Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A few weeks back one of the readers of this blog, ug2b, asked a very interesting question:

".. It would be great to have Mr. Gilmore do a scouting report on himself, how to defend him when he was at his peak, describe his tendencies, his strengths and weaknesses, etc.”

I’ve been thinking about this and it’s been enjoyable to put my mind back to my playing days and think about how men like Kareem and Bill Walton, to name but just two great players, defended against me. It also got me recalling how I went to battle against them.

There are many basics of defense but many of them can be boiled down to a single statement:

“Know the man you are playing against.”

So --- what do I know about me as a player? Obviously, many things, but I’ll focus on three to explain how I would defend against myself.

1.) I’m left-handed.

You’d be amazed at how many players don’t pay attention to a key fact like that --- until they get burned! As a left-hander I’m obviously going to position myself to maximum advantage given how I’d prefer to move to shoot a hook or to drop step toward the basket or to block out for rebounding. Being a lefty is not a strength in-and-of itself, but it sure becomes a big one if the guy defending doesn’t realize it!

2.) Because of my height but also because of being blessed with physical strength, I have a very high shooting average when in close to the basket.

This at face value is a strength. However, even a smaller, weaker man can do a good job defending against a larger, stronger one. Part of this is positioning. If I were defending against myself one of my main concerns would be to keep me out of position. A good defender always studies where his man WANTS to be on the floor, then works to DENY him that position. This is especially important in fighting a guy who, like me, plays the low post with his back to the bucket. Such a player depends on picking his spot, then moving based on his awareness of exactly where he is on the court. Get a knee against a guy’s butt and move him just a few inches from where he is most comfortable and you’ve made real progress toward defending him successfully.

3.) My footwork also enables me to position for high percentage buckets and rebounds.

When a big man gets in down deep it’s tough to handle him. If I were defending me I’d do what I always tried to do to other large centers --- I would not be shy about using a couple hard fouls. Following that I would not hesitate to use more subtle moves that technically may not be legal but sure work. A hip pinch here and there. A nudge at hip level. A small shove in the small of the back. Why are those moves so important? Because many guys who lived in the low post paint like I did have a tendency to catch the ball in a shooting rhythm. Anything a defender can do to disrupt that rhythm --- either physically or mentally --- pays off over the course of a game.

Thanks for the very interesting question!