Boston Celtics

Celtics' zone defense a product of bad man-to-man

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Celtics' zone defense a product of bad man-to-man

BOSTON The number one team in college basketball right now is the Syracuse Orange, a team that has employed some variation of a zone defense for years.

But the NBA is a different brand of basketball, one in which teams don't rely on the zone as their bread-and-butter defensive strategy.

The NBA season is just three games old for the Celtics (0-3), and the C's have played arguably more zone defense now than they have at any point under head coach Doc Rivers.

The reason?

Because their man-to-man defense has been horrible, something they hope to change on Friday in their home opener against Detroit.

"The only way we're playing it (zone defense), is if we look awful defensively," Rivers said.

The C's have used zone defense in each of the last two games, with mixed results.

Against the Heat, it helped trim Miami's 20-point lead down to just three points. But in the loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, many of the problems that led to the Celtics falling behind - dribble penetration, for example - were just as problematic in a zone defense as it was in the team's poor man-to-man coverage.

Rivers believes one of the big reasons for the poor zone defense against the Hornets, was fatigue.

"Back-to-back nights of that," Rivers said. "For long periods of time, just doesn't work."

As Celtics guard Keyon Dooling pointed out, zone defenses aren't entirely bad for the NBA as he pointed out that the current NBA champion Dallas Mavericks used zone defense at times during their journey towards the franchise's first NBA title.

"It's all about strategy," Dooling said. "Sometimes you have to junk the game up."

He added, "it's very relevant in our game now. And we want to get better at our zone as well."

But it's never going to become a staple of the C's defensive strategy.

Their focus now is to become a better man-to-man defense, viewing zone coverage as an unexpected wrinkle they can throw at teams occasionally to throw them off balance.

One of the challenges for the C's has been blending in the new faces with the veterans, and figuring out how to get everyone on board to understand what their role is defensively.

Players mean well, but developing that kind of continuity, that kind of trust, takes time.

"You don't get it overnight," said Celtics guard Ray Allen. "As a team, as an individual, we know who we are as individuals but still trying to claim our identity as a team. We hang our hats on playing defense and trusting each other, just having each others' backs. I think we're being tested, and early. Everything is not hunky-dory so far for us. Our backs are up against the wall, so we have to come out swinging."

No longer the little team that could, Celtics may need time to jell

No longer the little team that could, Celtics may need time to jell

Fireworks have been ablaze in the NBA all summer long, with the latest electrifying salvo being tossed by the Boston Celtics in trading for Kyrie Irving from Cleveland in exchange for a package of playerscentered around Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick centered around Isaiah Thomas. Without question the Celtics were among the biggest winners this offseason as they went about transforming their roster significantly despite having the best record in the East while advancing to the conference finals. But good wasn’t good enough, a similar mantra by a number of teams in the NBA. We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin!

BOSTON – Expectations for the Celtics this season are the highest they've been in the Brad Stevens Era.
 
The past couple of years, Stevens’ crew was seen as a scrappy bunch.
 
That all changed Tuesday night when the Celtics pulled off a blockbuster trade in acquiring Kyrie Irving from Cleveland for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

MORE ON THE KYRIE IRVING BLOCKBUSTER:

 
Acquiring the four-time All-Star would have made this offseason one of the best ever for the Celtics. But prior to landing the 25-year-old point guard, Boston was able to sign Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million contract after he spent his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Utah Jazz.
 
The new guys join a Celtics team that returns just four starters, a group led by Al Horford, who stands as the lone returning starter from last season’s squad which finished with the best record in the East (53-29) while advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing in five games to Cleveland.
 
Adding a pair of All-Stars to the mix will certainly benefit the Celtics for this upcoming season. But for their continued growth, they will also need to get more from their youngsters.
 
Second-year forward Jaylen Brown had a strong offseason and is poised to build off of a rookie season in which he was named to the All-Rookie second team. Boston will also look to get quality play from rookie Jayson Tatum who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick in the NBA draft.  
 
For Boston, the biggest concern has to be chemistry.
 
There’s no question there’s more talent on this roster from top to bottom.
 
But with this being the first go-around for most of the players, it remains to be seen just how long it will take for all of the core players to get on the same page and find success.
 
That challenge won’t be easy, especially with the Celtics opening with seven of their first 11 games on the road.

Even with all the new faces and a challenging schedule out the gates, that won’t diminish the heightened level of expectations for a team that will surely have a bull’s-eye on its back all season for a journey that should result in yet another deep playoff run.
 
Key free agent/trade additions: Kyrie Irving (from Cleveland); Gordon Hayward (from Utah); Aron Baynes (from Detroit); Marcus Morris (from Detroit).
 
Key losses:
Avery Bradley (traded to Detroit); Amir Johnson (Philadelphia); Jonas Jerebko (Utah).
 
Rookies of note:
Jayson Tatum; Semi Ojeleye.
 
Expectations:
60-22 (First in the Atlantic Division, first in the East)

CSNNE SCHEDULE

BST PODCAST: What grade would you give the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

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BST PODCAST: What grade would you give the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

0:41 - What grade would you give the Celtics for their trade for Kyrie Irving? Michael Holley, Kayce Smith, Tom Curran, break it down and give their grades.

4:32 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakley discuss how Kyrie Irving will fit in the Celtics system and how Brad Stevens will handle the roster with new egos.

8:50 - We take a look back at the Pierce and Garnett trade to the Nets that landed the Celtics multiple 1st round picks. Are you pleased with how the Celtics used those picks? Is Danny Ainge a Hall of Fame executive? Michael Holley, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Tom Giles discuss.

14:30 - Our BST crew talk about the Red Sox getting the win over the Indians, Eduardo Nunez being hit intentionally by Corey Kluber, and if Chris Sale will retaliate.