Here’s Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford making a long point about the importance of defense following this past weekend’s 123-117 home loss vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves (6-12 record).
(via Charlotte Hornets):
“We played hard, we’ve been playing with good energy. If you do three things in this league… I’m talking about defensively, which is our struggle obviously: if you can defend without fouling, which takes discipline and technique, which I would dare say outside of two or three other teams, nobody works on it more, talks about it more than we do, if you run back on defense every time, which takes zero talent, there’s nothing that takes less talent in basketball than running back on defense, and if we’ll block out with physicality on every shot. So if you are say top seven or eight in defensive rebounding, top ten in not fouling, which we’re like 28th, and then you’re top ten in transition defense, all of those things take not a lot of talent. They do take physicality, they take effort, and you’ve got to be smart about it. Tonight, it’s the same thing, it’s two things: one, they shot 30 free throws, and they’re fouls, I would take that crew every night. I’ll be honest, we did not get a good whistle, and I don’t usually say that. The 50/50 calls all went against us to me in the second half. I told one of the officials that after the game, ‘I would take that crew every night, I respect all three of them, I think they’re good together… we got the short end of the stick tonight.’ And that happens, but that’s not why we lost. We lost because we’re not physical enough, we get outwork on the glass, we foul. We had two ridiculous fouls at the end of the 2nd quarter, right in the paint where guys are going to shoot contested 10-12 foot shots, which is exactly what you want them to do, we fouled twice, so that’s 4 points, which is a big deal. They had 22 second-chance points. Again, one of the reasons our defense is so bad is that. 31 in Brooklyn, 22 today. So when you’re watching the film and you’re trying to figure out what’s the problem, that’s the problem. It’s as simple as that. My message to the guys is, ‘I like coaching this team, but we have to understand what wins in the NBA. Every year there’s one or two teams that are just going to go all in on trying to play offense, they’re not physical, they don’t do the dirty things, they don’t want to do the tough things, and they get to either the playoffs or the play-in and get their a** kicked because it doesn’t work in our league.’ I’m 99% sure on this: there’s only been two teams that ever won the championship that weren’t top ten in defense, there’s been a few that weren’t top ten in offense. Defense travels, defense gives you an identity, defense brings your team together. It’s what you have to do if you want to win.
“This is not a league… even though the scores are higher, if you think about offense in the last 15 years, who would you think of? The Splash Brothers, and every year they won it, they were top five in defense. You’ve got to be good in both. We’re not going to win until we decide that we want to do that, that we’ll run back every time. I told them, ‘I feel bad because we’re putting so much into it and we’re getting a lot better, there’s so much of it that we’re doing so much better. And it’s not going to matter if we’re not going to do the hard things and we’re not going to do the tough things, and we’re not going to be the first to hit, the first to run down a long rebound, more guys willing to take a charge, more guys willing to dive on the floor… it’s not the way pro basketball works. This isn’t nearly about talent or injuries as much as how we play. You have to have a game that makes sense in the league, ours makes sense most of the time at one end.’ After tonight, we’ll probably be close to a little bit less than 16th, 17th in offense, but that’s really because we’ve had three games where we were just awful. For the most part, we’ve been good offensively. Defensively, we might be last or 29th or something like that, because of those things. And those things to me, you can clean that up in one day. We’ve done it enough, we’ve worked on it enough, and that’s what we’ve got to get to. Now that being said, my last thing is this… I’m the one that’s in charge of that, so I’m not blaming the players, I’m just telling you where we’re at. The coach is in charge of those areas… the coach and the team leaders. That’s the way the NBA works. I need help, too. But if we get to that, we’re going to have a chance to take off here and have a really good year. And if we don’t, there’s going to be more nights like this where we’re fun to watch and this and that. But to be honest with you, NBA people would watch that tonight and say, ‘Boy, they’re doing a good job on offense, they’re going nowhere.’ Just like I do when I watch teams that try to play like that. You’re not winning in this league. That’s the one thing I do know.”