Monday, February 13, 2006

The Best Defense...

The wheels have come off. After a brief 10 game stint in which the Blazers looked like they might be pulling it together, the team has concluded what I would consider the most embarrassing three game streak in recent Trail Blazer history. Thrice in a row have the Blazers been blown out by fellow bottom-dwelling, injury-riddled teams from the Eastern Conference. To make matters worse, the center tandem of expecting father Joel Przybilla and current parent Theo Ratliff have fallen prey to the injury bug. This leaves an already struggling defense without its two best defensive players, not to mention that fact that it thrusts Ha Seung-Jin into a prominent role, though it is yet to be seen if that will entail starting or coming off the bench. Truly, we're through the looking glass here people.

So what to do? The Blazers guards are getting abused nightly on defense, though it's due more to their small stature than a lack of effort. The Pacers Stephen Jackson (6'8), Paul Pierce (6'6) and Wally Szczerbiak (6'7) of the Celtics, and Mo Peterson (6'7) and Mike James (6'2) of the Raptors have all had their way with Steve (6'3), Juan (6'3, standing on a milk crate), Sebastian(6'0), and Jarrett(6'3) as of late. Actually, it's been pretty much all season, but now that the interior defense is failing as well, it's become that painful to watch. So in an attempt to be action oriented, I've come up with a few new defenses that might help the Blazers overcome their current woes.

The Krav Maga Defense
Fashioned on the hard streets of Bratislava by Imi Lichtenfeld, Krav Maga (directly translated from Hebrew as "close combat") is a method of self defense practiced by the Israeli army. If there's a group of people out there who know about defense and offense, it's the Israelis. While Imi created Krav Maga to protect himself and fellow Jews from marauding bands of fascists in 1930's Slovakia, it's quite applicable to today's defensive minded NBA. Krav Maga relies on five basic ideas:

  1. Avoid Injury: This seems apt enough. John Nash is going to start trolling local Park and Rec leagues for anyone over 6'5 if anyone else goes down, so staying healthy is going to have to be a primary tenet of any new defensive scheme.
  2. Go from defending to attacking as quickly as possible: That's just sound, fundamental basketball/combat theory there folks. In case you haven't noticed, the Blazers aren't exactly offensive dynamos either, so using the defense to create some offense just makes good sense. The Blazers are obviously young, so I think it would behoove whatever mix of players Nate throws out there to use those fresh legs to the best of their advantage.
  3. Use the body's natural reflexes: Again, this is another area in which the youth of the Blazers could be used as an advantage. Anyone who's ever had the unfortunate experience of driving right after the local chapter of the AARP lets out can tell you that as a person gets older, their reflexes get worse. Why not use the youth and skill of the young Blazers to overcome the old age and treachery of the NBA's elder statesmen? And who knows, maybe the opposing team would be willing to settle games by way of a Simon tournament.
  4. Strike at any vulnerable point: Granted, Imi was referring to targeting the eyes and groin, and at this point that might not be that bad of an idea, but in order to stay within the parameters of NBA rules and fair play in general, the Blazers could take a more theoretical approach to this principle. For instance, the Blazers play the Bobcats tonight, who are another young, somewhat banged-up team, with Okafor, Knight, and Felton all coming off of or nursing nagging injuries. They're tenderized right now, so the Blazers need to come out aggressive and physical; make sure that every bucket hurts. Every time Okafor gets the ball, drop Ha on his ankle. Every time Brevin Knight tries to drive, drop Ha on his knee.
  5. Use any tool or object nearby: That includes chairs, shoes, the ball, cameras, and of course, Ha. Kobe's starting to get hot? In-bound the ball into his face. Carmelo Anthony keeps shooting over your head? Throw your shoe at him as he elevates. It's all so simple!

Of course, one problem with the Krav Maga defense is that not many people teach Krav Maga outside of Israel. Then again, I'm sure a few relaxing days in Tel Aviv could do this team some good.

The Opossum Defense
Since the Krav Maga defense might lead to an increased amount of foul calls, it's important to be adaptable. In an effort to conserve energy and fouls, I purpose that the Blazers, when the opportunity or necessity arises, switch to the opossum defense, which consists mostly of laying on the court and pretending your dead. In the wild, the opossum lays lifelessly when a predator approaches, letting itself get pawed and gnawed until the predator eventually loses interest and goes about finding another, more lively woodland creature to consume. In respect to the Blazers, if they simply flopped on the court and waited for the other team to lose interest, maybe they'd leave before the game was over, allowing the Blazers to run uncontested lay-up drills to victory. Some might say it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to fashion a defense after the instincts of North America's only native marsupial, but those people fail to realize that the opossum has been around since the time of dinosaurs. Any animal that has no form of pro-active self defense but has nonetheless successfully roamed the earth for millions of years must be doing something right.

The Insanity Defense
Used by the sane and insane alike, the Insanity Defense is predicated on the ability to convince your opponent that you're not fit to defend yourself, at least from a mental standpoint. No one likes to beat up on a team they feel sorry for, so why not convince opposing teams that the majority of the Blazer roster is mentally challenged? That's got to be worth at least a few pity wins. It's really a rather simple defense to implement; most often watching a few episodes of Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, or Law and Order: Criminal Intent will give a player more than enough material to convince even the most hardened official that you're fit to be tied. Juan could take the court with all of his clothes on backwards. Zach could come out in a diaper, all the while sucking his thumb. Ruben could just be Ruben. Even Nate could get in the act, doing something as outlandish as giving significant playing time to a 7'3, 20 year-old South Korean. Oh, wait.

At this point, nothing should be off the table. It's one thing to get embarrassed by the Spurs and Suns; it's another thing to get punked by the Raptors. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it don't get much more desperate than this.


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