Do The Lakers Need To Go Back To Elementary School?
As of this writing, the Lakers are 18-3. That record is highly misleading considering all the grumblings from Laker Land about the recent play by the Lakers. Perhaps the bitching and moaning can be attributed to peoples’ big city egos and the general dissatisfaction with this championship-caliber team. Remember, Laker fans have a high standard of success. They know that 18-3 is an excellent record, but they are upset that it’s still behind the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s all relative.
This is why Kurt Rambis, the Lakers’ assistant coach, was asked about the state of the Lakers’ defense during his weekly interview on the PMS show on AM 570 KLAC. He says that the recent Laker slump isn’t really just about defense, but a general lack of intensity during the last few games. One case in point that Rambis brings up was a sequence against the Sacramento Kings where 3 weakside Laker defenders were on their respective assignments, but had their back to the basketball on the strongside. Kurt Rambis brought this glaring mistake to bear by claiming that staying on one’s man, while watching the ball is something that “should have been learned in elementary school.” Similarly, during the Phoenix Suns game on Wednesday, Rambis mentioned how a missed free throw by a Sun led to a football pass down the length of the court for an easy score, even though the Lakers knew that the Suns had no timeouts remaining and would do such a thing. Again, its this lack of focus that Rambis reiterated.
From a technical standpoint, Rambis expanded on why the high screen and roll seems to give the Lakers a lot of trouble. First, he mentions how the refs are allowing moving picks. Think of all the moving picks that Garnett set on the Lakers during the Finals last year. This then causes our perimeter defenders to run into the screen-setters’ hips and puts the defender in a delayed situation. However, Rambis ultimately blames the Laker defense’s lack of communication. The perimeter defender is partly at fault for not staying in front of his man. The help defender is partially at fault because he’s not telling the perimeter defender if he’s going to get up on the pick or help with the penetration. Everyone in Laker Land doesn’t understand why Jordan Farmar, probably the first or second most athletic Laker, can’t stay in front of his man. Rambis attributes this to the system that Jordan played under at UCLA. He says that Jordan is used to Bruin bigs getting up on the pics, whereas the Laker bigs generally stay at home. This confusion has to be overcome with communication and instantaneous reads by both players.
This Laker youth and complacency of thinking that they can just “turn it up whenever they want to” needs to be kept to a minimum. The Lakers are so talented that these thoughts do enter the mind. After all, the Lakers have probably won half of the games without even trying. But as the season progresses, too many teams are going to be gunning for victories over this team. All the Lakers need to do is to keep their level of play on pace with the Celtics and the Cavs, not the competition that night. Sadly, our defensive statistics are behind both teams at this moment. Because the Lakers don’t adhere to a certain philosophy, they tend to play to the level of competition that night. They do just enough to win that night. Though that is the “American Way,” that isn’t going to build the right habits for this team to take it to the next level.
So the question remains. Who’s going to crack the whip in L.A.? We all know who cracks the whip in Boston. Just ask Glen Davis.