One of the hardest things to write about is defense, specifically because the margin between being a good and bad defensive team is so small. If you took the average NBA game last season, with each team taking 79 shots, a good defensive team would give up 35 baskets while a bad defensive team would give up 36.3.
You obviously make a bigger commitment to defense than getting one extra stop a game. But that’s the difference we’re talking about. Keep in mind that the Lakers played 34 games last season decided by 6 points or fewer. They went 16-18. Turn that record around and they might have been the No. 6 seed instead of the Clippers.
It’s also worth noting that when they gave up fewer than 100 points, the Lakers were 37-16 last season. They won 8 of 29 games when they gave up 100-plus.
The Lakers know they have to do a better job on the screen-and-roll – - remember the Suns shot 61 percent in Game 7 – - and will make a point this season of trying to force turnovers and generate more offense. They have to get those shots for Vladimir Radmanovic and Shammond Williams somehow.
I’m waiting to see what kind of defensive player Radmanovic will be. There are some serious matchup concerns with Lamar Odom and Radmanovic likely starting at forward. They are each vulnerable to the size of power forwards and speed of small forwards. But they do create problems of their own at the other end.
Here’s the report from today’s practice:
By Ross Siler
EL SEGUNDO–For the NBAs 30 teams last season, the difference between finishing in the top third and bottom third defensively was two baskets a game. The 10th best team allowed 95.4 points per game, while the 10th worst gave up 99.8 points.
How about the Lakers? They ranked 15th in the league in scoring defense and 12th in field-goal percentage defense. They were neither a good defensive team, nor a bad one, but “decent in guard Smush Parkers evaluation.
If the first day of training camp was any indication, though, the Lakers intend to be a more aggressive and much improved team defensively. The Lakers devoted nearly 75 percent of their three hours on the practice court Tuesday to defense.
“That’s all we did,” center Kwame Brown said.
The only reminder the Lakers need about the importance of defense comes from their first-round playoff loss to Phoenix. After taking a 3-1 lead in the series, the Lakers gave up 114, 126 and 121 points as the Suns advanced in seven games.
“That has to be our focus if were going to make the playoffs and think about advancing, forward Lamar Odom said, “and trying to beat some of the top teams in the league.
Odom added: “We didnt win enough what I call `ugly games. Sometimes youve got to win ugly.
The Lakers worked Tuesday on everything from individual defense to full-court defense to help defense. One of the central messages was about the need to talk more on defense, especially when it comes to stopping the pick-and-roll.
It was a distinctly different first day of practice from last October, when the emphasis was on learning the triangle offense with Phil Jackson back as coach.
At media day, Jackson stressed that the Lakers could come up with more steals and force more turnovers to generate more possessions on offense. Jackson underwent hip-replacement surgery Tuesday while assistant Kurt Rambis ran practice in his place.
“If you look at the versatility of our team, we have a lot of guys that can play a lot of different positions, Rambis said. “When you turn that around and look at the defensive end, we have a lot of guys that can help each other, that can do a lot of switching; they can also do a lot of gambling.
So the Lakers will take risks this season, in the hopes of not having to bring up the ball every time on offense. Rambis talked to the guards about overplaying the passing lanes and talked to the big men about rotating faster to draw a charge or block a shot.
“I think when you have a year under your belt, Kobe Bryant said, “you find yourself reacting more instead of thinking and then reacting.
Hipster: Jacksons surgery was deemed a success, with the coach scheduled to be released from the hospital today. A team spokesman said Jackson will be re-evaluated next week.
The kid: Jackson would not guarantee anything Monday when it came to 18-year-old center Andrew Bynum and his role this season. Bynum played in 46 games as a rookie after the Lakers selected him No. 10 overall.
“Theres a wonderful opportunity with Chris (Mihm) being out of the first few exhibition games, Jackson said, “for him to really get an opportunity to see if he can fit in and find a role to play on this team.
New man: Odom ran the floor Tuesday for the first time in months, as he spent time away from the game after the death of his infant son. He said his back was a little tight; Rambis said it was good to see Odom smile.
But Odom also said he would try to make a change this season when it comes to his emotional nature on the court.
“I vowed to myself this year to, when the refs make a call, to stay away from it so I keep myself into the game mentally as well, Odom said.