“When you see it in the league, they do it because they can’t guard somebody,” Quentin Richardson of the Knicks said. “If they’re having a hard time stopping this person or that person or a team in general, and they can’t do anything, teams play zone.”
You see a lot of zone defense in junior high, high school, and college. But in the NBA, where there are plenty of excellent outside shooters and players can move the ball faster than defenses can rotate, it's not as effective.
As DEN coach George Karl puts it, “My zone offense is to put three guys on the court who can make 3s and have them make a couple.”
According to CLE coach Mike Brown (pictured above), there's another reason NBA coaches are reluctant to use the zone.
“It almost says, Hey, we can’t guard these guys,” Brown said. “To a certain degree, psychologically, it makes you feel like you’re conceding, and it could be a downer if it doesn’t work.”
Lakers PG Derek Fisher believes NBA coaching staffs aren't as comfortable teaching the zone.
“You still have a lot of coaches, general managers and assistant coaches that are old-school former players. And the league is based on solid man-to-man principles. That’s how they were taught the game. That’s how they grew up playing the game. And it’s difficult trying to teach something that you don’t necessarily have a great feel for yourself.”