By Henry Schwan
When was the last time you saw anyone in the NBA box someone out for a rebound? Boxing out at the highest level of professional basketball is as extinct as the Woolly Mammoth. Case in point, the Celtics Thursday night loss to the Lakers. In fourth quarter crunch time, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum played volleyball above the rim while the Celtics stood around and watched. Many “expert” analysts will say the Lakers’ Twin Towers were too tall and long for the C’s. That line of thinking is as accurate as a vote count in Syria.
The only way to have stopped Bynum and Gasol was to get a body on them. It’s as simple as that. Doc Rivers even said it after the loss. "Longer teams, you have to hit them,” said Doc. “You've got to put a body on them. If you think you can just turn and rebound when a guy is five inches taller than you, it's not going to happen.” The late Red Auerbach was preaching the importance of boxing out years ago. If you can look beyond Bill Russell’s old school shorts, you’ll see how to execute a proper box out..
So why isn’t anybody in the NBA listening to Red Auerbach, who won sixteen NBA championships as coach and front office guru? The answer is today’s NBA player has never been taught how to properly box out or doesn’t want to do it. I say it’s the latter. Boxing out is effort. A player must bend his knees and move his backside into an opponent so he can’t jump off the floor. My high school coach ran the same drill that Red and Russell demonstrated in the aforementioned video. Trust me, it works. Guys who were taller and more athletic than me didn’t stand a chance of getting their mitts on the rock when I used the proper box out technique.
Doc and the rest of his NBA coaching fraternity can lament all they want about players not boxing out, but it’s not going to do any good until they use the carrot and stick approach. If K.G. and Jermaine O’Neal can’t or don’t want to box out Bynum and Gasol, then sit them on the bench. Put in Chris Wilcox and Greg Stiemsma if they’re willing to do the dirty work. I know what you’re thinking. The carrot/stick approach won’t work in today’s NBA with its coddled, multi-million dollar athletes. Baloney! It works with my 7-year-old daughter who is more headstrong that K.G. and Jermaine O’Neal put together.
So the 21st century NBA player is not putting in the effort to box out. But there’s more. The coaches in their Armani suits share the blame by not taking the time to stress it in practice, believing their multiple offensive and defensive sets are more important that stressing the core fundamentals. In the case of the Celtics, age also plays a significant role. Garnett (35) and O’Neal (33, plays like 43) are ancient, calcifying before our eyes. On most nights, they don’t have anything left in the tank in the fourth quarter to box out low-post players the caliber of Gasol and Bynum.
The box out problem isn’t going away. Just one night after losing to the Lakers, the Celtics allowed 13 offensive rebounds to the lowly Toronto Raptors. It’s no coincidence that the Celtics are also the worst rebounding team in the NBA. My solution for the Celtics and the rest of the NBA is to grab some popcorn, rent a dark room, and watch the Red/Russell video until they get it. If it’s an all-nighter, so be it.