Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Duke basketball focuses on defense

DURHAM -- When Ryan Kelly got caught at halfcourt trying to double team and gave up a dunk, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski corrected him.

"Fake that and pick up your man," Krzyzewski said.

When a Duke defender got caught on a screen that he didn't see, Krzyzewski instructed Josh Hairston to communicate better.

"Josh, talk him through," Krzyzewski said.

Duke opened basketball practice Tuesday to the media and participants in the Fuqua Business School's leadership conference. Krzyzewski explained his plan to the spectators.

He believes this team's strength is its scoring ability, and he wants the players to focus on an area that's not as big a strength.

"It's sometimes hard to do," Krzyzewski said.

That area, as Krzyzewski's comments to Kelly and Hairston illustrate, is defense. The team spent a lot of time working on closeouts and positioning. After losing defensive frontcourt stalwarts Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas from last season's NCAA championship team, developing those defensive skills will be a big area of emphasis for Duke.

Here are some other observations from the open practice:

-- Junior center Miles Plumlee has hit the weight room hard during the offseason.

He's bulked up and toned to the point where he'll be one of the physically strongest centers in the ACC this season. He will need to get up and down the floor quickly at his new weight with the team running a more fast-paced system, but that didn't seem to be a problem in practice.

Plumlee ran the floor and still was able to physically dominate in the lane.

- The most interesting competition for playing time probably will be between sophomores Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry for the opportunity to be the first guard off the bench.

Both players have sweet shooting touches. Curry, who's older, seems to have a better understanding of the game, but Dawkins is more athletic. If you had to choose the player who has greater potential, it would probably be Dawkins.

- Freshman point guard Kyrie Irving is everything he's built up to be.

Krzyzewski has said that Irving had a bit of difficulty getting used to the intensity Duke demands during its first practice, but he appears to have adjusted nicely. He can score off penetration and from the perimeter, and his speed truly adds a new dimension to Duke's offense.

- Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are exactly what you'd expect.

Smith is getting out on the fast break more for easy scores in the faster-paced attack. Singler, who's 10 pounds heavier than at the beginning of last season, seems more effective in the lane as a result.

- Duke's post players are more gifted on offense than last season.

Krzyzewski seemed particularly pleased with how Miles and Mason Plumlee, Kelly and Thornton looked for one another on high-low feeds and posted up for easy baskets. Last season's team was extremely dependent on the perimeter for scoring.

This season, Duke should get more scoring from its big guys.

The defense and rebounding of Zoubek and Thomas will certainly be missed, and that's one reason why Krzyzewski is emphasizing defense so much. But the tradeoff is that Duke shouldn't bog down on offense if an opponent figures out how to shut down the perimeter scorers.

-- Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

This is gonna be fun

NBA Basketball Tickets said...

Last season's team was extremely dependent on the perimeter for scoring.