Notes On A Defensive Collapse

Kurt —  February 22, 2007

It doesn’t look like any trades are coming today (if that changes there will be updates), but when the Lakers sit down in the off-season too address changes, personnel moves need to be made with defense in mind. Last season perimeter defense was a problem so we brought in Radmanovic. It can’t be that way this summer.

I sloughed off the defensive problems a little bit last week, noting that the problem is the offense isn’t bailing the defense out any more. And that is true. But good teams — teams that can get past the first round of the playoffs or even challenge for a title — don’t need the offense to bail the defense out on a nightly basis. Usually it’s the other way around.

Last night’s Laker defensive effort really made me angry. And it starts with effort — in the NBA the guys have the athleticism to be decent defenders, but these Lakers couldn’t seem to care less about that end of the floor.

Smush equates steals with good defense. He had three last night, of course his guy went 9 of 12 from the floor, got into the lane at will and had 30. Rotations, what are rotations? And if the Laker bigs have to cover a guy who can step away from the basket and hit a jump shot, well, he’s going to get open looks because apparently the Laker front line is tethered to the basket support in some fashion and can’t step out to far.

It’s that last problem that was the catalyst for a Portland run last night. Let’s look at the Blazer possessions during a 2:09 stretch of the fourth quarter where Portland pulled away from the Lakers.

7:05, 90-89 Portland. Roy and Aldridge run a pick-and-pop from near the top of the key. Roy goes to his right but Sasha does a pretty good job sticking with him. However, Bynum lays back on Aldridge. Roy makes a jump pass back to Aldridge, who is setting up 20 feet out and has plenty of time to set and shoot, draining it.

6:39, 92-89 Portland. This time it’s Dickau and Randolph running the pick and pop, but the results are the same. This time it is Odom staying well off Randolph, who sets and scores from the top of the key. (I should note that Randoph is not a great jump shooter, but as he clearly was hot last night the Lakers should have adjusted the game plan.)

5:57, 94-89 Portland. Odom is forced to take a desperation three as the clock runs out, which leads to a fast break for the Blazers. Roy has the ball and nobody picks him up out high so he gets into the middle of the lane before two LAker defenders go to him. Roy passes to a cutting Udoka who makes a nice touch pass to Aldridge, who lays it in.

5:34, 96-89 Portland. Dickau misses an open three, but Aldridge outworks the Lakers and tips the rebound out to Randolph, who gets it at 17 feet with nobody around him. This time he drives into the lane and hits a 5-foot left handed running hook shot.

4:54 98-89 Portland. Back to the pick and pop with Roy and Aldridge, although this time Kobe is on Roy. He gets held up on the Aldridge pick, but Bynum still is hanging back so Roy drives to his left and hits a 15-foot jumper before Bynum can close out.

100-89, and while the Lakers make it closer the game is never really in doubt.

to Notes On A Defensive Collapse

  1. By the way, while I hit Smush again in this piece, Dickau outplayed Farmar by a mile. Farmar was a team-worst -16 last night.


  2. According to PopcornMachine’s GameFlow, Sasha was worse at -17. Farmar had -16. Smush, surprisingly, was a team BEST +14.


  3. My bad on missing Sasha, you’re right.

    I also saw that about Smush. Portland’s two biggest runs (including the one I describe above) came with Smush resting. Still, it’s not that he outplayed Jack as much as the Laker bench, Farmar included, got outplayed by the Trailblazers bench.

    That I chalk up to all the injuries.


  4. Re: guard play How bad must Shammond Williams be as a defensive player if he can’t get on the court? If he is this bad, should he be in the league?


  5. the website”” will be up shortly…


  6. Kidd Stays A Net

    Looks like Kidd’s agent says he’s staying with the Nets. Not exactly official, but close enough to confirm our suspicions.

    Any help to come for the Lakers this season must come from within.


  7. Well, 12:00 has come and gone. Is it safe to say that no deal has been made?


  8. 7. Juan Dixon for Fred Jones. That’s your blockbuster today.

    Apparently the Nets tried to block the Lakers on Kidd, not that it mattered.


  9. 4. Re: Shammond. Maybe there was a reason he had played a few seasons in Europe and wasn’t in demand here. At the time of the signing I never heard good things from people (readers here and a few emails) who had seen him play in recent years.


  10. I know Phil knows all of the following, so we’re just left to wonder why he isn’t implementing any of this:

    Bynum shoots a higher percentage than Cook (one shoots 5 footers, the other 17). Bynum as an inside presence draws more fouls than Cooks’ outside shooting, putting the other team in tentative-D mode. Which really pays dividends when Kobe (and yes, even Smush) drive in the fourth quarter.

    Can the Forum Faithful (uh… Staples staples?) throw their shirts at Cook? I promise we’re more frustrated than he is.

    Defensively, I still think Smush is being coached to allow his man into the middle. I have to think that. His defensive stand is so wide-open obviously giving the lane to his man. No one’s that stupid, that has to be the coached plan, right? Right? It’s part of Bynum’s ongoing defensive lessons, right? Right?

    Start Turiaf. Bring Cook off the bench to combine with Evans to provide scoring in the second unit. Can Evans play the PG spot? If so, start him now. Better yet, use him to finish games (cause as we all know, it’s not who starts that matters. that just appeases egos. It’s who finishes that counts).

    I’m rambling because I’m so frustrated. Losing Vlade…. not that we lose much with him out, other than depth… Luke still out. Odom recovering. Kwame’s return date getting pushed back and back and back… And Phil’s strategy is just maddening. I don’t get it any more.


  11. Simers Column

    Here’s comforting news delivered by resident LA sports nemesis TJ Simers. He talks up the Lakers favorable end schedule. Only 6 teams they play have winning records. That’s good news.

    10 – The problem with starting Ronny is the need for him to relieve Bynum.

    8 – Did Phoenix even need to do that? They should have waited for a more likely trade down the road to muck up.

    If the Lakers can keep the 6-seed they’ll probably play SA. Not the worst first round match up the Lakers could get.


  12. Wow I didn’t expect the Suns to stoop that low… the rivalry is officially started!

    As for the Kidd trade… who cares that we didn’t get him. The problem is that we talked about him so much the past week that now we are dissapointed. This might be one of those deals that better left undone. Kidd is good, but not worth $40 mil and Bynum.

    There was a play in the game last night that I though summed up Smush’s season defensively. Blazers PG is bringing ball upcourt… Smush gambles for the steal by diving head first at the ball… Smush misses and falls… Blazers run down the floor 5-4 and get a wide open 3… splash! Kurt got it on point… Smush thinks steals mean he is playing D, and he thinks that by scoring points we will ignore his D. How about starting Sasha? McKie? Brian Shaw?

    And is it time to bring Pippen in for a look since the deadline has passed?


  13. On a non-Laker note… did anybody see D-Wade’s injury last night? OUCH! The guy was crying like a little girl. I can’t blame him… I have dislocated my shoulder before and have needed surgery to fix it so I know just how painful it can be. Wade is gonna be out for a while if not the whole season. There goes Miami right out of contention this year.


  14. Re: Bryan’s comment about Smush being coached to allow his man to get to the middle of the floor…Look, I don’t know. It’s seems crazy. But think about what Kurt wrote about — the fact that all the Lakers bigs lay back in the paint & don’t move. Didn’t we have a similar problem when Shaq was around? At what point, do you start blaming the coaching staff? I mean, the Lakers haven’t been able to guard the pick and roll since, I don’t know, the mid ’90s.

    I get it that Bynum isn’t a great defender, and I think it’s obvious the team misses Kwame’s one-on-one post defense, but the coaches are at least as much to blame as the players.


  15. Ronny cannot start in this league. I love the guy, but he’s all energy. His place is coming off of the bench, but he just doesn’t have the tools to handle the starters.


  16. How about playing Kobe at the point like he did in the allstar game and starting Mr.Mo at the 2? The triangle doesn’t need a true point gaurd and Kobe and Lamar are already bringing the ball up anyway. And with Mo and Kobe in the backcourt they can switch every pick and roll and will probably do a more decent job of staying in front of people


  17. Sad note if you haven’t seen it, former Celtic guard Dennis Johnson passed away. DJ was right in the middle of the 80s Laker/Celtics rivalry.


  18. J. I think Bynum is going to be a good defender, he’s just not there yet. He loves to come from the weak side and swat shots around the basket, but when the other team draws him away from the hoop he looks lost. And Kwame is a better man defender in the post right now.

    I did like that Phil was willing to double early last night, sending Smush down to help out on Randolph in the post. Didn’t work, however, because the rotations were not there so Jack got great looks.


  19. Those rotations were disgusting last night. Joel and Stu kept pointing out that the Lakers were “scrambling again” One man running all over the floor trying to guard every open man unsuccessfully doesn’t count as a “rotation”


  20. Why don’t we try some zone?


  21. Sad news about DJ’s passing. I grew up pretending to beat him off the dribble in my backyard, so it feels like I lost someone I knew.

    Evans and Kobe starting, I like it… but who scores off the bench then? Especially with our banged up roster?

    I know longer know how good a team we are, and which teams we’re “supposed” to beat. I suspect we all shake our heads and look down alot.


  22. Kudos to the Lakers for patience. The PLAN is in place…and hopefully, there will be some point guard help this somewhere available via the mid exception?

    BTW, what point guards are out there in free agency, real options? Steve Blake?


  23. Bibby, Billups, Mo Williams are unrestricted..Pavlovic, Pietrus, Jasikevicus are restricted FA’s

    Trust me, you don’t want to know anyone beyond that..


  24. Bibby has an option to opt out but has stated that he won’t because he is not going to command the type of money he’s making in the last two years of his deal ($13 mil per)…


  25. For better of for worse, Bynum now has validation that the Lakers probably rejected JKidd for him. That must be a huge motivational lift for him.


  26. Patience may be smart but it sure does suck when your teams on a 6 game losing streak, your team is depending on average nba sf luke walton and sometimes average nba c kwame brown to magically resuce a team that has not once this season exhibited the ability to stop a deadman. Add that to the fact that no team wins with all the youth we have, and the fact that any team trying to win makes deals to add talent, savvy, or both, at the deadline and you see how this whole patience thing actually is not too promising to fans who feel kobe needs to win now, the fans paying all that money deserve to see a contending team, not a counterfit, overachieving lot, they deserve a team that blends the young talent this team possesss with the amazing talents of kobe and phil. if that means trading odom, so what, if that means trading bynum, so what, nobody on this team is untouchable outside kobe, whatever young players get left are the ones we go with. However that is now all for the offseason, as far as the rest of this season, well, looks like we can do like ed norton, pose as an illusionist and get knocked out early in the playoffs, woo hoo!


  27. The Lakers have managed to avoid Chris Webber and Jason Kidd in favor of “love the ones you’re with.”

    That means three promising kids (Turiaff, Bynum, and Farmar), four big cripples (Brown, Mihm, Walton, and Radman), two rehabs (Odom and Kobe), and some role players.

    The coaches seemingly are managing this ragtag crew as if the cripples were momentarily gone, distorting rotations that had not ever been fully established in the best of times.

    Bynum has been getting serious playing time because the coaches have little choice; Turiaff has been getting only grudging playing time even though the coaches have little choice. Farmar has not been even that lucky.

    Despite having his moments, Sasha has fared no better than Jordan, McKie and Anderson seem to have gotten lost altogether.

    Though far from a toughened veteran, the Smusher has been getting nearly as much PT as Kobe or Lamar. After all, Smush is the only starter that has been healthy all season. Cookie no longer has to throw his jersey at Phil to get his attention. Evans has gotten some extended backup time–but still far less than the Smusher.

    If the ragtag Lakers we will have for the remainder of the season are to resemble themselves from earlier healthier times (rather than the Celtics they are about to face), those minutes need some serious tweaking.

    Depending on the Smusher to stabilize the starters and close out games is a move of Disneyesque proportions.


  28. Smush always get beat, putting the bigs in foul trouble. Jackson doesn’t like zones. However, let’s consider. The quickest point guards in the league aren’t necessarily the best spot up shooters, and the shooters aren’t so quick that Smush couldn’t learn to move his feet and stay in front of them. Solution, play zone against teams with quick point guards and dare them to shoot; play man against the teams with shooting point guards. With the rare guy that has the shot and the speed, put Smush in his Smushcalade and have him drive in LA traffic during the game.


  29. Don’t wanna burst the bubble of Smush-bashing, but the team has about 10 major problems, pg defense just being one of them. Our biggest problem is that we dont score from the post at all on offense, no easy baskets, no rotations on defense, injuries, confusing rotations, please, let’s be honest and stop trying to scapegoat one player, one player doesnt make you lose 12 of 16, that’s a team effort. Lastly, there is one player vying with Smush and Oook for worst defender on the team, and his number is 24, so let’s call a spade a spade if we’re going to go that route


  30. Good call Kwame. #24 and #7 have been just as bad on defense as anybody on the team. Its not just Smush’s fault. But lets just not panic too much right now. I know things are really ugly right now but they can’t get any worse than this. We’re only a 5-6 game winning streak away from being a “contender” again in the view of all the reporters and fans. True Laker fans remain strong through the bad times as well as the good.

    And as soon as everybody gets over the dissapointment of not getting Kidd… we will realize that it was a trade better left undone. Kidd would lock us up financially for the next two years and his production would be decreasing by the day. We’re much better off stickin to the gameplan this season and going after KG in the summer


  31. 29 I thought we agreed that Smush was the obvious symptom, not the cause. None of it is really Smush’s fault. In happier earlier preseason times, Smush played extremely well in tandem with Farmar. He’s just not a point guard or a starting player. He may not even be able to make most teams. After all, until the Lakers, the Smusher never lasted a season with anyone else. Why is he getting almost as many minutes as Kobe or Lamar? If he’s that good, pay him what he’s worth. If he’s not, what’s going on?

    One can evaluate one’s potential for defense as an individual only up to a point. Everyone critiqued
    Chris Webber as a defensive liability, but he’s doing well in the Piston team concept. If the Lakers were to play and reward true team defense, many presumed individual infermities would disappear through team defense strategies. Teaming and minutes played would change.

    Even though marred by Smush’s play, the Lakers played as a unit earlier in the season. A few times they even played lockdown defense. Whatever it was they were doing, they were winning. if it ain’t broke–don’t fix it.

    Right now, it’s broke–and the way to start fixing it is to do something different with the Smusher. That leads to tinkering with the playing times/teaming of the remaining healthy players. We need to somehow rediscover the magic of chemistry that we had at the beginning of the season.