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D.R.: The Answer is defense

Don Rogers
Vail CO, Colorado

I still say that the big trade for Allen Iverson means the Nuggets will play better defense.

Not that a thing has happened to back up this assertion. The Nuggets have been even more porous than ever since the trade. Still, I believe.

And that’s another key to the Nuggets picking up from here: Belief.

I have a list of mantras, playing points or whatever I recite to myself before my own games:

1. Play in the right mind.

2. Play the right way.

3. Defense first.

4. Take care of the ball.

5. (and last) Help put points on the board.

The list breaks into five points in each category, which I won’t bore you with. And I have a sort of sixth man of things I want to work on in the game to come. Yes, it’s pathetic on one level. But the game gives me as much mental break as exercise, and part of that is absorbing myself into it fully.

It’s a break from work for me. For the Nuggets, well, this is their work. If I were to give them advice, I would frame it in the list of five:

1. Believe.

2. Play hard and smart to win, fullest effort.

3. Yep, defense first. Focus on that.

4. Take care of the ball. Cutting down turnovers will pay off huge, and will be the difference many nights in close games.

5. Share the ball. Make the extra pass. (Just make sure they are good passes.)

Their sixth man focus should be to play aggressively at both ends of the court.

My sixth man mantra is to play more like Iverson when he’s aggressive. Not in talent; I’m a role player in rec league, for chrissakes. But admire how Iverson plays the game, especially on the defensive end when he’s motivated.

I believe they have it in them to be the first running team that also plays defense. It may not show up in low scores, but you can play strong defense while running. If they ever learn this, they’ll beat the Phoenix Suns at their own game.

The Nuggets have the players who can stop layups and challenge outside shots. Who is quicker than Iverson or Carmelo Anthony? Who never quits like Eduardo Najera and Reggie Evans? Who blocks shots better than Marcus Camby? More athleticism than J.R. Smith? Who is more willing to work than Steve Blake?

They have the potential, definitely. If Kenyon Martin can recover from his knee injuries, he’s got just the defensive will to bring the Nuggets over to that full commitment that, cliche or not, can win championships.

I would love to see Coach George Karl himself make a stronger commitment to defense, as he keeps preaching to his players to do. That is, surround Iverson and Anthony with players who focus on defense first.

Camby would still start, of course. But the other guard and forward positions, I don’t know. I’d be inclined to go with Najera over Nene until I saw more from the big Brazillian.

Yakhouba Diawarais touted as a defender, but I’m not convinced. Blake tries but he looks undersized and a little slow on defense, although I love the effort.

Iverson and Anthony are the keys, though. Anthony has such obvious athleticism and ability that I have to think he’d be a great defender if he truly focused on it. But then, I think he can be much better at getting assists and rebounds if he weren’t so focused on scoring.

Maybe Iverson could be the answer for Carmelo to play the full game, and turn the Nuggets into the winners they can be. Starting with defense.


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