Before Wizards-Rockets match-up last Wednesday, I informally polled a couple of the more veteran Wizards on A) who has been the toughest guy for them to defend during their time in the league, and B) who in the league sets some of the hardest, toughest screens. Here are their answers:
“Definitely Kobe, Tracy [McGrady] … a couple years ago, Vince [Carter], there are a lot of guys. Rip [Hamilton], Tayshaun [Prince] …”
I asked Al if any guy really stood out to him:
“Carmelo. A couple times, I’ve been like, ‘Man, how did he hit that?’”
But last year, I reminded Thornton, he did a pretty good job of guarding ‘Melo when the Denver Nuggets came to town:
“Yea, I put the clamps on him.” [ending with a smile]
What about screens? Who have you run into that sets a helluva pick?
“That’s a good one there … who’s the guy who used to play for Miami? Alonzo [Mourning] … yea, Alonzo. Whew [as if to convey a sense of relief that Mourning is no longer in the league] … yea, him.”
“Right now, of course I’m going to say Kobe, LeBron, Wade … because they’ve always got the ball in their hands, as long as they make shots, but they can also create assists for other players. So you gotta be real dialed in on those guys. As far as big men? When Yao was healthy, that was a tough. And Dwight [Howard] … them some animals down there.”
What about you, any tough experiences you’ve had personally … one of those ‘no matter what I do’ situations?
“Naw, I’ve never had that situation. I’m the type of player who says, ‘the hell with that’ … I’ll fight you before you get going [on offense]. Naw, I can’t say that I give anybody respect, but I respect everybody’s game as far as making it to the league. But when it comes to me playing defense, naw, I don’t think you’re going to get me.”
Any particular defensive assignment that you really get up for?
“Any? Well, of course … like I said, the top guys in the league. But I guess if anyone I would say, would consider a great player you have to get up for, Kevin Martin, in his prime, that’s one guy who is hard … he drew a lot of fouls. [Kevin] Durant too, he draws a lot of fouls. Yea, those two.”
“I’d have to say chasing people off of screens … like Richard Hamilton, Kyle Korver, guys like that. They’re always running, you know, it’s non-stop. And there’s always a big man screening for them so it’s kinda hard.”
And about those big men setting screens, who is the toughest you’ve run into?
[After a moment of thought] “….Yea, Ben. Wallace. (laughs) … yea, Ben Wallace, no doubt.”
“Probably Iverson … yea he was the toughest.”
What about screeners? Who sets the toughest screens?
“Man, I can’t even think on that one right now …”
What about on the Wizards, who sets the toughest screens in practice?
“Kevin [Seraphin].” [said with no hesitation, a laugh, and a bit of a French accent ... Ke-Veene]
His screens are tougher than Trevor Booker’s?
[Shakes his head] “He’s good too … but Kevin, oh man.”
But no one league-wide stands out?
“Um … probably [Kendrick] Perkins … but most of the time they are illegal.” [laughs]
“Shoot … since I’ve been in the league, the toughest guy to guard for me would be LeBron, but that’s just from my position.”
What about picks while chasing around a shooter? Has any big man caught you with a tough screen … who’s the most intimidating?
“Might have to be Yao, man … he’s a big giant. That’s a big body and trying to run through him, you might hurt yourself.”