Tar Heel Blue has a preview for next season up with Roy Williams exploring various aspects of the coming season. Priority numbers one through seven and possibly eight will be defense.
One area Williams always emphasizes is defense and improved play there is a priority.
"There's no question we became an above average defensive team, but we've got to be even better this year," says Williams. "This may be one of those years we take the rims off the baskets for the first week of practice, not just the first day."
Williams says outstanding defensive teams play hard every possession and making individual stops each possession leads to better team defense.
"We've got to be better individual defenders, and some of that is giving a more consistent effort. Our kids give good effort overall, but to win championships it has to be more consistent and it has to be more intelligent. If they do those kinds of things then they can become better individual defenders. The next step is to become better defenders away from the ball, because then your team becomes better defensively."
Williams wants to take advantage of the squad's depth and push the pace of play with an aggressive, pressure defense. He also expects his veterans to make fewer mistakes.
"We want to create more opportunities and possessions with our defense by playing a faster tempo. More people get to play more with a faster tempo. But with this kind of team I am going to push them more. There's no need to put up with anything mediocre now. If you are not going to do it right, there is somebody else who will do it right. They may not like it when it happens, but they are going to like the overall objective. It's going to be a lot more attention to detail and suffer the consequences if you don't do the small things."
The offense will take care of itself. I see no reason to focus too much on the offense. The Heels will have enough offensive weapons and with the exception of Will Graves, Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew, everyone is on the same page as far as their roles go. This team will be made or broken by their defensive effort and most of that has to do with mental focus. Anything short of this team being a top five defensive team is going to be an issue in my mind and sorely disappointing, especially with as much as Ty Lawson talked about how well he plays defense during the draft process.
Speaking of the draft guys, Roy is well aware of the tendency for individuals to look out for their NBA hopes at the expense of the team:
"It will be a challenge for all of our kids -not just Ty, Danny and Wayne- to see how hungry they are going to be," adds Williams. "They must focus on the team as opposed to how they are doing individually and understand how our team is doing will dictate how successful they are as individuals. I am confident they'll do that because our kids have such good character that they will take care of it. But they have to be aware of that every day."
And where Lawson is concerned, Roy sent a fairly unambigious message to him in this interview basically stating that Lawson needed to be more aggressive, tougher(i.e. no limping around over little dings) and own his defense on the opposing team's primary ball handler.
"Ty is a unique offensive threat because of his ability to break down defenses and attack the basket," says Williams. "He takes care of the ball, which is so important, and isn't afraid to take a big shot. We need him to apply more defensive pressure on the ball. Everybody knows he flirted with the NBA. The NBA people told him he had to be more consistent and tougher. He can't let little things bother him. I am confident he will have a great, great year and help us play at the pace I really like."
The rest of the article covers the rest of the players. Roy points out that Will Graves and Deon Thompson have been working hard and he expects Thompson to be more confident plus be a more effective shot blocker. Ed Davis will be breathing down his neck for that spot at power forward so Thompson better step up his game. Graves could be a significant factor if he plays defense enough to keep himself on the court and make some impact shots.
I just checked the calendar and it is still July...which really sucks.