Despite being lauded for its defensive prowess this season, the Dallas Mavericks currently rank 12th in defensive efficiency. This is a startling number for a team whose coach puts such a heavy emphasis on that side of the ball. This then leads to the question, what happened to the defensive dominance Dallas had in the beginning of the season?
This question is actually quite simple to answer. National media has constantly lauded that the acquisition of Tyson Chandler has changed the Dallas defensive philosophy, but Chandler’s outstanding defensive play can do no better for this defense than a salad bar for Eddy Curry’s appetite.
The true problem lies in the fact that the other prominent Dallas big men, Dirk, Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood do nothing to protect the basket.
The common denominator between all three is that none of them contest shots at the rim.
Dirk may be given a pass, since he has historically stepped up his play on both sides of the ball when it matters and is just recently recovered from a knee and wrist sprain.
Marion, while not excusable, is still only 6’7” despite his large wingspan and should not be expected to be the enforcer when the Mavericks have a 7’0” proven defensive back-up center.
The real blame should fall on Brendan Haywood, who has played a lackadaisical brand of basketball before turning it up the two games going into the All-Star break. With all the praise being given to him, Haywood nevertheless does not fail to underachieve, especially on the defensive end.
Flashes of a late-developing post game on offense have been overshadowed by his putrid free-throw shooting, while his two or three games of defensive brilliance have been overshadowed by 50 games of defensive inconsistency.
Despite multiple DNP-CDs, Haywood still cannot respond on defensive end. His latest two games have featured him attacking the rim, making shots, and drawing fouls, but they have also featured bad rotations on defense, a lack of communication with his teammates, and a nonexistent protection of the basket.
Yes, Haywood is still efficient and an asset when facing back to the basket centers, but the majority of NBA teams have guards that can penetrate to the rim. When a team has Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and JJ Barea playing the majority of its backcourt minutes, a center who can challenge shots at the rim is a must.
Tyson Chandler has shown he can do this. Little used Ian Mahinmi has brought needed defensive intensity to a second unit lacking it. Brian Cardinal, “the Janitor”, will put slashers on their backs before allowing an easy bucket.
Haywood, on the other hand, more often than not does not even put up a hand to contest a shot. This is only when he is even looking in the direction of the ball handler, which unfortunately he has a problem with. “Lack of motivation,” as people like to say Haywood suffers from should not excuse anyone from doing the fundamentals.
If Haywood can once again play fundamental basketball on the defensive end, he might finally be able to solidify the reserve center position.
Big Wood will most certainly get his dues in the playoffs going against giants the likes of Tim Duncan, but how helpful is containing Duncan, when Parker, Ginobili, Hill and Jefferson can get to the basket on every possession?