I remember hearing a story about Clyde Drexler when I was still in Middle School. Of course, at that time, I didn’t really know anything about Clyde the Glide besides what I heard my dad or commentators talk about. What I did pick up was how much others respected his defense. One particular story changed how I viewed defense all-together.
The story goes Clyde would perform a quick stunt at ball handlers several times throughout the game; not only to throw them off, but really to see how they reacted. He would take mental notes each time and try to decipher what their automatic response would be to his stunts. What he found out was most players have a go-to protection move or reaction. Armed with this information, Drexler would wait until the perfect moment, when his team needed a big stop, momentum was slipping away or there was a chance to throw a knock out punch. When that time came, Clyde would stunt at his opponent, anticipate the move and go for the steal. Typically resulting in a clean steal and layup going the other way.
What looked like super fast reflexes and defensive talent was really the result of deliberate thought, multiple setups and perfect timing. This was the first time I realized, as a small middle school rec-league warrior, that defense was so much more than hustle. It was an art. It was a game within the game. Chess, not checkers.
Today, I empower the better defenders I coach to understand defense through this lens. If you're gambling on defense, you’re doing it all wrong. You should be calculating. Better yet, you should be setting things up for your own benefit. Thinking one step ahead of the offense. Lore them into a false sense of security only to rip the rug out from under them.
Don’t deny the pass when you know it’s coming. Entice it. Make it look open. Steal it.
Don’t sit entirely on his right hand. Let him think he can come back to it. Steal the counter move.
We as coaches must allow our great defenders to have some freedom on the defensive end - much like we allow our offensive stars to freelance when they see an opportunity. Empower your defenders to see defense as more than a battle of wills, and instead open them up to the ability to gain a wining edge.
Thanks again for reading. See you tomorrow.