You’ve heard it asked here plenty of times by now — can the Rockets get back to great defense?
If they can, they’re a legitimate contender. No question. They have enough offensive firepower to wreak serious havoc. But if they can’t, if the handcuffs on Yao or the anchor of a backcourt that won’t be mistaken for lockdown prove to be too big of burdens, the Rockets could fall to middle-of-the-pack in the West.
No player represents the Rockets’ defensive identity more than forward Shane Battier. The 6-foot-8 veteran has anchored the team’s defense since he arrived in a Draft Day trade in 2006.
He might be a good person to ask.
“You have to understand — we were so small last year,” said Battier on Tuesday. “We had to become an offensive team to overcome our defensive shortcomings. We were just a very small team. With the influx of big guys, with Yao Ming back, we feel we can protect the rim better, and as a result, I think our defense will improve dramatically.”
Battier says the Rockets, just a few days into training camp, aren’t there yet, but he feels they can get there in short order.
“I don’t think it will take a long time,” said Battier. “You just have to keep hammering the themes and the principles that we are trying to teach. Again, last year we couldn’t do some of the things because we were just limited physically. This year we don’t have that excuse. It’s just a matter of staying on top of guys and reinforcing the different philosophies every single day.”
Shane’s belief about defense doesn’t synch up with the idea that there are “poor defenders” — in the backcourt or anywhere.
“As long as you play with effort on defense, you can become a good defender,” said Battier. “There’s no secret. If you play hard and you give the effort, you can do some pretty good things on the defensive end.”