Celtics Central

Boston Celtics

Marquis Daniels: Strategy is Great, But Defense is About Attitude


While the Celtics were unable to land a long defensive small forward, they did the next best thing. They got a player who can back up three positions, at least, in most circumstances. So, when I met Marquis, there was a question I wanted to ask him.

You can play 1,2,3. Can you play guys like Kobe defensively?

(Thoughtfully) Ummm…I’ve been guarding him ever since I’ve been in the NBA so…I’ve been playing the two, three when I was in Dallas, so I’ve been guarding him.

How have you done against him?

That’s a great player there. You just do the best you can. Try to contain him. Make it hard for him. Don’t give him nothing easy.

Tom Thibodeau has a reputation as a strong defensive coach. Has he been able to help you do anything like that?

A lot of the stuff is attitude. You (have) to want to do it. It’s having great guys behind you. We all have each other’s back. If you get beat… you (aren’t) supposed to get beat, (but) you know you have some guys to back you up and be up court. So I know, he has his great strategies but at the same time, you have to do your job.

Unless you’re committed to it, it doesn’t matter what the strategy is.


Defense Happens When Players Commit to It

Tom Thibodeau has made teams’ defenses successful at nearly every team he’s been associated with. His reputation is well known, even beyond inner NBA circles to many fans now. How many other assistant coaches have reputations at all with the watching public? Not very many. Name me three.

His reputation is solidly established. Here is a great article by Bill Burt of the Eagle Tribune from May 2008 that frames the career long success of the Celtics own Tom Thibodeau. And in case you haven’t noticed the difference in Tom’s title, he is not an assistant coach. His official title is Associate Head Coach. Give Doc Rivers kudos for a humble outlook, just for accepting that minor but significant difference.

That Burt’s article is so good is because of his own research. The Celtics don’t allow interviews for any coaches except Doc Rivers. I suggest reading the whole thing.

Bill Burt…

His teams have been in the top ten in defense 15 of his 18 seasons as an NBA assistant coach; the 2001-02 Knicks set a then-NBA record by holding teams under 100 points in 33 straight games.

There is no doubt that is no coincidence.

But there is the flip side to that.

To make a point, there is a strange but true aphorism that I have observed that goes something like this…

A bad plan enthusiastically executed, will be better than a good plan unenthusiastically followed.

Not that I’m not suggesting that the Celtic plans are anything but excellent. But good plans don’t mean a thing without players believing in them.

Marquis Daniels, in his own way, recognized that. Marquis Daniels has been around enough to know that defenses are only as good as the players who play them.

You need committed players. When you get that effort for a coach almost every season, it fits that that coach gets credit for making that happen.

It is quite possible that an average defensive scheme will produce good results if the players really get after it for 24 seconds each time and help each other out. Heretical, but true.

It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. There is no doubt that some coaches are better than others at certain aspects of the game. But a big part of it is convincing players to enthusiastically carry out your directives on the court for 82 games. Only a few teams put in the defensive effort over a whole season that the Celtics do.

On the Celtics, Marquis is snowballing towards a motivated attitude on defense. That’s a good thing. He’ll be facing a few players with a very motivated attitude on offense. The other good thing he’s got with the Celtics are team mates that have his back.

It starts with the veterans and the coaching staff. They believe in everything the coaches tell us. The veterans want to play defense and it’s just a trickling effect, snowballing down to me, the other guys, and even the guys like Rondo and Perkins come and helping. (I’m) getting better and better offensively and defensively. I mean it’s just a rollover effect, snowballing on everybody.

They pay more attention to defense here. Is there more helping going on than you’re used to? Or was help defense stressed on the other teams too?

It starts with the veteran guys. If all I’m playing with (are) All Stars, those guys coming in, seeing them working hard everyday, getting better, it just makes you want to work harder. Seeing that, coming in and working behind those guys. I mean, you can’t come in slacking after seeing them going out there playing hard, so…it’s just a snowball effect.

No slackers allowed when the stars are busting their butts at that end. Good thing. I couldn’t really think of a good ending using snowball effect. But Marquis has the experience and the right idea about playing great offensive players like Kobe. Just make life difficult for him and be glad you have back up.

If not, use that snowball.

Thomas Halzack