Lakers’ Defensive Problems Include Kobe Bryant

Darius Soriano —  December 10, 2012

Last week, before the OKC game, I was asked whether the Lakers’ bigger problems were on offense or on defense. To me, this answer was, and remains, clear. It’s the defense.

The Lakers’ have fundamental problems on D, mostly related to denying dribble penetration and how they don’t always help the helper. Any team can make the first rotation just fine, but the difference between a solid defense and an elite one is the ability to make the second and third rotation on any given possession. Right now, the Lakers don’t make those late possession rotations very well and they’re paying for it.

But those are the big picture issues. On an individual level, this defense is failing countless times over the course of the game. And while no one is immune, there are players whose bad habits are sticking out like a sore thumb. And while it may be difficult for some people to hear, one of the chief culprits is Kobe Bryant.

Mr. Bean may be playing his heart out on offense (we’ll get to this later) but he’s not showing that same commitment to the defensive side of the ball. There are multiple possessions each game in which he makes fundamental mistakes and it’s costing the Lakers. Again, he’s not alone. But as a leader of the team, he needs to be doing better.

One of Kobe’s chief mistakes is that he gets caught watching the ball too often:

On this play, Kobe is playing on the weak side and his man (Gordon Hayward) is in the corner. Kobe is intently watching the ball on the strong side wing while peeking at the action in the paint to see if the ball is going to be whipped into one of the Jazz big men off their interior screen action. While all that’s happening, Hayward cut back door. Kobe, never once looking at his man, only reacted to the pass and fouled a mid-air Hayward who was trying to make the catch.

At the lowest levels of organized basketball, players are asked to see the ball and their man. Kobe loses his man at the very start of this possession and never found him again until committing the foul.

Kobe also has a nasty habit of watching the ball and going for steals that aren’t that likely, and compromising the rest of the defense in the process:

On this play Kobe is guarding DeMarre Carroll, who starts on the strong side but then drifts to the weak side as the Jazz run a sideline P&R. Once Carroll clears the side, Kobe again is mostly watching the ball and cheating towards Enes Kanter who is setting up for a mid-range jumper. The ball never goes to Kanter, however, and instead is skipped to Carroll spotting up on the wing. Kobe tries to steal the pass, fails, and then doesn’t recover to Carroll quick enough to deny penetration. Meeks, hoping to try and play two players, cheats off the strong side corner (a cardinal sin in basketball) to help on Carroll. Like Kobe, Meeks is unsuccessful in slowing Carroll but also gives up the pass to the corner. Hayward makes the Lakers pay by hitting the wide open three.

Kobe’s mistakes here aren’t so drastic but he made several on that single play. Going for the steal was likely the worst offense since it put him in a position where he couldn’t contain the penetration of his man. Scouting tells you that Carroll isn’t a three point shooter so denying his drive is the number one goal of defending him. Once Kobe let Carroll get by him, the greater integrity of the defense was compromised and that was that.

On this last possession, Kobe simply plays a lazy brand of defense that hurt the Lakers on two separate occasions:

This play starts with Kobe on the left baseline guarding Randy Foye. The Jazz run a screen action to free Foye coming across the lane. When Ron’s man comes to screen Kobe, you see him not want to fight through the pick and calls out a late switch to Ron. This leads to Foye getting a wide open jumper that Ron barely contested due to the timing of the switch. To make matters worse, after switching onto Marvin Williams, Kobe didn’t box out and allowed Williams to sneak underneath Howard to tip in the missed shot. Two lazy plays on one possession for Kobe, there.

While I’m singling out Kobe here, he’s not the only one playing this way. On one of the first plays of the game, Ron got beat on an alley oop to Marvin Williams where he was watching the ball similar to Kobe in the first clip. I could have put up multiple clips of Jamison losing his man on screens and getting beat off the dribble, not only from the Jazz game but from every game this season. If the Lakers’ defensive problems were a one man issue, that would be simple enough. They’re not and that complicates matters a great deal.

What further complicates things is that Kobe is a major culprit. His off ball defense stands out as particularly poor this year. He’s gambling for steals, losing sight of his man, and roaming in ways that make the team’s defense structurally unsound. In essence, Kobe is making the easy choice way too often rather than making the harder play that is more taxing physically.

In a way, this is easy to understand. Kobe is playing heavy minutes (44 hard ones against the Jazz) and is carrying a tremendous burden on offense. The energy he’s expending on that side of the ball is massive and to think that won’t affect him in other areas would be a silly conclusion, especially for a 17 year veteran. That said, he’s clearly coasting on defense in order to conserve energy on offense and that simply won’t do. Not only does it hurt the team in countless tangible ways, it sets a bad example for how the team needs to play on that end of the floor.

Dwight Howard was brought in to help solve some of the Lakers’ defensive woes. And, he too can be better than he has been. But he can’t make up for everyone’s mistakes. Jamison and Duhon are turnstiles on D. Ron is getting beat more this season than in year’s past. And Kobe, as shown, isn’t holding up his end of the bargain. As a leader and a yearly member of the all-defensive team, he needs to be better.

Darius Soriano

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72 responses to Lakers’ Defensive Problems Include Kobe Bryant

  1. One weak link on defense affects all 5 guys. 2 or 3 weak links…..well, that’s what we’re seeing quite often. They also give up dribble penetration way too easily…Dwight can’t clean up everything.

  2. No arguements with any of that – nicely done Darius. Lakers just about need to go thru all the fundamental “defense on a string drills” to get some semblance of rotations down. The whole team is accountable but its especially noticable when its kobe, Ron, Howard etc… At some point due to personel they’re going to have to decide if they are taking away the interior or 3 pt line – can’t guard everything so they need to get really good and at least have one strength. If every game comes down to the other team winning by getting hot from outside c’est la vie – but you can’t lose the points in the paint at the same time. guys need to concentrate on keeping their man in front of them and in sight and not gamble.

  3. This has been Kobe for the past 2 or 3 seasons now, but hey, he’s part of the 30 thou club now!

  4. I’m wondering Darius , do you think the players (Kobe; Ron) are caught looking so often because they know that the other players struggle so much with dribble penetration?

    I don’t really know why that would be, since the Lakers haven’t had a PG who could play defense in like 15years.

    But it doesn’t really make sense why players who have been fundamentally sound defensively are no longer playing that way (Aside, as you point out, laziness/unable to garner that much energy).

  5. Can’t stand when Kobe roams around in no mans land gambling for steals. Even if he gets a steal this team is so bad on the break it’s not a sure bucket…at best the Lakers are looking to get fouled on a lot of their fast breaks. You don’t mind as much if guys like Westbrook/Lebron gamble, because it’s a dunk at the other end off a steal every time.

  6. Dark times for the Lakers…

  7. Good work. Since I have been mentioning Kobe’s defense more or less daily, I was glad to see this post.

    Here is what I said in the other thread:

    1. D’Antoni needs to look in the mirror. The Knicks are 33-11 since he left and the Lakers are 4-7 since he came.
    2. Kobe needs to look in the mirror WRT his D.
    3. It does not appear to me that Howard wants to be here. I think that needs to be addressed.
    4. Kupchak needs to think about how he is putting the bench together and needs to look at getting some cheap athleticism on the roster, and/or another back-up PG.

    To be clear here, I am not saying that some male bonding or some soul-searching on the plane to Cleveland will fix everything or even anything. But I think it needs to happen.

  8. Not sure whether it is more noticeable this year because of his age (and inability to recover), or the team’s overall weakness, but Kobe’s roving defense and lack of attention off the ball is not at all new. He’s been this way for years; motivated to guard the opposing team’s best player (even if a PG) down the stretch, but very, very sloppy on off the ball defense on his own man.

    I’d like to see the Lakers’ two best perimeter defenders (MWP and Kobe) just make a concerted effort to shutting down their guys, and letting Dwight deal with the inability of our PGs and PF’s to keep their men in front of them. It would be one thing if Kobe was leaving his man to rotate over to cover for DH12 when he goes to block a shot, but that’s not what’s going on….

  9. Teams should just practice wind sprints before they play the Lakers, Old legs cant keep up.

  10. Kobe has to sacrifice some of his offensive energy in order to give a better effort on defense. This past summer, Kobe played pretty strong defense on the Olympic team, because his offense wasn’t as necessary on a team with all that firepower. With the Lakers, his role is to spearhead the scoring. The Lakers have been protecting Kobe on defense for years, with Derek Fisher usually taking on the opposition’s leading backcourt threat.

    Darius is absolutely right in suggesting that Kobe lead by example on defense. But others have to pick up the slack as well. When is the last time we’ve seen a Laker take a charge? Someone opined earlier that the Lakers haven’t had good point guard defense in 15 years. I disagree and would offer an opinion that Derek Fisher provided strong perimeter defense up until the point where age caught up with him.

    Having a healthy Nash running a more efficient offense will improve the defense as well. Kobe and others won’t have to exert as much effort on offense and should be able to have more impact on defense. But, each Laker has to take it upon himself to be active and helping on the unglamorous side of the floor.

  11. Thanks for having the guts to call out the Great Mamba publicly Darius. I find even more disconcerting his propensity to throw up his arms and glare at the refs in disgust nearly every time he misses a contested shot instead of hustling back to help on the ensuing breakaways. Great leadership there, most definitely…

  12. From BaskProspectus via Kevin Pelton–

    Frontcourt Min ORtg DRtg Net
    Gasol/Howard 415 107.4 103.9 + 3.5
    Jamison/Howard 175 113.3 100.8 +12.5
    Hill/Howard 143 108.4 116.9 – 8.5
    Hill/Gasol 110 114.4 92.9 +21.4
    Jamison/Gasol 67 133.6 108.4 +25.2

    Pelton suggests that trading Hill might be better than trading Gasol.

  13. I just wonder who on the coaching can create a defensive scheme that players will buy into and will work. And part of the buy in has to come from Kobe. If he is honest on defense, it will harder for others to slack off. Kobe already cost us the game against the Spurs. If he was properly following his man, it would have been much tougher for green to get the last shot off.

  14. Despite everything, I still believe the Lakers can do very well this year. Tighten the defense. Limit the turnovers. We’ve seen encouraging things from Duhon, Meeks, Hill and Jamison. The starters need to get healthy and play like they can.

  15. It’s a shame how awful their defense has been. They are capable of playing good defense, but Kobe and Metta haven’t played an ounce of defense since dantoni arrived. It’s sad that Kobe used to be one of the best defensive players in the league and now he won’t even get within 5 ft of his man. Metta has lossed focus on the defensive end with his newfound offensive freedom. Two out of the three leaders on the floor are just mailing in on the defensive end. Until they take in upon themselves to give consistent effort, they lakers will continue struggle. They need to get it together before they dig themselves into to deep of a hole.

  16. I’m sick of watching Kobe’s man (who usually isn’t a scorer) go off for big games because Kobe refuses to respect him or gambles. A decent wing player in the NBA can hit an open jumper with decent regularity. Didn’t Kobe get it when the Spurs admitted they were setting up the last shot for his man!

    How many times has he gone for the steal (and missed) on a pass when his man is 30 feet from the basket forcing his teamates to scramble to cover the extra offensive player?

    The funny thing was when Dwight called him out on his defense last week and Kobe gave a lecture via Facebook on how “his style of leadership” isn’t going to change. If this team implodes and Dwight walks in the off season the resulting mess will be a part of Kobe’s legacy along with where ever he ends up on the all time scoring list.

  17. 1/2decaf1/2regular December 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    i am sure not a question of desire or effort.. so hopefully that part is not in doubt in this discussion… i’m sure kobe is trying to pick and choose his spots and knows his own limitations physically better than anybody else.. at some point somebody else is gonna have to pick up the scoring slack.. until then we cant have our cake and eat it too.

  18. This has been Kobe’s defense for the past 2 to 3 years. The fact that he’s been stealing all 1st defense team spots off reputation alone from more deserving defenders (Tony Allen comes to mind) is a travesty.

  19. “Didn’t Kobe get it when the Spurs admitted they were setting up the last shot for his man!”
    That’s the really frustrating part. Teams are counting on Kobe to roam. He doesn’t seem to get that. With that said, him and Ron have old legs. They can only keep them shuffling for so long. Due to Ron’s size and strength he is decent against slower, half court teams. But there’s only a few of them left. The league is changing. Everyone is going up tempo. Him and Kobe can get lost in transition pretty easily.

  20. @ TRogers

    Good points; many here have talked about Kobe playing more 3 with Meeks at the 2.

  21. Now here’s a topic that’s close to my heart. In fact, just last night at Staples, I found myself screaming at Kobe for his abysmal ‘what me worry?’ defense… but alas, all I have to show for it is a sore throat and a creeping sense of despair.

    His two biggest problems, as I see them:

    1. being allowed to play free safety. which begs the question, ‘why?’ does DH need help with Al Jefferson? With Enes (avoid the rhyme if you can!) Kanter? And, if so, is Kobe even providing any help at all by just camping in the paint?! This has been an issue since the Phil days — Phil, Mike Brown, and D’Antoni might not agree on much but apparently they all think it’s a great strategy for Kobe to wander around the paint around like an escaped alzhiemer’s patient — but what is actually gained in exchange for Kobe leaving his man wide open? This season, Kobe is averaging 1.7 steals per game and a whopping 0.1 blocks per game. Last season, it was a less than impressive 1.2 SPG and 0.3 BPG. What a joke! We fail to derive any appreciable benefit from Kobe not guarding his man, but how often have we seen guys like Gordon Hayward or Aaron Affalo go crazy as they are essentially unguarded? Worse, he then has the temerity to yell at his teammates. Pau might get schooled on D, but at least he moves his feet and gives it a try. This is just terrible leadership and one can only imagine the ill-will it engenders among his teammates.

    2. Complaining about calls when he is stripped going up for a layup at the expense of hurrying back and finding his man. Several times last night, the Jazz scored in transition before Kobe even reached half-court. Want to know how bad I think this is? I used to complain that it seemed like Kobe thought he was fouled on every play, including those where the replay clearly showed zero contact. But those were the good old days for me. Now, I sincerely believe that Kobe often doesn’t even really believe he was fouled, but uses complaining as an excuse not to have to hurry back and play defense.

    I realize Kobe is overstretched offensively playing without a real PG, but I’d take a lot less offense and a greater effort on defense both now, and after Nash returns. Even if this led to losses, I think it send the right message to players like Meeks and Jamison that they need to ‘follow the leader’ on that side of the ball.

    What does it say about a player who is constantly applauded for his ‘unparalleled work ethic’ when, in fact, it is more accurate to say that it applies to only half of his game?

    (Meanwhile, AJ defends as if no one ever told him it is within the the rules of professional basketball that the player with the ball is permitted to dribble it towards the basket with the intention of scoring….)

    I’ve attended all but 2 games so far this season, but I am really doubting how much more of this I can take. Maybe, like Pau, I could use a little rest. I think I have tendinitis of my vocal cords.

  22. What killed the Lakers last night was poor transition defense, Mo Williams, Pau Milsap, Kanter, and poor transition defense……..but hey, it must be Kobe’s fault.

    It seems D’Antoni wants the team to aggressively go after offensive boards. The Lakers are slow in transition to begin with, but when the strategy is to go after offensive boards, transition defense will always suffer unless the players secure a large portion of the offensive boards or make an even higher percentage of their shots. For this reason, teams like the Celtics rarely go after offensive boards, while everyone sprints back on defense. D’Antoni pointed out that transition defense was the main factor in the loss, but you can’t have it both ways.

    Another issue with the defense is that the team rarely traps PGs on the perimeter, nor do they double players like Milsap, despite the fact that he was scoring at will in one on one situations. Just watch the Bulls play D. Thibideau is a master at preventing players from getting into a good rhythm by trapping, doubling and running back on D. DAntoni is the master of getting opposing players into a better rhythm.

    Duhon may be getting abused by opposing PGs, but he is by far, a better defender than Nash…not even close. When Nash returns, it will be even more crucial for the coaching staff to come up with better, and less predictable defensive schemes. I don’t have much faith in DAntoni to come up with one, so perhaps Chuck Persons or someone else on the staff can step up to the plate.

  23. Lakers perimeter as a whole lack foot speed and hustle. We had some of those guys but farmar, sasha, ariza, 08-10 kobe, brown, fisher are gone. All had the ability to stay in front of their man and used athleticism for steals and make up ground when out of position. Lakers lack that foot speed now and hustle players. Even vlad was quick and powell, mbenga hustled. Kobe is a huge part of this problem but everybody is getting taken off the dribble. Need some youth and athleticism to have a chance on the perimeter guards are too good now.

  24. Defense: The defensive discussion is a microcosm of the overall discussion. We are clearly top heavy in that we have a few guys who “should” be able to play great defense, and we have some guys who never have.Our top heavy guys are not performing up their expectations. The fact that the top is not performing up to expectations leads to further issues with the bench and lesser players. Like I said – defense is a microcosm of the overall issue. Pau and Nash (when they return) are weak defensively and while good O helps the D, it does not solve it. So – what would I do? I would get in KB’s grill and show him evidence like above. Risky proposition – but it needs to be done. I would do the same for MWP + DH. We need better from them – show them where/how and motivate them. Then I would design defensive systems that do not maximize our weaknesses (problem now if there are too many weaknesses). So in conclusion, we need someone to motivate us, someone to give us tough love, someone to design new systems, someone to work some MWP mind control, someone to work with DH’s lack of motivation, and someone who can challenge Kobe without alienating him. Sounds like a tough job.

  25. I remember brown was a huge chasedown block threat. Ariza would shoot passing lanes and Sasha would press his man full court. Lakers had athletes who could make plays off athleticism and instincts. Now our best chance is positional defense and with undisciplined players it won’t work. Simple solution is get guys who want to play defense and athletes.

  26. Also chiming in to praise this post. I also think that Howard seems to be in a funk, and wondering if this is part of the reason. If no one helps him consistently when he rotates to defend, I wouldn’t blame him for settling for a half-hearted effort during this losing streak.

    And while we all criticized DFish while he was here, at least he was willing to fight through screens, which was critical when matching up with Ray Allen.

    It’s bad when we’re pining for the “good old days” when Sasha would foul someone 50 ft from the basket…

  27. Joe Atlanta,

    You get points for being consistent. If the Lakers defended other teams as consistently as you defend Kobe they would be on track to break the Bulls 72 win record.

  28. Joe Atlanta,
    The post wasn’t meant to surmise why the Lakers lost to the Jazz. The clips were handy and detail what I’ve seen a lot of this season, so I used them.

  29. many here have talked about Kobe playing more 3 with Meeks at the 2.
    I definitely believe that’s what we’ll see more of – we’ve seen bits in pieces thus far – once Nash returns. Especially taking into account Coach D’s penchant for offense. However, 2 issues concern me in regards to this lineup:

    1. How much more will Kobe’s (lack of) defense be exposed trying to guard SF’s.

    2. There’s a high probability that we will lose Ron-Ron due to his lack of floor time.

    That’s why Coach D. will have to be precise with his rotations. Making sure that, against teams who feature prominent scoring 3’s (Bron, Durant, Melo, Gay ..), Ron-Ron gets as much court exposure as possible.

  30. Nash might be the worst defender on the lakers right now besides Antawn. Having him back will only make our defense worst. The lakers need to work out their defensive problems(whether it be more effort or better schemes) now instead of later.

  31. @Inwit, über truth, it will be a part of Kobe’s legacy.
    The situation reminds me of my high school algebra; easiest to solve equation with one variable, 2 variables are more complicated, 3 variables is a juggernaut, I have no idea of how to solve the equation with more variables. The same is with the team, so many problems, so interlinked, but so many in number that there is no simple solution to it. Chemistry, age, defense, injuries, coaching, enthusiasm and many more.
    Trust and chemistry highly correlated.
    Chemistry and enthusiasm also show high synergistic correlation. Coaching+energy=defense.
    Injuries and age are constants and limits.

    Right now, trust is the biggest need as it affects all variables more.
    Karma wise Clippers have the upper hand in LA, but hopefully lakers’ salvation will be over before playoffs begin.
    Thoughts from a Lakers obsessed 🙂

  32. Well put Hindi – its not a simple fix at all.

    @gary Nash will get torched one on one – he’s just not quick enough laterally, but he is a good, smart, underrated team defender when he has good defenders around him. He’s regularly among the tops in league in taking charges and plays smart positionally/rotates well which makes sense since he’s smart. When he had kurt thomas, raja, shawn marion around him he looked average – but w the wrong crew he looks worse. That’s the crux though – getting the rest of the team especially those who have reps for defense to live up to them. Everyone knew who Nash and AJ were and why they were brought in (offense/bench scoring) but the supposed good defenders haven’t consistently played up to par yet.

  33. @jerke exactly that was my point. The rest of the team needs to play better on the defensive end. Howard will need to be there to contest the guards that drive right past Nash. Kobe and Metta need to play up to rep and Steve Clifford(coach who built defense in Orlando around Howard) needs to create a better defensive strategy to make up for the lakers defensive flaws.

  34. @gary -good point re clifford – his defense worked fine Orlando an argueably worse team (sVG phned mike D and reccommended he keep clifford for this exact reason) so I don’t get what is so different here. Can’t hang this all on Mike D defensively – I just wonder if Howard is playing so far below his level because of that he’s just not recovering as well as he used to in Orlando.

  35. Great points lil pau..

  36. darius: it’s probably reached that point where we probably need to give it a paul gasol…..a rest.

    we could scream until we’re blue in the face, but our forum is to vent, i mean discuss and provide discord whenever possible to blow off some steam and make point and counter point whenever possible.

    then of course, the lakers can make a right turn, a left turn or a u turn without little or no regard for their fanbase as the apparent half effort on defense rears it’s ugly head more as of late and as a result of the all out effort on offense like robots stuck in the reverse position. seems to reflect the phisophy of it’s current head coach.

    the inverse can be said when the lakers were being coached by the now infamous coach brown: the offense was indefensiably obtuse and many clamored for reasons similar to now because of the continuous losses just a few weeks ago.

    sadly we now look like a runaway train and the scary part is the season is still relatively young. do we put on the brakes, do we add more coal? the crystal ball is crystal hazy and we’re sitting behind the eight ball. what an exciting season.

    Go Lakers

  37. As I understand the NBA game today, the team defense concept necessarily involves containing the damage from the pick and roll and rotating to cover open players. So many teams base their offense around penetration and the three point shot that it’s hard to understand why there is so much confusion in the Laker defense. I know I am oversimplifying things but it seems simple to have a defensive game plan and stay disciplined in the plan’s execution. Cut out the gambling and make them earn their points.

    Maybe the problem is that a gambling, aggressive defense fits in with MD’s offensive philoposhy better and allows more transition baskets. But does this team fit that philosophy or was a Phil Jackson or Mike Brown grind it out philosophy a better fit? Or was the front office adding random pieces (Steve Nash) with no real idea in mind and just hoping it will somehow work?

    Well, at least we should find out soon when Nash returns.

  38. Many are pointing out how old and slow we are. That could be correct, but it is no more correct now than it was last year, and it certainly is no more correct now than it was in September when we were all giddy (the player birthdays were listed on the roster then as well). In any case, if true, that issue is not fixable for this year (probably not next year either). So I will remain in denial for now. In spite of the fact that KenOak has named a town after me : )

  39. Before last season, when the Magic dipped to 12th in defensive efficiency, Orlando ranked 3rd, 3rd, 1st, and 6th in Defensive Efficiency under Stan Van Gundy. No team gets those rankings without being “great”.

  40. @joe – that’s my point. In orlando Howard was perfectly healthy and could recover quicker/faster and that system worked fine for them. However now that he’s recovering from surgery still I just wonder if he’s a step behind – and the recoveries he would normally make in orlando now can’t be made. I don’t ever remeber him calling out teammates there who were worse than kobe – but for now maybe even howard needs a fair amount of help until he’s truly back to being the same guy.

  41. While I admit Kobe is far from an elite defender this season, those videos are a poor example of why.

    In the first video, he caught on to Hayward’s cut just in time to defend it. It just so happened that Hayward jumped into Kobe and a foul was called. He needed to make sure Hayward wasn’t faking a cut and popping back out for a three. Had he committed too early, an open three would have been likely for Hayward.

    In the 2nd video, the attempted steal was justified. He had a very good chance of picking that overhead pass and even though he didn’t, he recovered defensively enough to have contested the shot had his man chosen to shoot the ball. The fault was Meeks helping on his man when he shouldn’t have. Meeks was guarding a lethal three point shooter in Hayward. Dwight was already rotating to help out on the penetration. Did Kobe’s gamble weaken the defense by allowing the penetration? Yes, but the weakness could have been eliminated had the rotations been proper. Kobe does have a nasty habit of gambling on steals, but I agree with his gamble in this case.

    In the 3rd video, I’m not sure how you can find fault with Kobe. He was screened and World Peace was supposed to make the switch. This is a lack of communication on defense rather than it being Kobe or World Peace’s fault.

    I’m definitely playing a bit of a devil’s advocate role when discussing these plays, but I do believe you could have found much better examples. Kobe isn’t free of fault for the Lakers’ defensive problems but he isn’t the biggest problem either. The Lakers aren’t making good 2nd and 3rd rotations like you said. None of these videos show Kobe making bad rotations.

  42. Robert-
    Robertville isn’t just a town, it’s a way of life! I’ve actually gotten a bit frustrated with Kobe’s D, or lack thereof, this year. He is gambling a bit too much and ball watching just as Darius described.

    Perhaps the optimists on this board are right….maybe when Nash comes back and increases the team’s FG percentage and efficiencies, then maybe our defensive level will actually raise up a bit. And then Robertville sucks me back in.

  43. Remember when Howard signed with the Lakers. Within one day, Kobe had an interview saying it was still HIS team, and that in a couple years when he retires it will be Dwight’s.

    What a way to welcome your new teammate! He should read how to be a good teammate 101.
    Terrible way to start a relationship. This is kindergarten stuff.

    Even worse, Dwight is not the kind of player who reacts well to being constrained into a system where Kobe take 2-3x as many shots as everyone else. And, his personality doesn’t fit the Lakers at all. At least not the Kobe’s Lakers personality.

    Bigger problems than poor defense. Huge personality differences. Mike D doesn’t have Phil’s touch, and I don’t even think Phil could make this work.

  44. Great post. One has to imagine that Kobe’s lack of commitment to defense has to feel disrespectful to Howard and his role on the team, which compounds whatever (perceived) funky dynamic they had prior to this season.

    Again, so much of this comes down to chemistry, team identity and everyone needing a clear role. If Kobe’s gonna be the big dog on offense, and Howard needs to support that, this Howard needs to be the big dog on defense, and Kobe needs to support that with his defensive play.

    As others have noted, Kobe has played free safety, gambled on steals, and taken many a play off (esp. when complaining about a no call) for several years now, but his body language **feels** different this season.

  45. Since they can’t stay with guys on defense what about going to a zone? Clogs up the paint and team have to relie on shooting 40% from three?

  46. One reason Kobe may not play defense on his man is because he does not want to get his ‘ankles broken.’ I believe that Kobe believes that there are too many players in this league for him to defend with any level of success. Thus, he stands in no man’s land as an excuse for why he is not guarding his man. That’s no knock on Kobe, it’s more a knock on management.

    Year after year I have begged for them to draft defensive/athletic players yet they never do/did. When the Lakers got Ariza I was so excited to have an athletic player that played defense and could shoot threes, then we let him go for Ron Artest. Ron Artest was useful on defense against the threes in the league that Kobe could no longer guard–James, Durant, Ron Artest morphed into Metta a player that last year was woefully inefficient on offense until the game against OKC. But, this year as his offense improved his defense has declined.

    In post game interviews Howard repeatedly talks about the offense going inside out and he has become lethargic on defense because he CANNOT clean up all of the Lakers problems on defense. We have all watched him leave his man to stop the drive in the paint, to only have that man pass the ball to his man for a dunk/score. Help the helper, the Lakers are not helping Howard on defense. So, yea he’s not giving his all. He is used to being the main cog on a team, not playing second banana to EVERY shooter on the Lakers team. Then to be the scrub to rebound and play defense.

    Everyone attacks Dwight Howard for coming back ahead of schedule to play with the Lakers, by saying that he is stiff and is not the same player that he was in Orlando. Do you not realize that he was not supposed to play with the Lakers until January. Why not wait until January to see how he’s playing to comment on his ability or lack of ability to play at a level remotely close to what he did in Orlando.

    From the start of this season the Lakers needed to establish themselves on the defensive end. A championship contender knows two things: Games are won by playing defense and rebounding. Concentrating on the offense has been a smoke and mirror campaign to cloud the issue of the real problems that faced this team: the lack of defense and athleticism.

  47. Zone is good. It might even fit Kobe’s way of defense since he loves playing free safety. Also, I observed something about other offenses. There just seems to be alot more ball movement but on the lakers, I feel like the offense is too stagnant. It seems like the players are having alot of trouble getting easy shots. Perhaps its because lakers don’t have any guys(besides kobe, sometimes duhon,morris) who can consistently penetrate the lane which leaves the defense scrambling. Nash might help with that.

  48. and it certainly is no more correct now than it was in September when we were all giddy

    Any fanbase would be giddy after getting Nash and Howard. At the same time, it was painfully obvious that this team had concerns with:


    Many things have gone wrong in all of those areas. The question was whether the star power could overcome these things. With Nash and Gasol out, the answer is obviously “no” right now.

  49. 2. There’s a high probability that we will lose Ron-Ron due to his lack of floor time.

    It occurred to me that if Pau is OK (far, far from certain) that the Lakers could consider trading Hill for a 1 or a 3 and in turn playing some smallball at times with Kobe at the 3 and MWP at the 4. There would be obvious risks, but it might work in some matchups.

  50. How far do lakers have to fall for season to be lost? 9-16. 15-30. It’s gut check time on this road trip season could be lost soon. It’s going to take at least 42 wins for a west spot. Forget the finals the goal needs to get in playoffs you’d hate to admit simmons was right.

  51. It will take 55 wins to make the 5th seed. That means they have to go 46 and 14 the rest if the season. Sooooo that’s not happening.

    More likely 41 and 19 which gives then 50 wins 32 losses and a 6 seed. Means that open with Spurs, clips or Griz in first round.

    A 35 and 25 rest of the season makes them a 44 win team and 8th place.

    Any way you look at it this will be the highest paid most disappointing Laker team in 40 years.

    Reality bites!

  52. This trip is CLE NY WSH PHL, so 2-2 seems likely.

    Irving is expected to play tomorrow.

  53. Oh yea by the way.

    D. Fish shot 50%, scored 11 points and had 6 assists and 2 steals in the Dallas game last night. Probably ran down courts also. Barnes, LO, Fisher. Guys who now play hard, care and have a champs heart. Total salaries of about $4 million or Clark and Duhon.

    Sure do love the Jimmy Buss years.

  54. Nash will redefine a lot of roles on offense, that would have its effect on how players feel on offense. He will be a responsible elder who will treat everyone the way they should be treated. Kobe is trying to do that but his persona comes in the way. Hard to see he is still so stiff as a person. We say you can’t change the habits of elderly people, they have been life long and there is no point in arguing about it.
    Nash should make Dwight feel better, gasol should be motivated as Nash took stand for him, Kobe won’t have to expend so much on offense, so his D should improve, the overall happy vibes should encourage everyone. The lineup on paper is very skilled, a lot of the things are just psychological right now. Nash should be able to soothen the locker room..pau still has a lot of game we saw in Olympics, Dwight has been the best centre coming in, Kobe is Kobe, and well Nash, his game is lot more than just passing and shooting, he is a true leader on and off court. And mike d antoni thrives on Steve Nash, without him he never really found an identity. I am not really stressing that Steve Nash is the panacea we have been seeking, but yea he will have his impact. He ain’t going to HOF just because he is a good passer and shooter. Age is a factor but if he fixes the pyschological issues, that should be a great push, as theoretically speaking we don’t lack talent. Something else has been rearing its ugly head since long. So take a deep breathe, blow a little air out of nose and cross your fingers. You could comd up with a lot of new issues everyday , but I have observed that it’s hard to point out a solid fact that has been constant in all losses, new issues come up every time. You could cry for bench production one day and tomorrow you could whine on the lackadaisical starter effort. You could make a thread to analyse the situation in one game and it might not hold meaningful in the next game, as some very new questions appear. I really feel the actual issue runs deeper, we will see in future. I won’t make any predictions for future, not even for the next game, obviously not until we are with our full functional roster.

  55. Nice article but over killing,Kobe cannot do offense and defense 100 percent consistently.He is playing as well as he can this year.
    However,Lakers are out of sorts unlucky somewhat.Dwight is playing listless.What happened?Too much money and complacence
    Maybe we should wait Kobe’s finish line and start from scrap.

  56. The article above describes how Nash could be the remedy for the Lakers’ strugling defense.

    If Nash handles most of the playmaking, Kobe’s minutes dwindle even just a little bit, then Kobe can recommit himself on defense… voila!

  57. Lakers 9-12 well, listen to a true Laker, Magic Johnson.

    ~~It is defense that creates run and gun offense. It is team camaraderie that makes a ball club jell. Right now, I see individualism, lack of athleticism and sloth in the Lakers line up. Gasol is being forced to play his weakest point to be a brutish beast and a spot shooter.

    In summary, we are still the Lakers, don’t let other coaches from a journeyman to a super expert to insert a square peg in a round hole.

    Hey Jimbo, I would listen to Magic if you want dynasty. You grew up with the Showtime Lakers why do you have penchant in seeking help from outsiders to run your team. Seek wisdom from within and let Mitch Kupchak run the show. Lately, out of disrespect of Phil Jackson, you have equally displeased the other half of true Laker fans who were disrespected as well. Only the homers who can’t defy authority would be amenable to your crude moves.

  58. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before, but it seems to me Kobe’s transformation into center fielder really became noticeable during the 2008 Finals. That was when he first was put on Rondo, and Phil used him to wreak havoc as a help defender all over the court. That was the same series Doc Rivers called Kobe the “best help defender” since Scottie Pippen. Armchair psychology, but it’s possible Kobe liked that feeling of roaming, swooping in to wreak havoc from all angles and hawk the ball. It seems like he’s never gone back to consistent man-to-man D since then (at least in the NBA).

  59. 10-14 days for Nash as of this mornings reports – fracture has healed fine, suffering nerve irritation that happened during rehab. Making good steady progress, possibly start running soon but Nash himself says he’ll need a week of practice to get his body up to speed.

  60. Snoopy,

    You may be right, but the Rondo strategy arose because Rondo couldn’t shoot. And that strategy worked. Earlier in the playoffs that year Rondo looked like a Super-Duper Star, but they put Kobe on him (and Kobe didn’t guard him) and he relegated back down to an above average player. The strategy totally got into Rondo’s head (and probably got the Lakers a title).

    There is no reason that Kobe should play the same type of defense against wings who are in the league BECAUSE they can shoot. This might be why we have such struggles guarding offenses like San Anotonio – its perilous to have a roamer (unless that roamer is Lebron).

  61. CDog – Yeah, that’s the whole point. It was a wise strategy against Rondo, but it could be Kobe liked it a little too much and started using it every night. I know he didn’t play D this way during the Shaq years, and it’s hard to look at his D in he 05-07 years because he was carrying such an offensive burden. I’d be interested to see if he showed these centerfield tendencies during the 07-08 regular season, though, or if it really did start after Phil deployed him against Rondo. It’s probably not too important when it actually started, but it was just an idle observation.

  62. Snoopy – He was a lot better during the 2008 regular season, even. I think I really started getting ticked off in the 2010 regular season – and it’s not just the roaming. It’s the whole, I gave a bit of an effort recovering to my man, oh he blew by me, oh I’m just going to give up on this whole sequence bit that really got to me; if you know what I mean? I’m sure most observers do at this point. But it’s definitely more of a progressive thing.

  63. Darius:
    I think this is by far your best piece ever. Thank you for having the guts to call Kobe out as the main culprit for the Laker’s defensive issues. I listen to Time Warner Analysts and nobody wants to call Kobe out because they don’t want to be in Kobe’s black-listed book. The leader of the team has to show leadership in all aspects of the game. He plays the most minutes which means his poor defense costs the team heavily. I am not sure if Kobe is physically capable of improving that much on defense as his health issues and age-related athletic decline are partly responsible for his worsening defense over the years. But if the fans see some effort, they will be satisfied. He is just not putting any effort into it, as if he is saying, “I am doing it all on the offense, so don’t expect anything from me on the defensive end”.
    Forum blue and Gold is one of the major media outlets for Lakers’ coverage and you posting this piece will hopefully cause more and more people in the Media to come out and call Kobe out and not let him get away with it so much.
    If it gets enough coverage and the media starts holding him accountable, Kobe, being the competitor that he is, is more likely to be motivated to improve on defense, just to prove people wrong, which will be great for the Lakers in the long run. If Kobe doesn’t turn it around defensively and the Lakers continue to lose at this rate, the Lakers will have to seriously consider using the Amnesty option, since it will free up the most money (30 million) and give them a chance to rebuild quickly with the current CBA.
    I hope the rest of the Media covering the Lakers start talking about Kobe’s defense now that you have.
    Thanks again!

  64. I don’t know why anybody is surprised that the Lakers are having defensive issues. They are scoring enough to win, they just can’t get stops…sound familiar? It’s called every team Mike D’Antoni team ever. Kobe is not the problem. The system is the problem. We’ll see what happens when Nash and Pau come back.

  65. Simonoid – Ha I think everyone knows what you mean. The progressive nature is likely due to age, to some degree. Some part of his game was going to slip with his mileage, and frankly I’m surprised it’s been only the defensive side that’s become sloppy. But while a lot of mistakes are related to energy (and likely, therefore, age) – not fighting through screens, not closing out – there are other mistakes that are inexcusable regardless of energy: the sheer space he gives his man, constantly losing track of his man, etc. No one on our team is helping the helper or communicating particularly well, but I’m not sure anyone ball-watches and loses his man as much as Kobe does, either. Unfortunately that’s not going to change under D’Antoni. He’s many things, but a confrontational coach is not one of them.

  66. The system is the problem.

    As has been documented on many occasions, MDA’s defenses in PHX were not bad, relative to pace, and the Lakers were only 13th in DRTG last year under supposed defensive wiz Mike Brown. The stuff the video clips highlighted is certainly real and important, but the Lakers are simply slow and lack good defensive players. That was apparent before they had played a game with this roster. As I have said many, many, times, the winning formula for this team is be Top 3 in O and Top 10-12 in D. That is what the talent has the ability to do, if it is healthy and clicking.

    As to the media/cultural aspects of Darius’ post, which seem to be an issue for some people, Andy Kamenetzky linked to it today at ESPN, and Darius’ post was welcome. But the corporate MSM plays a different role than bloggers do, and the preoccupations that some people have with Kobe’s position in the game and the supposed lack of criticism he gets and his making the all-D team ( I said last year he does not deserve it) are IMO overstated and a bit tiresome.

  67. @rr – excellent post detailing 4 points to be addressed, hopefully on the team plane to Cleveland –

  68. Darius, this article is a terrible disservice to the Lakers and to Kobe. It is also extremely short-sided. I won’t get into the details, but the only issue is the coaching. The coach is supposed to set the defense; the coach is supposed to admonish the players; the coach is supposed to put the player on the bench if he is blowing defensive assignments as you suggest. The coach is NOT supposed to play a 17 year veteran 44 Minutes against a Sub-500 team in the second month of the Regular season! Also, it’s the owner’s problem for not recognizing that the coach is not right for the players available (3rd time by my count). So instead of complaining about the Player that doesn’t complain about being over-played and asked to change his style of play (from post-up to screen roll) for a system that has NEVER won a championship. Perhaps you should set your sights a little higher and make videos of the people who are making these poor decisions to begin with.

  69. I like that Ken, valid points indeed.

  70. The Lakers have had trouble maintaining focus and energy for two or three years, probably longer they were just able to switch it on and win the the close games. Their defensive rotations are poor from an effort and decision making angle. This article has validity, Kobe needs to lead by example and focus on high effort team defense. Play stronger “D” and Kobe would not have to be on the court as much, maybe we could be in a better position late in the game and he would not have to try to take over every offensive possession with the resultant turnovers that are way up in crunch time the last two years. We have Howard as an anchor, we can finally start defending pick and rolls effectively with him. This defense can be fixed. The silver lining that could manifest itself is that as a result of the injuries, coaching changes, losing instead of winning some close games, is that “Defensive Focus and Energy” becomes the standard. When Nash and Pau come back strong, Howard gets stronger and sharper and when Kobe can play less minutes and have more in the tank to finish games and the rest of the team can jell, we may be in a much better position for a championship run.

  71. Oh yes, everyone is perfect and flawless, but kobe is bad… Really?