There are two parts of basketball–shhh, don’t tell James Harden–offense and defense. It’s a common misconception, even in the NBA, that offense requires more skill and that defense is mostly a matter of effort and hustle. To understand why this isn’t true, think of a poor swimmer. The poor swimmer can exert far more effort than the expert swimmer and still practically drown getting to the other end of the pool. The swimmer’s movements are inefficient–and no amount of effort changes the fact. Sometimes the harder he tries, the worse he does.
If Byron Scott doesn’t know this about defense by now, he’s about to find out. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News reports that Scott said the following this week about Lakers forward Carlos Boozer: “He knows he can play better and I expect him to play better. It starts on the defensive end. He has to do a better job against pick-and-roll defense and has to do a better job on guys who are trying to post him up.” But he can’t. Carlos Boozer is not a skillful defensive player. He can try as hard as he wants, but that won’t improve his defense measurably. (He’ll still drown.) Boozer would need to improve his skill set on the defensive end. LeBron James, for instance, isn’t a great defensive player because he hustles more than anyone else (thought he does exert). He’s a great defensive player because he has an unparalleled defensive skill set. Boozer’s teammate Kobe Bryant does, too. Boozer does not, and Byron Scott’s expectations won’t change that.