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News » Improving defense is a point of attention

Improving defense is a point of attention

Improving defense is a point of attentionDuring one of his preseason rants, swingman Stephen Jackson made a valid point about what really ails the Warriors .

"Defense has been a big problem, and I can't guard everybody," Jackson said. "There are five guys on the court, and our defense has to pick up a lot for us to even attempt to have a great year. That's where our focus needs to be."

And that's where the Warriors' focus has been during training camp. After three consecutive seasons of allowing the league's most points, the coaches and players say their rebuilding process is going to start on the defensive end.

"Everybody knows we can score 130 points on any given night, but we can't turn around and give up 131," guard Monta Ellis said. "You just can't win that way."

Just before training camp opened last month, the coaching staff met Don Nelson in Maui, and they worked on ways to improve their defense. They left the meeting believing that they had to simplify the scheme, figure out a way to stop dribble penetration, go back to fundamentals and hold each player responsible for his defensive efforts, with more attention paid to video work before or after practices.

"We've stressed the film side a lot more this year, and I think it's helped out because guys have to be accountable," forward Corey Maggette said. "If you're not doing something right, you're put on blast. It's not meant to embarrass you, but it definitely makes you want to be better."

The loudest ovation of the preseason's first practice came when the third team made a stop. The players on the bench, led by Jackson, went batty when C.J. Watson swiped a pass. That intensity has been pretty consistent throughout training camp as players seem to come to life on defense.

"We're trying to win every defensive drill," guard Stephen Curry said. "It's been really competitive, and it carries over into the games."

The Warriors remain realistic. With the fast-paced, shoot-early style of their offense, they know opponents are going to get plenty of shots and score plenty of points. They believe, however, that a small improvement on defense could make a huge difference in their win total.

"We are never going to be No. 1 in defensive categories, but we have a realistic goal of being in the top 15," center Ronny Turiaf said. "If we all devote ourselves, I think we're going to be able to be successful. We all know that we have the necessary weapons to score the Basketball, so if we do a good job of playing defense, the sky is the limit for us."

The Warriors , however, have another dilemma in that they'll be forced to play small in the back and front courts for spells. Jackson, Maggette and Kelenna Azubuike are three of the Warriors' best defenders, but all will be asked to guard taller players for long stretches. Ellis and Curry often could be the two shortest players on the court.

"There are problems that we'll have to solve, and I don't know all of the answers at this point, but defense is a high priority," said Nelson, who twice led the league in defense while coaching in Milwaukee. "We work really hard at it, but we're not very good at it yet."

A lot of the quick-fix responsibilities have fallen on the plate of assistant coach Keith Smart, who has kept elaborate defensive stats since joining the league. He believes that he has identified the Warriors' two biggest problems: dribble penetration and extra effort.

"Stats tell half of the story and video completes the story," said Smart, who was the Warriors' "defensive coordinator" last season when they led the league in blocked shots. "Any time you have great shot-blocking numbers, that means you gave up way too much penetration.

"Would you rather give up contested three-pointers or be good guarding the painted area? If a team beats us by making all of its threes, we can put our hands up and give it to them, but we can't allow teams to beat us on easy shots in the lane."

As Smart studied the league's top 10 defensive teams, he also noted defensive consistency in the middle and late portions of the shot clock, something he calls "first, second and third defensive efforts."

"In our past, we would give first efforts, maybe a second but never come close to a third," Smart said. "We've been preaching giving first, second and third efforts and playing out the scramble. Little things like that could make a huge difference."

Defenseless The Warriors have allowed the most points in the league each of the last three seasons:

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 18, 2009


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