STRONGEST D IN THE D? BAD BOYS OR 2005 PISTONS?
The Pistons opening game victory over Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals was not their best defensive game of all time. But this team made some of the most dramatic and athletic defensive plays in Pistons history.
Some of the plays they made were astonishing, even on television.
Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince are the best trio of shot blockers in the game.
But lets make comparisons to an era not so long ago. The Bad Boy Pistons who challenged the Boston Celtics in the 80s before breaking through to NBA titles in 1989 and 1990 were a great defensive team also.
Who was the better defensive team? The Bad Boys? Or the current Boys?
Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars were the leaders of the pack on defense. Rodman is the Pistons greatest defender of all time. At 6-foot-7 and with boundless energy he moved his feet better than anyone and was surprisingly strong. He guarded shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers. One of Rodman's best plays was a block of 7-foot center Hakeem Olajuwon to preserve a Pistons victory at the buzzer.
Dumars was fundamentally sound and rarely fell for pump fakes. He stayed on the floor and forced people to go to spots they did not want to go to.
Isiah Thomas was not a great defender but he made big defensive plays. There were nights no-name guards would light him up. But I do remember when he was snubbed for the Dream Team he not only lit John Stockton up but shut him down.
It was very tough to score on the Pistons inside. Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn took up a lot of space and routinely knocked guys to the floor who dared venture into the paint. Mahorn was underrated as a defender. I remember him guarding James Worthy who was one of the slickest offensive plays in the game at the time.
John Salley stood 7-foot and had a Tayshaun Prince like wing span. When motivated he swept the glass and made it difficult for opposing centers to score.
How do you escape the forest? That is the question opponents ask when they venture into the paint. Prince and the Wallace Gang are all arms, legs and attitude. I've seen guards dribble into the forest and disappear. The next thing you know the ball is going the other way after one of these guys blocks the shot.
They take pride in that. Wallace has won defensive player of the year three of the last four years. He is not a great on the ball defender, but his help defense and rebounding are suburb.
Prince might be the Pistons best all around defender. He can play off guys and still block their shots because of his long wing span. Rasheed Wallace came in with a defensive reputation, but I thought he struggled last year because he did not play smart defense.
This year he is playing with more discipline.
Chauncey Billups is emerging as a solid defensive player. He still allows too much dribble penetration but it must be difficult keeping guys out of the paint since traveling is no longer called.
Rip Hamilton tries. He is better. But lets face it he is the weakest link.
The 1989 Pistons were a hair better. Yes, they gave up more points. But they played in an era where there were more offensive players on each team you had to be concerned with. The Boston Celtics featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. The Lakers went with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.
The rules were different back then. You could hand check more than today.
The 1989 Pistons sustained defensive intensity for longer periods. And they used their defense to make runs in big games. Isiah Thomas used to call it playing on a string where all parts worked together.
They were more fundamentally sound on defense and played closer to the Earth.
This current team is more athletic and covers the entire court better. They take away second and third options which drives opponents nutty. They are more prone to lapses than the 1989 team, but when they get it going it is nearly impossible to sustain much offense against them.
One impressive thing they do is they know how to shut down opponents' best scorers, causing teams to falter and get flustered.
One big difference between the two teams?
Any guard who ventures into the lane today gets their shots blocked into the second row. The Bad Boys used to launch guards into the second row.
(my email address is Fosternews@aol.com and my voice mail is 313-222-1494)