Teaching Defense, Teaching Discipline

The word "discipline" is taken the wrong way in sports. When a coach pronounces that he'll be bringing discipline to a team, we imagine fines for tardiness, or wind sprints for missing an assignment, or a tightly controlled rotation based on who is giving effort. Reggie Theus touted discipline when he got the Kings job -- let us not forget The Reggie Rules.

But discipline is something else entirely -- it's keeping a focus and rigid determination to execute properly. A team that has discipline makes its defensive rotations. A disciplined team finds the best shot possibly on offense most of the time. A team with discipline knows where each dude belongs on either end. Discipline, really, is the code word for structure, systemic predictability and organization.

As such, the words from no less an authority than Kenny Thomas in Amick's most recent blog post strike an interesting tone about discipline under Theus and Kenny Natt:

"It's just one of those things where just the whole environment of practice...is just a totally different environment as far as what's going on," Thomas said. "It looks like it's structured and everything a little bit better. Not to knock what (fired coaches) Reggie (Theus) and Chuck (Person) were doing, but it's just a totally different concept which I think is going to be benefit us in the long run.

"This isn't brain surgery, and it just seems like everything is more simple. I've had some great coaches. I've had Larry Brown. I've had Rudy Tomjanovich, and it's kind of the same concept. Kenny Natt comes from being under Jerry Sloan and stuff like that. It's kind of the same concept. It's very structured, which is good."

One practice in, and K-9 and friends already see a massive difference in the tone of practice because it's finally structured. Last week, Amick reported that Theus had answered his cell phone during a practice -- doesn't that more or less destroy any sense of focus or structure?

But it's not all about tone, either. You should learn something in practice, or refine something you already know. And Natt really seems to be focusing on the basics.


Natt went into great detail discussing how he is trying to improve the defense. While he is retaining the defensive system that was installed under Theus and is used by Cleveland (among others), he is emphasizing some of the more basic points as if it's training camp - no, high school summer league - all over again. Apparently these are necessary steps when your team is giving up an average of 109.1 points in the last 13 games.

"We're starting from scratch in regards to getting the guys down, moving their feet, what we call the zig zag drill, guarding a guy one on one full court down and back," he said. "That's how you become a better team defensively. You teach guys how to move their feet and guard their own man. We started with that and it's a first step. We're still building."

Drills. Natt is teaching this set of bad defenders how to defend. It's so crazy that it just might work.

Win or lose for the next month, I'm glad our team has Natt guiding it. Often, something different isn't worth the change. But I feel that in this case, nothing bad can come from the coaching switch. What's the downside?

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