By LARRY VAUGHT
Question: How much more physical do you expect this year’s team to be?
Calipari: “Oh, man. I keep hearing they are going to call fouls this year. I just watched a whole season where people beat the living crap out of each other all the way through to the finals. So we are going to play like we are on the verge of fouling every possession. I have enough guys. So that is what I think others are teaching. Just play so you are on the verge of fouling, and I will complain about too many fouls called. We can play that way because I have more numbers.
“Then physically, you have to want to play that way and have the physique to play that way. And I think we do. We have that. Hopefully they start calling it. We can always back up. But it appears as though get body to body, hip check people, push them in the back. Just play, bang, do it. That was not one team. That was 50 teams last year played that way. That was how the game ended up being, and now they are all mad. The guys who were doing it are saying, ‘Yeah, we have to call more fouls.’ Are you out of your mind? You are the reason we are playing this way. You see how it is played. We can play that way.
“I want to press more with this team. I don’t know if we will press with a big on the ball. But you can with both Marcus (Lee) and Willie (Cauley-Stein). Dakari (Johnson) would have to go back and play a normal press. We played with Willie on the ball at times last year, and I kind of liked it. We have more players now. We have more toughness. That kind of stuff. More athleticism. We may press from 25 feet and down. In other words, in the quarter-court.
“How do you do that? Well, you are trapping certain passes, you are trapping areas on the court and scramble. So we may do that because of this team. At the end of the day, this team, like my teams … last year’s team with Nerlens (Noel) was one of the best defensive teams. With who we had, with Nerlens we were still one of the best defensive teams. After Nerlens left (with his injury), we were not the same.
“But this team should be like my teams where we should be one of the best defensive, rebounding teams in the country. Stopping drives, being physical, making it tough on people to score. Length. I think a lot of teams will play zone against this team if we really get going the way we like to play. I think teams will say, ‘Screw it. Play zone. Make them shoot.’ The difference is this team can shoot. So now all of a sudden you have four or five guys that can make shots. It’s a different …
“I like size against zone because you can just look over it. When you’ve got smaller or weaker guys, they’re just trying to throw it to a guy next to them. When you’ve got bigger guys, they’re looking at a zone and saying, ‘Wait a minute, that guy over there is open.’ My best teams against zones have been longer teams. This team should be pretty long.”