?In Thomas the Pistons have a quick defender who knows the intricacies of the zone defense. When Detroit is playing under the Jordan Rules, Thomas often has the job of bouncing around on the perimeter, sometimes making an all-out effort to double-team Jordan but always carrying the message that he might be coming. Larry Bird plays the same role, albeit closer to the basket, for Boston. Sure, sometimes Thomas doesn't aggressively double-team the ball and should be whistled for illegal defense, but he rarely is. because he's active enough to look as if he's playing one of Jordan's teammates man-to-man.
? Detroit has offensive-minded guards who force Jordan to expend energy on defense. No. Dumars. Johnson and Thomas don't fit the big-guard profile of, say. Dale Ellis of the Seattle SuperSonics and Rolando Blackman of the Dallas Mavericks. But they're scorers, and Jordan has to play them hard. And that makes life tougher for him at the other end.
Though he will only address the subject of defending Jordan in general terms, Dumars says there are probably three or four rules to follow when Jordan has the ball and one or two when he doesn't. "The thing I keep telling myself is. Make him work as hard as he can for everything." says Dumars. "Don't give him anything uncontested. A lot of players are concerned with him dunking on them or making some kind of fantastic move. You know what? That doesn't bother me at all. That means he's worked that much harder to get something and expended that much more energy. What I don't want is for him to start pulling up and hitting easy, unspectacular jumpers.
"The key to playing him is discipline. You can't gamble on him. You must wait for him to make a move. Early in my career I used to be so hyped up when I played him that I practically faked myself out. I'd be jumping all around, reacting to everything, every head shake or pump fake. Fundamental, man-to-man defense is the only thing that will work against him. And sometimes that won't."
The Freedom of Information Act doesn't pertain here. Daly doesn't have to make the Jordan Rules public, and he won't. But, hey. this isn't molecular biology, right? Through interviews, common sense and even a few hours of film-watching, the following would seem to cover much of Detroit's game plan against Jordan.
?The guiding principle is that a defender is never left to guard Jordan unaided. Jordan's position on the floor dictates whether the Pistons trap him with a second defender or have the second defender play "help and recover" (that is, run at Jordan to stop his dribble, but then scramble back to his own man: Salley is a master at this ploy). The closer Jordan is to the basket, the more the Pistons go with the trap. When he is above the sideline hash mark (28 feet from the baseline), they usually play help and recover.
?Even when Jordan is far from the basket, perhaps bringing up the ball as a point guard on a wide-open floor. Detroit runs a second player at him, someone like Salley or Rodman. This reduces the amount of open court that he has to work with and often forces him to give up the ball to a teammate. The Pistons always want someone else to handle the ball. Not sometimes. Always.
?When Jordan has the ball on the wing, the Detroit player guarding him forces him toward defensive help. Most often that means turning Jordan to the right when he's on the left side of the floor and to the left when he's on the right side.
?If Jordan happens to get isolated with one man and is in a potential scoring position, the Piston defender will try to force him to go left. They think he makes a stronger, more explosive move to his right. So does Jordan.
?When Jordan tries to run a pick-and-roll. Detroit traps him. That means that two men, the one guarding Jordan and the one guarding the Bull setting the pick, run at him. The Pistons do this with remarkable efficiency, partly because that second defender is usually the 6'11" Salley or the 6'11" Laimbeer. The tall trappers make it almost impossible for Jordan to deliver the ball to a teammate rolling toward the basket, and their aggressive charge toward Jordan usually forces him to retreat.