I've watched a lot of games and teams over the years and attitude, specifically having the right attitude, counts for a lot. When I watch two really good teams go up against each other, I watch to see if the a great offensive player checks the other team's defensive player. On the one hand, I get the argument that you don't want your best offensive player being tired out on defense. But from a psychological standpoint I think it says a lot about a player's attitude, character, and leadership when they show the initiative to defend the other team's best player, irregardless of their own position on your team.

So, from watching the last couple of games in the Western Conference Finals, whether or not Carmelo Anthony "shut down" Kobe Bryant is not the exactly the point. The point is that Melo has shown that he wants to be accountable for his team. He's not going to take a cope out, and have someone else defend Kobe, then later on point fingers. He's pointing at himself, he's going out on a limb and saying "this is my team, I'll guard Kobe, all the faults I take on myself." That's what leaders do, it's leaving yourself out there to be vulnerable. Here is Melo talking about it postgame,

As for the matchup itself, I think that Carmelo is doing the best he can obviously to defend Kobe and so far he's been average. Melo is obviously bigger and stronger so he can use his size in the post against Kobe. However, Kobe has much greater foot speed and take him off the dribble, and with his quick draw Kobe can shoot over Melo pretty much anytime he wants. The Nuggets don't really have a singular lock-down defender like a Ron Artest or a Bruce Bowen so Melo is about as good as any single defender the Nuggets have. Again, the point is not so much how good Melo defended Kobe, but that he's step up to lead his team, to put himself out there -- a major sign of his maturity.

To kick up the defensive intensity in your practices, take a look at Bob Huggins' DVD on Intense Practice Drills. Coach Huggins is the head coach at West Virginia and was a former head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

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