LOS ANGELES – A solid, no-nonsense defense isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when evaluating your NBA championship certificate. Los Angeles Lakers.
Since the 1980s heyday of “Showtime” Lakers, the franchise has become synonymous with the glitz on your face befitting a team based in the entertainment capital of the world.
However, a dismal 2021-2022 campaign has forced the Lakers to spend their pre-season to focus on rebuilding a defense that last year leaked 115.2 points per game – a bad total third in the tournament.
Two years after winning a record 17th NBA championship, last season’s Lakers fell in disarray, finishing with a 33-49 record and missing out on a playoff spot.
A squad rebuild that saw the arrival of Russell Westbrook and the departures of several players involved in the 2020 championship title is seen by many as the main reason behind the defence’s collapse. reigning the Lakers.
“Defensively,” was LeBron James’ verdict recently when asked about the areas where he hopes to see the team improve this year.
“Obviously you definitely have to get the ball into the hole. You know in our league there are teams that can do that,” James added.
“But those teams that can defend and stop when necessary – they are simply more successful in our league.
“The defensive side of the floor is what we will close the house every day.
“Understanding that we can defend, get teams to play hard balls, keep them a shot on goal, then bounce back and secure the ball has kept us going throughout the season. .”
Basketball ‘360 degrees’
Meanwhile, Lakers coach Darvin Ham says the Lakers’ defensive problems can be solved with an overall tactical approach, describing his coaching style as “360-degree” basketball. .
“You hear about these attacking experts or these defensive experts – both sides of the ball affect each other,” says Ham.
“If you can play great defensively, then your offensive behavior will look great, because you don’t play with a fixed defence.
“If you allow people to score, your offense will be difficult because you are playing with a set defense.
“So you just have to be perfected.”
The Lakers have made personnel changes that show a focus on defence.
The arrival of veteran Patrick Beverley provided the team with an elite defender known for his pace and hustle.
Beverley believes the Lakers lacked a “willing factor” in defense last season.
“I don’t know if they want to lie on the floor, get dirty, scratch your knees and dive for a loose ball,” Beverley said during the team’s recent media day.
“I’m going to do that and I hope people take it from there. That’s all I care about – leadership by action”.
The other inevitable issue of the Lakers’ season is the issue of whether James and Anthony Davis can stay fit throughout 82 games.
Davis played just 36 times between 2020-2021 and just 40 times last season.
James, Davis and Westbrook – tipped to form a “Big Three” capable of challenging for the title last year – ended up playing just 21 games together.
James, who will turn 38 in December, says he is prioritizing fitness above all in the 20th season of his NBA career.
“Just being present, that’s the most important thing,” James at Lakers media day last month.
“Obviously some injuries you can’t control, but that’s all my thinking. For me as one of the leaders of the team, readiness is the most important thing in this tournament – being available on the floor. “
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