On offense, Monroe must be guarded with the kind of defense that reminds most Baltimoreans of their favorite spring sport, lacrosse. The point is, a defender cannot let Monroe get too close to him. Monroe controls the ball so well that close guarding is not going to bring enough steals to make what happens next profitable. He employs the close defender as a fulcrum, whips around him and scores.
So opponents keep their hands on Monroe—which is extra-legally tolerated in the NBA—and put just the amount of pressure on him that will not draw a foul but will prevent Monroe from snuggling up and then whipping around them. Lacrosse defensemen play it the same way with attackmen, although they have long sticks to do the job, and poking is not against the rules, either.
The nuances of guarding Monroe are all a bit academic anyway. "I don't believe I can be stopped," he told George Kiseda of The Philadelphia Bulletin on one occasion. "The thing is, I don't know what I'm going to do with the ball, and if I don't know, I'm quite sure the guy guarding me doesn't know, either."
Monroe and several of his teammates still retreat too often into their old one-on-one ways at both ends of the court to play a good all-round game. Skeptics are convinced, too, that the Bullets have too many good players up front. Consequently, they do not get to play enough, and with Monroe controlling the ball on the outside they do not get their hands on it often enough, either. The problem exists and could become serious in time, but it is significant that Gus Johnson, a prideful individual who was the team's best and most exciting player before Monroe arrived, has grown in stature in the eyes of his teammates for the way he has accommodated his own considerable talents to work best with Monroe's leadership.
"All I know is we started winning when I started shooting," Monroe says, not with braggadocio but in the straightforward manner in which he says these things. He flinched again with the pain in his knee. If the Doctor can just stay well enough himself, he should be able to keep the whole team healthy.