is given an extension while O'Brien's contract future is ignored. In my mind, they are both on the clock. If O'Brien fails and he's let go at the end of next year, that's two coaches in four years under Bird. You can't keep looking at the coaches. Eventually, you've got to look in the mirror.

    That said, the team president liked a lot of what O'Brien did this season: He got a breakout year from Danny Granger. He got a career year (we think) from Troy Murphy. He got good development from the rookies, Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert. He oversaw tremendous improvement in Jarrett Jack, who went from being an early-season turnover machine to the team's starting point guard.

    Most of all, O'Brien's team played hard and improved steadily throughout the year, playing above .500 basketball (26-25) after Jan. 1.
    But 36 victories is 36 victories, and the team's defense was routinely atrocious.

    "It's just that defensively we've got to come up with a better plan," Bird said. "We can't give up 106 points a game and expect to win a lot of games. If you notice, every time we were defeated at home, it was from a player who had a monster game. We can't let that happen."

    Bird made the point that the Pacers teams he coached didn't have quick-footed or agile individual defenders, but assistant coach Dick Harter cobbled together a group that played solid team defense.

    So, with Harter returning to the team this past season, why didn't the same thing happen this past season?

    Bird is asking the same question.

    "When I coached, we weren't the quickest or most athletic team, and Dick Harter did an excellent job getting those guys to play defense," said Bird, who brought Harter back this year to assist O'Brien. "So I think those guys have more in them than they're giving right now."

    Bird was asked if Harter needs to have more input on a staff in which O'Brien insists on being the primary voice.

    "I'm not in a lot of their meetings, but with me, obviously Dick had a style and when I coached, I didn't care about offense. I knew we could score," he said. "It was on the defensive end, me and Dick talked all the time, what had to change, the style we wanted to play, what we were going to do in practice, which drills we were going to use. (Harter) is the best I've ever seen and that's why he's here.

    "If he doesn't have the input, he'll start to get the input because it's crucial for our team."

    The idea of a head coach as a lame duck is a troubling one, especially in the NBA. It was why the Pacers had almost no choice but to extend Rick Carlisle's contract, although that decision backfired when he was dismissed one year later.

    The difference now is the Pacers don't have knuckleheads on this roster who will take advantage of their coach's lack of security.

    This does, however, have the potential to get thorny: During several late-season interviews, O'Brien made it clear he doesn't have players who can be consistently good on defense. Then Tuesday, Bird said that while he doesn't have any Bill Russells on the roster, he thinks the staff should be getting a better and more coherent defensive effort from the players who currently populate the roster.

    Both Bird and O'Brien agree, there's got to be personnel changes this summer. It won't be like last year -- when the Pacers brought in seven new players -- but with several teams scrambling to get under the luxury-tax threshold, the Pacers believe they are positioned to make deals to bring in more youth and athleticism and possibly even more draft picks.

    There are still the sticky issues of Jamaal Tinsley's future and Mike Dunleavy's injury, but at least there is a modicum of cap flexibility, and after two more years, the Pacers will be in a fiscal position to chase a big-dollar free agent.

    By the time that happens, it's likely Bird will still be here.
    As for O'Brien? Stay tuned.
    Last edited by Putnam; 04-22-2009 at 08:18 AM.
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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    I had to stop reading when he talked about Dick Harter. Where is this idiot getting his information?

    He wasn't hired this year, he was here both of O'Brien's years here. And Jim hired him because they've worked together before.

    But ask the guy getting PAID to know this stuff, and you get this nonsense about Bird bringing him in this year put into print. Now people who don't know better will read this and assume it's the truth, too.

    *ugh!*

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Yes, Hicks, this seems like a slop job. In addition to the error you mention, I'm not sure the headlines are justified.

    The thread title here comes from the Star print edition's front-page teaser. It sounds like Bird has taken O'Brien to the woodshed. But the text of the article doesn't say much more than we already know.

    We already knew O'Brien is here for probably three years. Nothing said yesterday changed that. Bird didn't change his view on three years being the best tenure for a coach. He asserted that coaches deserve the players' attention even during the last year of their contracts, and if a player doesn't give that attention and respect, "We'll get rid of the player."


    Most significant, the article leaves out what Bird said in favor of O'Brien during the press conference: "I think Jimmy needs the opportunity to let these guys grow. I believe in the way Jimmy teaches. He works players hard and he makes them better."


    .
    Last edited by Putnam; 04-22-2009 at 08:30 AM.
    And I won't be here to see the day
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    Default Re: Kravitz: Bird puts O'Brien on notice

    I hadn't realized some of the things Bird had said about "D". I like it! I knew he disagreed with JO'B about the players being capable of playing "D", but I didn't know about his comment about Harter would be getting more involved. Nor did I realize Harter was the best "D" coach Bird has ever seen. I like how your talking Mr. BIRD!!!!

    Oh btw Kravitz, Dick Harter was hired the same year as O'Brien to help with the "D" not last year.

    Kravitz seems to be saying O'Brien needs to work on the "D" or he's not going to see his option year picked up. This is as it should be. I'm encouraged by how Bird feels about the "D" needs to be changed and improved. Now, lets just get it done!

    I don't see Bird throwing O'Brien under the bus, but he's not buying O'Brien's feelings he doesn't have the players to play "D" and needs some different players in order to do it.

    Interesting very interesting.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    As much as I like and respect Dick Harter, he isn't capable of doing what he did from 1998 - 2000. he's 79 years old. If you have seen him on the bench or in postgame game interviews and remember the way he was 5-10 years ago you would know - the man is getting old there is no other way to say it. So I have no idea what Bird and karavitz are talking about. And yes as others have mentioned in this thread - Harter was brought in by O'Brien - they coached together in Boston and in Philly. And Harter was out of the league when OB wasn't coaching.

    On the question who is correct Bird or JOB. Obvously both are. Yes this current team can play better defense - but JOB is correct that getting some better athletes would really help. Yes the 1998-2000 team wasn't the quickest NBA team, but they were an extremely smart, and veteran group - who trusted each other 100%. So for Bird to compare the two teams I think is unfair
    Last edited by Unclebuck; 04-22-2009 at 08:55 AM.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Dumb Bum:

    The idea of a head coach as a lame duck is a troubling one, especially in the NBA. It was why the Pacers had almost no choice but to extend Rick Carlisle's contract, although that decision backfired when he was dismissed one year later.

    Didn't we extend Carlisle before the season, the same year we fired him?

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by duke dynamite View Post
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    Didn't we extend Carlisle before the season, the same year we fired him?
    Isn't that exactly what Kravitz said?

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by count55 View Post
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    Isn't that exactly what Kravitz said?
    He said a year later. I would assume he meant calendar year. Rick was extended methinks on October 5 of 2006.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    I think one thing we all agree is that an extension is not guaranteed. And Bird has shown consistent improvement in decison making since Walsh left. Bird's situation is different than JOB's in that JOB's tenure was not linked to his predecessor. That and GMs should have a longer tenure expectancy than coaches.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Oh if Donnie Walsh were only held to the same standard as Bird is being held to by the local press?

    2 coach's in 4 years? Ha! Try 6 in 7 years.

    I do want to defend O'Brien on one thing though. For Bird to compare his team to O'Briens team is just not fair in any sense of the word.

    Dale Davis made up for a lot of sins committed by the other players on the floor defensively, yes he was that good, and Derrick Mckey could easily guard the other teams best wing player. Reggie while not being confused with Gary Payton was no slouch on the defensive end and Mark Jackson was always highly under rated as a defender.

    Then throw in Tony for a couple of years off of the bench and Travis (who I always felt was over rated as a defender but was not bad by any means) and you have the basis for a decent defensive squad.

    In fact I will say that ouf of the current team only Daniels, Rush, Foster and Granger are better than Reggie and none of them are even close to Mckey or Dale.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Peck View Post
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    Dale Davis made up for a lot of sins committed by the other players on the floor defensively, yes he was that good...
    Peck, I am going to get you a life-sized cardboard cutout of Dale Davis. He can stand next to your bed.

    My mother also was in love with Dale Davis, but not for his defensive abilities.

    lol
    Last edited by duke dynamite; 04-22-2009 at 09:37 AM.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by duke dynamite View Post
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    Peck, I am going to get you a life-sized cardboard cutout of Dale Davis. He can stand next to your bed.

    My mother also was in love with Dale Davis, but not for his defensive abilities.

    lol
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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by BillS View Post
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    Must ... suppress ... Yo Mama Joke of Death ...
    Psssh.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by duke dynamite View Post
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    Peck, I am going to get you a life-sized cardboard cutout of Dale Davis. He can stand next to your bed.

    My mother also was in love with Dale Davis, but not for his defensive abilities.

    lol
    http://www.tmz.com/2008/10/07/david-...big-and-black/

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    I had to chance to go to several live games this year and the first thing I noticed about the Pacers was not the lack of defense but the lack of team speed. Are team speed and defense a direct correlation?

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Pecks right there's no one to touch DD or McKey. I'd put Derrick in the tops in the league in his prime. Those type players aren't on the current team. They made up for a bunch of mistakes.

    However, I agree with Bird that this team's players can be better defensively. Mullins had horrible foot speed by the time he got here and although Jalen was able, he wasn't the most interested party in playing D.

    I think this team has to get smarter defensively. It's possible. Mully was horribly slow footed, but he still had quick hands and would swipe at the ball. Jalen would still try to get a hand in the shooters face (smartly Carlise tracked this occurence so it became a stat Jalen could grasp, imo.) Mark was slow footed, but clever/smart defensively (playing far enough off his guy to not be a turnstlye)

    It goes back to having guys who can guard their position on most nights, straight up, imo. It's helpful that Danny and BRush can (Marquis could too).

    Jarret Jack can mostly.

    TJ can but has to apply his quickness advantage to offset the size differential many nights.

    Roy can when it's a true center, but not on a Bosh or those PFs playing Center in opposing small ball. Roy has to get so good in the low post he doesn't loose minutes in those situtations. Murphy is much improved... I'll just leave it at that.

    Jeff is good to very valuable according to match ups.

    This will sound strange, but I think the "scheme" they had this year was interesting because I think it was designed with having Dunleavy and Murphy on the court at the same time, which I think it would have been the best option if that was the case. If you throw in the very poor, imo, point guard defense 2 seasons ago, this rotational scheme made sense.

    However, I'd advocate for a more traditional defense that emphasizes individual accountability versus a multiple rotational scheme. A traditional defense allows players to have the mano e mano challenge and accountability of defending their guy. I'm not saying don't help if a guy gets beat, I'm saying that if you have a team that knows you are going to have to rotate like they currently do, you'll get open looks if you pass crisply and show patience. To me the current system is almost a zone or it can be attacked that way and there's a reason zones aren't consistently sucessful in the NBA, players are too good to not hit open shots. Therein lies the fault.

    In summary, I think that this year's team even though worse defensively as a group are better defenders individually and should be given a chance to perform in that type of defense. I think if the scheme Obie used this year would have been used the previous year it would have fit. I think the mistake was to not let the guy guard straight up more this year, especially when they didn't have to overemphasize covering up for the PF and SG position.

    We'll see how next year goes. I think both Obie and Bird are right though. The current players need to be in a position to play better D, but it sure wouldn't hurt to have some more horses out there to do it too.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    I am very, very glad to hear these things from Bird. I know that Gnome has been worried that JOB would be prematurely extended, but I've felt that there wasn't a legit reason to extend him, and am glad to see Bird agrees with me.

    Larry is slowly winning me over.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan View Post
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    I had to chance to go to several live games this year and the first thing I noticed about the Pacers was not the lack of defense but the lack of team speed. Are team speed and defense a direct correlation?
    When the team plays the style that we do under O'Brien, yes. He expects players to both get to the offensive end of the floor and shoot quickly as often as possible. Failing that, he expects slashing drives by guards / wings to create the offense, leaving the team primarily in and around the paint. In that we often beat the opponents perimeter defenders and leave them behind us on our offensive end, failures to finish wind up in missed shots and turnovers created in the paint (our infamous drive, jump in the air, and find nowhere to go). As a result, the opposition often has their guards / wings in position to simply run down the floor and score with less resistance than they ordinarily would. A much speedier team could make up for this by being able to get back on defense faster than the opponents can get down the floor on offense, but is probably not realistic to expect without a complete roster overhaul, which is nearly impossible due to the team's current economic crunch.

    My guess is that some opposing coaches simply choose to allow our offensive penetrations, knowing the significant positional advantage they have both defensively (again, our pgs having nowhere to go after penetration) and offensively as a result.

    Bird had the philosophy, as he now has reiterated, that he would make even the relatively slow teams he had the best he could defensively, with offense and fast breaks being created by defensive pressure.

    While Bird is supporting O'Brien as a teacher, he seems to be acknowledging that our tactics need to shift to a defense first mentality, while knowing that the team is very capable of scoring in bunches. A very encouraging development, if true.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Speed View Post
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    P
    I think this team has to get smarter defensively. It's possible. Mully was horribly slow footed, but he still had quick hands and would swipe at the ball. Jalen would still try to get a hand in the shooters face (smartly Carlise tracked this occurence so it became a stat Jalen could grasp, imo.) Mark was slow footed, but clever/smart defensively (playing far enough off his guy to not be a turnstlye)
    Do you see Dun playing defense like Mully?

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    It's important to keep in mind that when Bird said that he thought the players could do better, the guy he used as an example was Danny. Now, it's clear that neither Bird nor O'Brien are looking to upgrade or replace Danny.

    The thoughts that this team's personnel is not built to be a good defensive team that can do a lot in the playoffs (O'Brien), and that this team can play better defense than they did (Bird) are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I consider them both to be absolutely true.

    My sense is that Bird is relatively pleased with O'Brien, but believes that he needs to simplify the defense. This is something that even O'Brien's supporters have espoused throughout the year.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Major Cold View Post
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    Do you see Dun playing defense like Mully?
    No, not the Pacers Mully. He was, to me, an offensive role player in his days here and really seemed to be used in limited time as a sniper. I'm just pulling this all from memory, I haven't looked up his numbers while here.

    Dunleavy is an exceptional team defender, I think. I really think he's great a taking charges, which often can have the same effect as blocking shots and making penetrators think twice about going to the bucket.

    However, Dun can't guard opposing startign two's or starting three's well enough, imo. And he can't punish a guy who's guarding him who is smaller, so you can effectively guard him with a Ben Gordon type. I don't think Dun is horrible defensively, but it is something I think you have to cover for as a team, if his match up is against any type of quickness. Now he can work guys off of screens on the other end and make a difference offensively that has a huge impact.

    With Dun, he needs to be a sixth man. It minimizes his weaknesses (individual defense) and accentuates his strengths (movement on offense, taking charges, scores in bunches, very good passer, good ball handler for his size, high Bball IQ). I could see him as 6th man of the year in the NBA. I also don't think if he's your starting two guard and primary option there that you can have a playoff caliber team.

    I guess looking at BRush and Dunleavy. If they were matched up on opposite teams against each other, I'd take BRush almost everytime because I know he'd be able to guard Dunleavy somewhat, but I don't feel like Dunleavy could keep up with BRush, much at all.

    Just my opinion, not hating on Dunleavy.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Speed View Post
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    This will sound strange, but I think the "scheme" they had this year was interesting because I think it was designed with having Dunleavy and Murphy on the court at the same time, which I think it would have been the best option if that was the case. If you throw in the very poor, imo, point guard defense 2 seasons ago, this rotational scheme made sense.

    However, I'd advocate for a more traditional defense that emphasizes individual accountability versus a multiple rotational scheme. A traditional defense allows players to have the mano e mano challenge and accountability of defending their guy. I'm not saying don't help if a guy gets beat, I'm saying that if you have a team that knows you are going to have to rotate like they currently do, you'll get open looks if you pass crisply and show patience. To me the current system is almost a zone or it can be attacked that way and there's a reason zones aren't consistently sucessful in the NBA, players are too good to not hit open shots. Therein lies the fault.
    I think your on to something here. I have often wondered if going to a more straight up defense might not be such a bad idea. I think Jack/Rush/Granger can hold their own pretty well on the perimeter. Too often we give up those wide open threes because guys don't rotate fast enough when the other team makes the extra pass.
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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    I have stated this before, but I think it fits into this thread, so let me do so again.

    At first glance my next sentence might not make any sense. I think the Pacers offensive style/system hurts the Pacers' defensive effectiveness much more so than the actual defensive style/system.

    So changing to a more straight up man to man IMO isn't going to help that much if the Pacers keep playing the fast paced offense. It is difficult to play a hectic style offensively then expect your players to go to the other end and dig in defensively and play together with patience. I just have never seen it done well in the NBA. I suppose someone might point to the Nets Finals teams of '02 and '03 as teams that were good on defense and yet played a fast style on offense. OK, maybe, but so much was Jason Kidd offensively and plus the nets had some really good defenders at the time and players who were great runners and finishers.

    But most of the best defensive teams play a controlled (to varying degrees) style of offense. And that isn't just by accident, it is on purpose.

    So my contention is the Pacers will never be a great defensive team playing this style of offense. Can they become better? - of course. Will some tweaks to the defensive system help? - yes. Will a couple of really good defenders help? - yes. But we won't become the Cavs, Celtics, or Spurs playing this style of offense
    Last edited by Unclebuck; 04-22-2009 at 11:43 AM.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite MAN_force View Post
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    I think your on to something here. I have often wondered if going to a more straight up defense might not be such a bad idea. I think Jack/Rush/Granger can hold their own pretty well on the perimeter. Too often we give up those wide open threes because guys don't rotate fast enough when the other team makes the extra pass.
    What I don't like is that Roy, Brandon, and McBob have spent a whole season learning the current scheme and to go back now puts them in a position a relearning how to play defense. Hopefully, if they went back to a traditional defense that these players understand the art of a regular defense enough that it's not a huge transition.

    For example, the current scheme calls for one of the front court players to leave his assigned man and take the other bigman if he flashes to the high post or in his area. To me, this is counter intuitive to how you would play regular man to man defense. So if Roy finds himself having to think through what needs to be done instead of just reacting, it becomes a lay up.

    Same with a perimeter player who has to rotate out of the weak side half zone and then recover to the opposite corner. In a traditional defense you go about 2 steps not quite as far compared to what they've been doing in Obies defense.

    I'm just saying I hope it's not a matter of unlearning what they've been doing because that will almost be like starting over with the young fellas and that's a shame, since if they are slow to "get it" then it would effect their performance, but also probably their minutes.

    One a side note. I had assumed until yesterday that Harter was a big part of the type of defense they played this year. I don't know which is more concerning that he maybe wasn't or the Bird doesn't even know for sure.

    I agree with Buck that Harter at his age probably can't be the defensive coordinator like he was for Bird, but you can still utilize his wisdom on the matter. Maybe they are and Bird just doesn't realize it.

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    Default Re: Kravitz: O'Brien's Fate Rests on Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Unclebuck View Post
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    I have stated this before, but I think it fits into this thread, so let me do so again.

    At first glance my next sentence might not make any sense. I think the Pacers offensive style/system hurts the Pacers' defensive effectiveness much more so than the actual defensive style/system.

    So changing to a more straight up man to man IMO isn't going to help that much if the Pacers keep playing the fast paced offense. It is difficult to play a hectic style offensively then expect your players to go to the other end and dig in defensively and play together with patience. I just have never seen it done well in the NBA. I suppose someone might point to the Nets Finals teams of '02 and '03 as teams that were good on defense and yet played a fast style on offense. OK, maybe, but so much was Jason Kidd offensively and plus the nets had some really good defenders at the time and players who were great runners and finishers.

    But most of the best defensive teams play a controlled (to varying degrees) style of offense. And that isn't just by accident, it is on purpose.

    So my contention is the Pacers will never be a great defensive team playing this style of offense. Can they become better? - of course. Will some tweaks to the defensive system help? - yes. Will a couple of really good defenders help? - yes. But we won't become the Cavs, Celtics, or Spurs playing this style of offense
    I'd agree if we were talking about the offensive style of two seasons ago where you'd have guys chucking up 3s 4 seconds in to a shot clock, but I think this year was a little more deliberate or trended that way at times. I'm not saying I disagree, but I think it's possible to play intensely defensively and under control/purposefully offensively even though you are play at an excellerated pace.

    Now I think you have to have a rotation that allows it, not the 7 guy rotation at the end of the year. I also think you are right that if you take alot of 3s and there are long rebounds that lead to fast breaks or the like that you can't set your defense.

    I see your point, though, I'm just gunshy after some of the Carlise teams that played at a ridiculously slow pace that never allowed for an easy basket on offense.

    Maybe the answer is somewhere inbetween.

    I do believe if you play up and down all season and you get into a lock down/half court style game in the playoffs, you are screwed.

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