If I were to ask you "Why is it important for you to play great individual defense?" what would you say? Chances are you would tell me how important it is for you to shut your man out and that if everyone kept his player's scoring down to a minimum then your team would have a much greater chance of winning the game.
You might tell me that playing great individual defense can create steals and deflections, which can help ignite your offense. It's also possible that you would tell me that playing great defense can break your opponent's spirit and put you on the fast track to domination.
All of these answers are good ones but they are not the only ones. There is another reason to play great individual defense, one that is often overlooked and under emphasized. The reason? Great individual defense keeps you out of foul trouble, off the bench, and in the game!
Now I know that some of you are thinking "I don't have to play grea defense to stay out of foul trouble - good defense is good enough. In fact, if I use my head I can get by playing justaverage defense." Not true!
One single "dumb" foul can put you in trouble and eventually plant you right on the end of the bench! Why? Because I have seen enough games over the years to know that the following is probably going to happen:
1. You're going to get one foul as a result of a bad call by one of the officials.
2. You're going to get one foul on a 50-50 call that could go either way. For example, a block or charge situation, a blocked shot or shooting foul, or even a possible double foul when boxing out or battling someone in the post. For some reason it always seems like the "other guy" gets the call made in his favor!
3. You'll have to use one foul for strategic reasons such as stopping a breakaway layup, disrupting the offense when your team has a foul to give, or when needing to put your opponent on the free throw line at the end of the game.
Those scenarios add up to three fouls, which leaves you only one more foul before you get your fourth and become a complete defensive liability. With four fouls your coach has to worry about hiding you since it's practically guaranteed that your opponent is going to concentrate on attacking you. Even worse, it means that only two more fouls and you're disqualified to even step foot on the court.
You've always been taught that if you commit five fouls you're out of the game but in reality if you make two defensive mistakes that result in fouls you're going to undoubtedly see your playing time greatly diminished.
So if you like playing and scoring and spending as much time on the court as possible then it's absolutely crucial that you strive to play great individual defense.
The next time you're feeling a little tired or a little lazy think twice before "resting" on defense because you don't really get as many fouls as you've always thought! (On a side note: if you find one of your opponent's playing anything less than great defense, take it right at him! Remember, he's only one or two "dumb" fouls from being sent to the bench himself!)