It’s surprising to hear one of the “Showtime” stars continually talk about defense.
It’s not flashy. Not catchy. Doesn’t sell tickets like a shiny, showy offense.
But Coach Byron Scott keeps talking up the need for better defense from the Lakers. He has every reason to do it.
The Lakers are allowing 118 points a game, by far the worst in the NBA after opening week — although it’s a small sample size against four very good teams.
The problems lie just about everywhere. The guards aren’t getting out quickly enough on three-point shooters, especially in the corner.
The big men are playing too soft on pick-and-roll coverage, allowing guards to penetrate at will instead of jumping out and forcing them to “veer out,” Scott said.
And of course, there’s the lack of transition defense, the Lakers’ guards failing to get back and prevent fastbreaks, in case the 35 points Golden State scored in transition Saturday didn’t prove the point.
What’s a coach to do? Keep hammering away.
“I know a lot of emphasis has been on the defensive end, and it’s going to continue to be because I know that’s what wins championships,” Scott said Monday.
The Lakers spent 25 minutes on transition defense at Monday’s practiceas well as time on stopping all the corner threes.
“I think a lot of times our guys aren’t recognizing that the guy that they’re guarding in the corner is a shooter,” Scott said. “That’s one of our rules. We don’t leave corner shooters and we’ve done that a ton.”
Overall, the Lakers have allowed teams to make 51 threes in 117 attempts, a generous 43.6% success rate.
“Sometimes we get confused because teams are going with different lineups, going small,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “Phoenix used three point guards, Golden State went small. We’ve got to keep talking no matter what the lineup is out there.”
The big men are at fault too. Jordan Hill has played well on offense, but he and Boozer need to be quicker to annoy a guard after a screen has been set. Same for Robert Sacre. And even Ed Davis, the team’s best defensive big man.
“In the West, the guards are great. The bigs have to get up there to help,” Boozer said. “Our guards have to take that challenge, they can’t be scared of who they’re playing against. But us as a team, we’ve got to do a better job of helping our guards.”
Kelly back Tuesday?
Ryan Kelly went through about an hour of practice Monday and could play for the first time this season Tuesday against Phoenix.
His outside touch would be welcomed by the Lakers, who are averaging only 4.5 three-pointers a game, tied for 28th in the league before Monday’s games.
“I think that’s something I can do, spread the floor. I think I can be helpful there and I’m unique in that way,” Kelly said.
Kelly, a 6-foot-11 power forward, has been sidelined a month because of strained hamstrings in both legs.
He’s not as proficient as Nick Young behind the arc, averaging one three-pointer a game after last season’s All-Star break, but the Lakers like Kelly’s combination of size and range.