Three to split the defense
They are the three amigos now, having become that way after one of their foursome departed over the summer to run his own show.
There hasn’t been any more pressure put on the shoulders of Lakers assistant coaches Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen and Brian Shaw since Kurt Rambis left them and became the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, the job duties for Cleamons, Hamblen and Shaw have increased, but it’s not as though they haven’t been faced with this before.
None of them are overwhelmed by the new situation. In fact, Cleamons, Hamblen and Shaw relish the opportunity.
“All of them have more responsibility, obviously, for defensive setups,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
“A personal responsibility for me is working with some of the guys I thought Kurt took personal pride in coaching and helping,” he added.
Rambis was in charge of the defense last season, a new position created under Jackson last season.
This season, the defensive onus falls on Cleamons, Hamblen and Shaw.
All of them have teams that they scout -- Cleamons and Shaw have 10 teams and Hamblen nine -- and it will be up to that assistant to put the defensive game plan in place for that night’s opponent.
For example, when the Lakers play the Sacramento Kings tonight in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center, Hamblen will be in charge of the defensive assignment.
“We haven’t talked about it, but my imagination is that we’ll do it by committee,” Cleamons said about that game’s defensive plan.
“I think everything is in place. I think we know most of the sets that teams will use.”
The NBA allows only three assistant coaches to sit on the bench during a game, so that meant that either Cleamons or Shaw sat behind the bench during some games, depending on who scouted that night’s opposition.
Now all three of the assistants will be on the bench; the Lakers didn’t hire another assistant.
“There is an awful lot of professionalism because of the respect we have for each other,” Cleamons said. “I think we’re always conscientious of giving each other space to talk. Sometimes one guy is going to say exactly what you’re going to say.
“We’ve been together that long, so we know each other. We know when and how to fill in the gaps and the voids so we don’t step on each other’s toes and so that each one can do a credible job in his area of expertise.”
Cleamons and Hamblen were with Jackson when he coached the Chicago Bulls before joining him with the Lakers.
Shaw played under Jackson for four seasons earlier this decade, and Cleamons and Hamblen were assistants then.
Shaw now is entering his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Lakers.
So, yes, they are all very familiar with each other.
“One of us is maybe talking about offense, the other one defense and vice versa,” Cleamons said. “We understand the system. We understand how the system works. I think we’ll be just fine.”
Pau Gasol (strained right hamstring) and Luke Walton (sore back) sat out a second day of practice Wednesday. Jackson said it was “doubtful they’ll play” tonight when the Lakers face Sacramento. Gasol and Walton did travel with the team to Las Vegas for the exhibition game.