Thoughts On The First Day Of Camp

Kurt —  October 5, 2005

It didn’t take advanced statistics — or half a brain, for that matter — to see that the Lakers biggest problem last year was defense. Which is why the first notes I’m reading out of training camp in Hawaii make me smile.

Chris Mihm told ESPN that two-third of the early practices focused on defense, something rare in the NBA.

Out of the same Ric Bucher ESPN.com report, during practices the Lakers are working on full-court pressure each time the ball comes up. In some cases the pressure may be relatively token (you run a higher risk pressuring, say, Steve Nash than his backup), but the basic idea is sound — make the opponents take some time in getting into their offensive set. Less time in the set offense slightly lowers the percentage of getting the shot they want. This is not the answer, but it is a small step in covering up the Lakers defensive weaknesses.

It also appears they are going to work to keep the point guard position fresh — Phil Jackson told the Daily News he wants to keep Aaron McKie at about 28 minutes a game. That means Sasha, Smush and just about everyone but Mihm may get their shot to prove they should play point. We just need one person to step up in the backup role.

It may not be “sexy,” but will be plenty more talk about defense in the next few weeks (the Laker preview on this site will be broken down into two parts, offense and defense.) I think the NBA’s two biggest markets — Los Angeles and New York — are interesting test cases this year to see how much improvement on defense a coach can have.

Remember, last time Phil Jackson took over the Lakers their offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) remained exactly the same as the year before, but what won them the title was their defense improved from 24th to the best in the league. This time Phil doesn’t have an in-shape and motivated Shaq in the paint to intimidate, but I’m curious to see what he can do with the pieces he’s got.

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Just based on the comments, apparently some people thought the “ifs” post was a little too negative in tone. I’m actually pretty positive about this Laker team, both short and long term. This season, if they can keep the key players healthy and commit to defense, the Lakers are a playoff contender, which is a huge step forward. And having Phil Jackson back gives the franchise something it lacked last year — direction. I said at the end of last season front office direction was the thing the Lakers needed first and foremost, and they got it.

In the long run, I think they have the core of a very good team but they need to use the cap space coming in a couple of years wisely — just counting on LeBron or Carmello to jump ship and come to LA is not wise, just wishful. The Lakers are on the path to build a team more along the lines of San Antonio with one superstar (Kobe/Duncan) and a bunch of good players around him who buy into a system and can play good defense. That style of team wins championships.

That gives me a lot of hope.

Kurt

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7 responses to Thoughts On The First Day Of Camp

  1. yeah, your list of ifs did make it appear that you seemed pretty pessimistic about the lakers chances.

    i suppose i’m a real homer. i thought they had a chance to become championship-bound when they still had butler and atkins.

    now with brown and bynum… i really like how they have two post players who have such awesome potential. if just one pays off, they’ll be such a force to be reckoned with. if they both are merely adequate this will still be a great team.

    hopefully mihm’s been workin on his D since april.

    by all means, go crazy with the defense talk! let’s set the right aura.

  2. I didn’t really think that all the “if’s” were too pessimistic. I think that was just the truth. There are a lot of if’s this season but if the Lakeshow can figure out how to play team defense then good things are sure to come.

    Does anyone have any idea who the starting 5 are this coming year? Kobe, Lamar, Chris, Aaron, and Kwame?

  3. Christian, those five are the betting favorites to start.

  4. I LIKE WHAT IM HEARIING AND I LIKE WHAT IM SEEING…DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS- GO LAKERS!!!

  5. Looks like the Lakers want to be Lakers, solidify their defensive attitudes and anything is possible. With Phil and Kobe leading the way, it will be a fun group of fine young men playing the sport the way it was meant to be played. Let’s just let ‘em play and enjoy watching them grow together as the season progresses. Through thick and thin, to live and die in L.A., it’s the only way.

  6. HERE…HERE!!! IM SO EXCITED I CAN HARDLY CONTAIN MY SELF.

  7. Defense definitely but the triangle learning curve needs to be faster to allow them to control tempo which may help them too. But since the Lakers are now one of the youngest teams I’m hoping their defense can create easy opportunities to fastbreak as well.

    Since Amare & Yao are not available which I don’t care for I’m looking at 2008 when KG is available. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind leaving the cold to be in California to play with Kobe. The Lakers should be in contention by 2008 with Buss freeing cap space for such a move now. What do you think?