“Pick and rolls since the days of Bill Russell have been a hard thing to stop.” – Shaquille O’Neal, Boston Herald
“Doh.” – Me, Celtics Town
If you listen to people talk about Shaq’s pick-and-roll defense, he either plays screens like a brick wall or a 38-year old oak tree. The funny thing is, they’re barely exaggerating. Shaq can pull a basketball hoop down with his bare hands, but if you ask him to hedge a goddamn pick-and-roll he looks like a cactus. Or Shaqtus, if you will.
Shaq’s bad enough against the screen and roll that Doc Rivers is adjusting the entire Celtics defense to accomodate him.
“We’ve got to put more onus on the guards,’’ Rivers told the Boston Globe. “We’d be fooling ourselves to think Shaq is going to be out at halfcourt trapping and showing, and all that stuff. So, instead of trying to get him to do that, we’ve got to put the onus on the guards.”
My question: why can’t Shaq just play the team’s scheme? I know he’s chunky and ginormous and slower than he used to be, but if Zydrunas Ilgauskas can hedge, why can’t Shaq? It all comes down to effort, and Shaq doesn’t exert enough on the defensive end. And if it’s not effort, it’s Shaq’s mentality. He doesn’t see his defense as an issue.
“I’ll be all right,” he told the Boston Herald. “The Big Shamrock will not be a problem.” Points for solid third person reference.
“The court’s only so wide, so long,” Shaq continued. “I’ve been around a long time. I think I’ve seen pretty much every defense. As a matter of fact, new defenses were created because of me.
“The good thing about this team is guys want to play defense – especially guys like Rondo. I’m going to be in the back, controlling the paint, blocking shots, getting rebounds and pushing it up. You know, a lot of people forget I am seventh in blocks in the history of the game.”
People do forget it, and do you want to know why? Because you’re THAT bad against the damn pick-and-roll. If you hedged them properly, even once in a while, people might remember that you were once such a prolific shot-blocker. As it is, anything you bring to a defense is overshadowed because — in the words of Bill Walton — you’re the worst hedger in the history of Western civilization.
Doc Rivers explained more of his plan to hide Shaq’s deficiencies.
“The closer we can keep Shaq to the basket, the better for us,” Rivers said. “He’s a force down there, he’s a shot-blocker, he’s a rebounder. We don’t want him away from the basket.” In other words: Shaq either can’t, or won’t, move his feet to help our guards, so we’re going to shove him under the basket where he might not hurt us as badly.
“The biggest change for Shaq is talking on defense,” Rivers continued. “He’s got to be really verbal. He said that’s a little different for him. He’ll do it.
“We went from No. 1 in field goal percentage defense to No. 9. That was due to injuries and a lot of other things, but we were 9 and we want to get that back to 1.”
To do that, they’ll have to overcome Shaq’s weaknesses. A tall task, yes, but one Doc Rivers hopes to accomplish with his defense’s new Shaq rules. It’s odd to change an entire defensive scheme for one man, but desperate times call for desperate pick-and-roll coverage.
One thing about 38-year old oak trees: they’re tough to uproot.