Kobe Bryant wants the Lakers to play better defense
Nobody understands the standards of Lakers basketball better than Kobe Bryant.
So as enthused as he and others are by the glimpses of talent flashed by Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell, the veteran shifted the focus to “the other end,” meaning defense.
Bryant watched Thursday night as Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry exposed some Lakers flaws by burying four open three-pointers and knifing through the key en route to a 25-point night and a 105-97 victory in Ontario, Calif.
“Whether guys are jelling emotionally or not, I don’t care. At this point, we’ve got to execute,” Bryant told reporters after the Raptors received 18 points apiece from aggressive guard Cory Joseph and physical forward DeMarre Carroll.
“A lot of [defense] is experience, timing, knowing the other team … Staying in front of the ball, that’s really important to us — close-out defense.”
Lakers Coach Byron Scott made the defensive slips the focus of his postgame talk before giving the team Friday off in advance of its 6:30 p.m. Sunday exhibition against Maccabi Haifa at Staples Center.
“Containing the dribble, that was the biggest [deficiency],” Scott said. “We’re just not guarding people very well. We’re getting beat on the little things we keep harping about.
“As I told those guys, we’re less than three weeks away. They better start getting it quick.”
Scott praised his team’s “effort, communication level and cohesiveness,” as “so much better” than what occurred in last season’s injury-marred 21-61 showing.
“But we’re still making mistakes,” he said. “Some of it can be neutralized by defending our principles. They understand what we have to do. We seem to be a step or two slow in the process of doing it.”
Filling a void
Ten-year veteran guard Lou Williams provided the Lakers an example of what’s needed, scoring a team-best 19 points against the team he played for last season.
“He’s been active defensively, using his lane to try to disturb ballhandlers,” Bryant said. “He can be really disruptive on the defensive end because of his length.”
Williams, who’ll turn 29 on Oct. 27, said he strives to be a glue player on the young roster, providing stability whenever called upon.
“I try to be a positive presence … mind my business, go out and compete and go home,” Williams said, pointing to the preseason as prime time to build chemistry.
“You have to. Being around each other every day, being in the gym, figuring out what guys like the basketball, learning different personalities, how to get everyone involved on both ends of the floor. It’s a big part, based on so many new parts — guys that were injured last year coming back into the fold — trying to put everything together.”
Bryant’s 16 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in 21 minutes 33 seconds of playing time pleased Scott.
“Very happy with the way he’s looking,” said Scott, who said he expects Bryant’s minutes will increase as the preseason continues with five more games through Oct. 22.
After a near six-hour flight home to Los Angeles on Wednesday from Hawaii, it took the Lakers nearly half of that time — two hours 45 minutes — to navigate Southland traffic on Thursday’s drive from El Segundo to Ontario, where attendance was 8,123.
Asked what he ranked as the best thing about Thursday’s game, Bryant answered, “We got a chance to get out here and play in front of the fans in Ontario.”
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