As Lakers Coach Luke Walton sees it, a major part of why the Lakers have struggled to defend without fouling is that they’ve developed bad habits.
Breaking those habits has proved difficult.
The Lakers are averaging 26.5 fouls per game. Only two NBA teams have fouled more on average during their exhibition schedule — the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Clippers.
Walton has noticed a lot of the Lakers’ fouls come from players being late on their rotations, then reaching for steals.
“Simple answer, which I know isn’t the way it ever plays out, is get to where you’re supposed to be on time,” Walton said. “You’re at a deficit in this league when you’re trying to chase someone down or slide to somebody. It’s natural to want to try to swipe at the ball or do something where you shell them a little bit.
“But what we encourage is you get your chest on them, hands out, and then know that we’re gonna have weakside help coming over and they’ll take care of the layup or whatever type of shot it turns into.”
It doesn’t always work. Walton noted forward Larry Nance Jr. has been called for fouls while having his hands out as this staff is teaching. Still, that habit is something he wants to develop.
For players, the impact of excessive fouling is tangible. It helps them to buy into what they’re learning.
“When it comes down to real play and guys really want to be on the floor and they can’t cause they’re fouling, you’ll realize and learn the hard way,” point guard D’Angelo Russell said.
As for how long it takes to develop a habit, Walton isn’t especially concerned with that.
“I’ve heard depending on what it is, muscle memory, 10,000 hours or reps,” Walton said. “I’ve heard other people say three weeks. I don’t have a timetable that I stick to other than what I see with my eyes. … We’re going to continue to do it until we break those habits and form new habits.”
The Lakers began trimming their roster Wednesday, waiving Travis Wear and rookies Julian Jacobs and Zach Auguste.
The Lakers’ roster now stands at 17 players. All three waived players could wind up on the Lakers’ developmental league team, the D-Fenders.
“Honestly I’d like to see all three of them there,” Walton said. “That’s probably all going to be determined by what kind of overseas contracts they can get offered or what other teams are interested, but I’d love to see all three of them in our organization.”
Wear, from Mater Dei High, spent his college career at North Carolina and then UCLA. As an NBA rookie, he played in 51 games for the New York Knicks during the 2014-15 season. Last season, Wear played in Spain.
Jacobs signed with the Lakers after going undrafted out of USC. The Las Vegas native averaged 8.9 points per game during his three college seasons.
Auguste played four seasons at Notre Dame and was on the Lakers’ Summer League team this year. There, he averaged 5.3 points and four rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game.
“They brought a lot to our team so far with what they’re trying to do and how hard they worked and pushed guys,” Walton said. “It wasn’t easy, but it is what it is in this business. We gotta get down to 15. We thanked them and gave them our critiques and it went as well as it could go.”
The Lakers traveled to Las Vegas on Wednesday afternoon after practice.They’ll play the Sacramento Kings on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena. They’ll have one day between games, then play the Golden State Warriors there Saturday.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli