Archives For May 2011

A Reason To Remember

Darius Soriano —  May 20, 2011

If we’re being honest, openly complaining about not having a statue built in your honor is not the best way to endear yourself to the public or those that you hope to build said statue. Those types of statements illustrate a true lack of understanding how honors like this are really related to humblenss, graciousness, and likeability, not the actual achievements and contributions that earn the statue in the first place.

However, that’s where we are as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has taken to twitter, TV, and any other medium he can find to discuss how he feels “slighted” and “highly offended” that he has not yet been honored by the Lakers with a statue as former greats Magic Johnson and Jerry West have been. And while we’ve also learned that Kareem’s dissatisfaction with the organization has deeper roots than the lack of being embronzed in front the Staples Center, the fact that this (supposed) lack of acknowledgement is described as the straw that broke the camel’s back is perplexing.

I mean, can not having a statue built in your honor really be considered a slight? Apparently, Kareem thinks so.

And while many have and will take their shots at Kareem for his thought process and speaking out at all, his actions actually led me to a different conclusion entirely. Rather than deride the “Captain”, I’m reminded that this is who the man is. He’s outspoken, surly, and someone that has said and acted however he felt best regardless of how he’s perceived after the fact. And while his positions are always logical, he doesn’t always position himself in a light that has the public favoring his side. It’s how he was his entire playing career and I’m not sure why we expect it to be any different regardless of how long he’s retired.

Understand, I’m not upset with Kareem. He’s not insulted anyone nor done anything wrong to the Lakers. He’s spoken out about what he felt were issues that affected him and him alone. The fact that all don’t agree with his approach doesn’t make him wrong.

So rather than focus on how his tack might have been misguided, I’d actually prefer to use his speaking out as a reason to remember why the concept of him having a statue in the first place is a good idea; to celebrate how great a player he actually was.

I’ve always believed that Jabbar is one of the two or three players that can claim to be the best of all time. A brief rundown of his career and all that he achieved only reinforces this idea (look at his basketball-reference page). His 6 champhionships, 6 MVP awards, all-time leading scoring mark, and Finals MVP’s over a decade apart speak to peak greatness and longevity that, when combined into a single career, no other player in NBA history can match (not Jordan, Magic, Wilt, or anyone else). If you bring in his college dominance and how rules were changed to limit his effectiveness, the argument only moves in his direction further. Not to mention how his signature shot is the single most devastating offensive weapon basketball has ever seen.

The man is a legend but is often forgotten when discussions of who the true greats of the game are. Yes, his grating nature with the media hasn’t helped him. Neither has the way that he’s spoken up about how he’s been slighted over the years (this latest dustup being another example in a line that includes lack of coaching opportunities or front office jobs that’s been passed over for). But, the man’s accomplishments as a player are essentially unmatched.

So today, I remember all that was great about Kareem. He may not have chosen the best way to get his name back into the conversation of all-time greats, but now that he has I’m going to use this opportunity to remember him for what he was: a hell of a basketball player whose ability to earn the support of fans never rivaled his ability to demolish his opponents. Not everyone is politic enough to get everything they want without ever looking wrong. But the basis of what this honor would symbolize should not be lost in the discussion.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Pau Gasol’s disastrous postseason has already been dissected like a biology class frog, so we’ll skip the rehash. The dirty little secret of this wipe out, however, is that his regular season actually signaled what laid ahead, albeit in more subtle fashion. Gasol’s 2011 campaign was, by his high standards, spotty. That’s not to say Pau played badly, because he didn’t. Plenty of big men would be plenty satisfied with his numbers — 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks — in line with the best of his career, much less as a Laker. But one of El Spaniard’s greatest strengths is his consistency, and he wasn’t nearly as reliable game to game this season. The inconsistencies are revealed in his splits: December and January scoring averages below 17 points, including a December in which he shot below 50 percent from the field, which is basically unheard of for Pau. The inconsistencies are also revealed in his game log. Seven games with 16+ rebounds, but also pockets of multiple-game streaks with single digit grabs. Even during the Lakers’ post All-Star break dominance, there were four consecutive games with just five rebounds. That’s a modest haul by Kobe Bryant’s standard, much less a seven-footer’s.

From Actuarially Sound, Silver Screen and Roll: It should not surprise anyone that the head coaching search being undertaken by the Los Angeles Lakers is different than any other coaching search in the leauge. After all, the Lakers are a high profile team to begin with, and this particular job comes with the added pleasure, and pressure, of inheriting a roster that has championship quality talent. It remains to be seen whether this season’s flame out was simply a combination of unfortunate circumstances, or the beginning of the end of the Kobe Bryant era, but there can be no doubt that next season will be held to the exact same standard of success or failure that this season was.It will be championship or bust. But the high profile of the position is not what makes the Lakers’ search so unique. Instead, what makes this search so different from what is going on in Golden State or Houston is the stark similarity between the Lakers coaching search and a political campaign.  The candidates are not being judged simply by their qualities and merits as a person.  Instead, their ideologies are center stage in helping to make this selection.  The process itself may not be democratic, but the choice will be made based on the answer to this question:  Should we stay the course, and maintain the current system?  Or is now the time for change?

From Brian Champlin, Lakers Nation: Brian Shaw is as familiar  to Lakers fans as cracker jacks are to a baseball game. We all have fond memories of his clutch threes in the epic comeback against Portland, his steady veteran leadership, his defense and of course his alley-oop passes as part of the Shaw-Shaq redemption. But the question on Lakers’ fans minds now is, would he make a good head coach? There is something to be said for continuity and the of hiring Shaw would represent the ultimate in that respect. He would almost certainly run the triangle offense and there is probably no other available candidate more qualified to do so than he. The triangle has been good to the Lakers over the years and as recently a season ago it was the system that brought them a second consecutive title. And really the truth is that with their current roster of aging players and non-athletes, it tough to foresee the Lakers changing styles of play with their current personnel. But keeping the system in tact isn’t the only reason to go with Shaw.

From Elizabeth Benson, Lakers Nation: There was one reason why Mitch Kupchak brought Ron Artest to the Los Angeles Lakers: defense. Artest’s hiring brought many questions to the Lakers’ community because of his erratic and sometimes violent behavior on the court. In fact, it was Ron Artest who got into a verbal altercation on the court with Kobe Bryant a few months prior to his joining the Lakers’ squad.  This altercation took place during the playoff series between the Lakers and the then Ron Artest led, Houston Rockets. Not to my surprise, Bryant shrugged off the situation and called it a part of the competition of the game. But what surprised me, was how Artest was able to forget the conflict and move on as a new Laker. The man behind the “Malice in the Palace” is a different man. His revelation that he is suffering from mental illness – which is the true reasoning behind his angered past – seemed to lift the monkey off of Artest’s back and inspire others.  His further commitment to bringing awareness and helping those who also suffer from mental illness could only be commended and has in fact been rewarded.  On the court, Artest has the defensive ability to frustrate his opponent’s mind and game.  During his first season with the Lakers, he understood his mainly defensive role, but was still able to hit the jumper when necessary.

From Tim Kawakami, Talking Points: Jerry West, one of the most respected executives in NBA history, has agreed to join the Warriors front office in a non-decision-making, advisory role, multiple NBA sources confirmed tonight. An announcement is expected within a few days. West’s exact title has not yet been formalized, but he is expected to be reporting to co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and possibly act as a sounding board in many areas. The addition of an icon like West is another aggressive and surprising move by Lacob, who brought in agent Bob Myers last month as his GM-apparent. West and Myers have a long relationship via West’s close friend Arn Tellem, Myers’ mentor in the agenting industry. West, a Hall of Famer player, was the Lakers’ GM from 1982 to 2000, when the franchise won 7 titles. West also was GM of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002 to 2007, and was a consultant for a few years after that.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Sitting on the team plane, plenty of thoughts raced around Lamar Odom’s mind.  The Lakers just lost in a four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, officially ending the defending champions’ chance to three-peat. He had ended that effort in embarrassing fashion, committing a flagrant foul on Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter, a defining moment that symbolized the Lakers’ loss of composure. And then Odom’s thoughts quickly raced about his improved individual season, where his third-best 14.4 points on 53% shooting and a third-best 8.7 rebounds earned him the NBA sixth man of the year and coincided with his increased celebrity brand, most notably featuring he and wife Khloe Kardashian starring in a reality television show dubbed “Khloe and Lamar,” and the launching of a unisex fragrance line titled “Unbreakable.” But Odom’s emotions on the team plane provided more compelling drama than anything that reality television might capture and brought into question the validity of the name of his fragrance.

From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: The Thunder pulled out an incredibly gutsy, hard-fought Game 2 to even the series 1-1 with a 106-100 win. But more than likely, there’s going to be more talk about how the Thunder won the game than actually that they won the game. Scott Brooks is the main reason the word “gutsy” is in that lede. Brooks made what I’m sure was an extremely difficult decision to go with his bench the entire fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook — who was very good the first three quarters — didn’t play a second. It was Eric Maynor’s team to run. In fact, only one starter played the bulk of the fourth and it was Kevin Durant. (Thabo and Serge Ibaka played the closing minutes.) I’ve already heard people saying Westbrook was pouting, furious or a lot of other negative things about his “benching.” I’ve heard people speculating that Brooks wanted to teach him a lesson. But that’s not at all what this was about. This was about the five players on the floor and how well they were playing. This was about going with what was going to win you a game. Russell Westbrook isn’t stupid. The Thunder won the game and that’s what matters. He understands that. I’m sure he’s going to be a little upset. I’m sure he’s offended he didn’t come in. But the win is what matters and he gets that.

From Kenny Masenda, Ed The Sports Fan: When people think of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the first two names that usually come to mind are Kevin Durant and Kyle Lee Wa– err, I mean Russell Westbrook. It’s totally understandable, as they are the faces of the team. However, there’s another man on that team who is easily my favorite player and has been ever since he put on a Thunder uniform. The man looks about as athletic as a jar of applesauce, but when he gets on the court, he is a serious problem. That man is none other than James Harden. The story of Harden on ETSF is like others on here, in the sense that an opinion of a player is divided between Ed and myself. When OKC drafted him third overall last year, I preached to Ed how great of a pick it was. Shoot, the man was instant offense, a decent facilitator, and with the make-up of their team, he could be a legitimate sixth man of the year candidate for the Thunder.

As we slog through the off-season, the questions about how to improve the Lakers are plentiful. A repeat of this season’s disappointments will not be acceptable for this group next season. However, nearly every conversation about how the Lakers can improve next season is focused on some sort of major change that needs to occur. Whether it’s finding a replacement for Phil Jackson or trading current players for other pieces that help this team get better, our instinct is to find that new shiny toy that will improve the 2012 version of the Lakers.

However, what I’ve found to be true more often than not is that when you have a championship caliber team (as the Lakers do), sometimes the best way to improve is from within. After the 2008 loss to Boston, the Lakers came back with nearly the exact same roster and claimed the championship the following season. The reason that they were able to win the next year had to do with the fact that Pau Gasol got stronger, Andrew Bynum got healthy (for the most part) and improved his game, Trevor Ariza worked on his shooting, etc, etc. The same Lakers that lost the year before got better the next season and reached their goal.

With that in mind, my thoughts drift to what this current group of players can do to improve their individual games to come back next season as better, more productive players. We start off looking at Kobe Bryant.

This past season was an interesting one for Kobe as he played fewer minutes and practiced less as a result of dealing with the residual affects of nagging issues with his off-season knee surgery and his in-season ankle sprain. Plus, whether he’d admit it or not, the ongoing problems with his arthritic index finger on his shooting hand remains an everyday impediment to his ball handling and security (and, potentially, his jump shot).

That said, going into this off-season Kobe is as close to 100% healthy as he’s been in many seasons. There will be no off-season surgery that limits his workout regimen; no deep playoff run that requires a longer recuperation period or pushes back when he can begin his off-season program. This summer Kobe should be able to put in a lot of work to strengthen his body and be in prime physical condition for the start of next season (whenever that may be). In his exit interview, Kobe stated that:

This is a good summer for me to train and get strong. There’s a difference between feeling healthy and feeling as strong as I know I can be … there’s another level I can get to.

With a stronger Kobe, the hope is that he can once again assert himself on both ends of the floor to be the difference maker that he’s been in the last two championship seasons.

Understand that despite first team honors for both All-Defense and All-NBA, Kobe didn’t have one of his trademark years on either side of the ball. While I support Kobe’s inclusion on the All-NBA 1st team (I believe it was a toss up between Kobe and Wade and would have been okay with either being selected), Kobe’s inclusion on the All-Defensive team isn’t something that I can defend easily. His knee issues at the beginning of the year and ankle problems near the end of the season affected Kobe’s defense more than many are willing to admit. The hope is that if he’s fully healthy next season, we can see more of the tenacious defender that has the ability to impact the game on D the same way he does on O.

Offensively, Kobe can also take a step forward this upcoming season just by being a bit healthier. When looking at his shot location data at Hoop Data, Kobe took nearly 1.5 less shots at the rim this past season than he did the year before. And while some of his inside scoring was supplemented by the fact that he shot a higher percentage at the rim and also took more shots in the 3-9 foot range, the fact is that Kobe did not drive as much and instead worked more from the post or shot pull up jumpers and runners when he did get by his man. This next season, a Kobe Bryant that has his legs under him may be able to turn some of those short jumpers and runners into lay-ins and dunks at the basket.

A stronger Kobe can also be more effective in the post this year than he was this past season. So much of establishing good position in the post is lower body strength and ability to quickly cut and reposition in order to be available for a post entry. This past year, Kobe depended much more on dribbling into the post to earn his position or relied more on his upper body strength to ward off defenders before giving up some of his position to go and meet the ball. With better leg strength, Kobe should be able to move better off the ball to earn position and better hold that spot when fighting with a defender before making the catch. With Kobe’s tremendous footwork, any inch in better positioning can lead to an easier shot attempt – be it a turnaround jumper or a step through for a finish at the rim.

Beyond any strength improvement from extra training or a more refined skill set based off his renowned work ethic, don’t discount how hunger and drive can also produce a better Kobe Bryant next year. This is a player that’s long took slights personally and used failure as a strong motivator to come back even more focused and prepared to dominate. With the Lakers 2nd round ouster fresh on his mind and people questioning whether this team’s window is closing (which could be construed as a dig at his own ability to be the best player on a championship team) I anticipate Kobe being a better player next year than he was this past season.

And if you’re looking for a way to improve this team the fastest, a better Kobe is nice place to start.

From Ramona Shellbourne, ESPNLA: Phil Jackson is retired, we think. The Los Angeles Lakers season is over, we know. But that’s about all the certainty in longtime assistant coach Frank Hamblen’s world these days. “I’m not looking to retire yet,” said Hamblen, who has been with the Lakers for 12 years and is the longest-tenured assistant coach in the NBA. “I think I have a good two or three years left in me. So I just have to wait and see what [the Lakers] do, and keep my options open.” Hamblen, 64, played a key role on Jackson’s staff for seven of his 11 NBA titles. He also coached the Lakers for the last three months of the 2005 season, after Rudy Tomjanovich abruptly stepped down.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Less than a week has passed since Phil Jackson limped his long body out of the Lakers’ practice facility for the last time. Since then the team has pieced together a short list of candidates: two tested veterans (Rick Adelman and Mike Dunleavy) and two guys looking for their first stint on the sidelines (Lakers assistants Brian Shaw and Chuck Person). Keep in mind, it’s still early in the Lakers’ coaching search, but those are the first names to draw interest. Interviews with L.A. general manager Mitch Kupchak will go on hold for about a week because he flew to Chicago on Tuesday to attend a pre-draft camp and will continue on to another camp in Minnesota to look at prospects; the Lakers have four second-round draft picks, but no first-rounder. Kupchak is scheduled to return to Los Angeles next Tuesday night.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Much of the chatter surrounding the Lakers’ search for their next head coach has focused on the Triangle offense. What will become of it now that Phil Jackson, its zealous apostle, has left town? Do the Lakers need someone who will preserve Triangle purity? Do they even want someone who will? Much less overt thought has been given to the Lakers’ defense, even though it’s equally in need of a strategic reassessment. This past season, the effectiveness of the Laker D came and went. At the All-Star break, they ranked 10th in the league with a defensive efficiency (i.e., points allowed per 100 possessions) of 105.7. Not a bad mark, but not really up to championship snuff. Then Andrew Bynum began dominating fools, and after the break the Lakers posted a defensive efficiency of 102.1. That was more like it!

From Kevin Arnovitz, Heat Index: Lost amid the inspiring return of Udonis Haslem and the late-game heroics of LeBron James was the best performance nobody is talking about this morning — Dwyane Wade’s defense in Game 2. Wade was simply brilliant on the Bulls’ side of the floor on Wednesday night. His 40 minutes in Game 2 were a composite of his best defensive attributes, both his instincts and his fundamentals. Over the course of the evening, he covered all three of the Bulls’ shooting guards then, when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, he took on the assignment of handling Derrick Rose. Wade’s electrifying defensive effort began 15 seconds into the game on Chicago’s very first possession. Wade was covering Keith Bogans, who has been a lightning rod for Chicago fans all season. With Bogans on the court in the postseason, the Bulls are scoring only 94.4 points per 100 possessions. When he’s on the bench, they’re a robust 106.8 points per 100 possessions.

From Matt McHale, By The Horns: In Game 1, the Bulls won with defense and rebounding. In Game 2, the Heat won with defense and rebounding. Don’t get me wrong. There were other factors. Plenty of them. The Bulls missed on a lot of open looks. Shots they hit in Game 1 became shots they bricked in Game 2. I lost count of how many shots rattled around the rim or went halfway down before popping back out…but there were several. If two or three of those wide open looks had snapped through the nylon, maybe things turn out differently. Or maybe they don’t. We’ll never know. The Bulls also shanked 10 free throws. The most painful of those misses came when Derrick Rose short-armed two in a row with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter and the Heat leading only 73-69. It also hurt when Taj Gibson failed to convert the free throw on an “And 1? opportunity with 2:29 left and the Heat up 78-75.

From Danny Savizky, Hardwood Paroxysm: There’s such a stigma about softness in the NBA. It’s commonplace to idolize those players who embody toughness, who sweat blood, who play through pain, who seek out contact like Eddy Curry seeks out all-you-can-eat buffets, who fear no opponent. Now it’s just as normal to belittle the finesse players — the ones who spare viewers the macho routine, who don’t need to feel dominant to play basketball. Basketball is a sport of grace, that requires the utmost focus and skill — the greatest player will be a meticulous tactician, a heady player who knows what he’s doing. Basketball is a game of grace and fluidity, but it seems that those qualities can only be appreciated if there’s a ferocity underscoring them. It’s really not surprising that the embrace of manliness has come to the fore. As the NBA has evolved, the game has become decreasingly physical, metamorphosing from a game primarily defined by bruisers to a game appreciably defined by skill. Many feel a need for sports to be contests of strength and hatred for one’s opponents, so it makes sense that these fans would cling to those aspects of classic basketball and long for more of that style.

From Janis Carr, OC Register: An oversight or are the Lakers taking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for granted? Those are two explanations offered up by the former Lakers great as to why he doesn’t have a statue outside of Staples Center, leaving him feeling “slighted.” Abdul-Jabbar, who helped the Lakers attain five NBA championships, said the team owes him a statue, alongside other former Lakers Magic Johnson and Jerry West. There also are statues of Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya. “I don’t understand (it). It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Sporting News in a recent interview. “I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight. I feel slighted.”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Any Laker fan who goes through their DVR can find countless clips documenting Pau Gasol’s lackluster showing in the playoffs. There’s the dramatic: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson berating Gasol and thumping him on his chest during a timeout in the team’s Game 3 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Gasol expressed frustration whenever Dirk Nowitzki nailed a difficult jumper over him; when his (Gasol’s) shooting slump continued or when he missed a defensive rotation. There’s the execution: Gasol appeared passive on offense and avoided contact in the lane. He mostly gave up on defense. And he left most of the rebounding duties to Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. From Drew Cleszynski, Stadium Journey: There are a handful of venues in each sport that seem to transcend the balance. Baseball enthusiasts enjoy the historical venues – Fenway Park, Wrigley Park, and the old Yankee Stadium. The NFL loves its modern bells and whistles in Lucas Oil Stadium and Cowboy Stadium while the NHL tends to judge its best venues in terms of fan bases. Certainly Madison Square Garden in New York and the banners hanging at TD Garden in Boston hold a place in a basketball fan’s heart. In recent years however, the Staples Center has seemingly become the basketball capital of the world. With its’ futuristic look and cascading lights atop the arena, the venue has become one of the most identifiable in all of sports. It hosts not one, but two NBA franchises and can facilitate a home game for both the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the same day!

At FB&G, we’ve long said that the Lakers will go as far as their defense takes them; that for the Lakers to be successful, they’ll need a defensive identity Against the Mavs, this proved accurate as the Lakers couldn’t get the stops they needed, ultimately getting swept out of the playoffs when Dirk, Terry, Barrea, and Peja compromised their defensive schemes so completely that the Lakers looked clueless on how to play defense by the time game 4 rolled around. With this being the case, it seems strange that nearly every coaching candidate discussed has been spoken about in terms of what their offensive system would be.

When the name Brian Shaw comes up, we turn our minds to the continuation of the triangle offense. When Rick Adelman is mentioned, we instantly bring up his “corner” offense that incorporates a lot of the same read and react principles that the Lakers are used to from running the triangle all these years. Even when Jerry Sloan’s name is floated, one of the first things mentioned is his “flex” offense that is also based off ball and player movement where diverse skill sets from the players are needed to successfully run his offense. I’ve been guilty of this myself.

But, the Lakers mustn’t forget defense when considering their next head coach. Whoever is hired will not only need to inspire the players to play top shelf D, but will need to devise a scheme and system that the players can execute to be successful. As Luke Walton mentioned in his exit interview:

I don’t think this team was ready for all that adjustment (on defense). I think we were just too inconsistent on the defensive end, teams were getting too many open shots…if we do keep the same defense, having that much more time starting it in training camp. It was a complex defense, and it took all five people (being) on the same page.

So which coaches have proven that they can coach defense? Some numbers and information on the defenses from some of the candidates:

*Brian Shaw has never been a head coach, but this past season the Lakers finished 6th in defensive efficiency. However, that number isn’t really representative of how well the Lakers actually played D nor necessarily representative of Brian Shaw. For most of the season, the Lakers hovered around the 10th most efficient D and when they did make their jump to 6th it was mostly attributed to the work that Chuck Person did in revamping the Lakers’ scheme. At this point, it’s tough to say how much Shaw influenced the defensive side of the ball over his tenure with the Lakers.

*Rick Adelman’s defenses have given mixed results. Last year the Rockets ranked 19th in defensive efficiency. The season before that they were 17th. However, in the two seasons before those the Rockets ranked 4th and 2nd in defensive efficiency. Those results show a wide variance in success and it’s fair to question how much his schemes and ability to motivate are responsible or how much the personnel limitations he faced (with Yao Ming missing nearly all of the last two years) affected his team’s ability to defend.

*Mike Dunleavy’s defenses followed a similar path to those of Rick Adelman’s. After the Clippers defended terribly in his first season (28th in defensive efficiency), they jumped to 13th then to 8th then to 10th in the following three seasons. However, those years of strong defensive numbers were followed by seasons of ranking 19th and then 27th in his last two complete years as Clipper head man.

*In Jerry Sloan’s last 4 complete seasons with the Jazz his teams had defensive efficiency rankings of 18th, 12th, 10th, and 10th. He was known as a coach that preached physical play and the Jazz consistently led the league in FT’s allowed. This is a stark contrast from the style of defense the Lakers played this past season as they were one of the teams that fouled the least and consistently tried to protect the paint by using length rather than brute force.

*In Jeff Van Gundy’s 4 years in Houston, his teams played stellar defense and as a head coach he’s the only person listed who’s probably better known for his work on that side of the ball. His teams ranked 4th, 6th, 3rd, and 3rd in defensive efficiency using a physical, disciplined style that consistently limited the opposition’s offense. However, it should be noted that Tom Thibodeau was the lead assistant on those Rockets teams and it’s been proven since Van Gundy’s retirement that any credit that JVG’s defenses have earned should be shared with Coach Thibs. This isn’t to discount Van Gundy, but in working with Doc Rivers in Boston and now as the head man in Chicago, it’s obvious that Thibodeau has a great mind for defensive basketball and having him on a staff truly does create a better defensive team.

Obviously these numbers don’t tell the entire story. All of these coaches have had at least one top 10 defense in their recent coaching histories all have shown that they can work effectively on that side of the ball. Personnel will also play a part in any defense’s success as having anchors on the wing and in the paint will boost the ability of any D to get stops.

The Lakers have proven that they have some good defensive pieces (Artest, Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe are all above average defenders) so there will not be a lack of talent to work with. Where these coaches will need to succeed is limiting the areas where the Lakers are weaker defensively (at point guard, in defending the P&R) and getting this team to focus consistently on getting stops. Who that coach will be is still a mystery, but in choosing him it needs to be a variable that informs the decision.