Lakers to flaunt defensive muscles

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Gritty, no-nonsense defense is not the first thing that springs to mind when assessing the National Basketball Association championship credentials of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ever since the 1980s heyday of the “Showtime” Lakers, the franchise has become synonymous with the kind of
in-your-face flamboyance befitting a team based in the entertainment capital of the world.

Yet a dismal 2021-2022 campaign has forced the Lakers to spend their pre-season focusing on rebuilding a defense that last year leaked 115.2 points per game — the third-worst total in the league.

Two years after winning a record-tying 17th NBA crown, last season’s Lakers regressed badly, finishing with a 33-49 record and missing out on a playoff berth.

A roster rebuild that saw the arrival of Russell Westbrook and the departure of several players involved in the 2020 title run was seen by many as the main reason behind the Lakers defensive demise.

“Defense,” was the verdict of LeBron James recently when asked what areas he hoped to see the team improve this year.

“Obviously you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the hole for sure. You know in our league there’s teams that can do that,” James added.

“But teams that can defend and get stops when needed — they’re just simply more successful in our league.”

“The defensive side of the floor is what we’re going to be hammering home on every single day.”

“Understanding that we can defend, make teams take tough shots, keep them to one shot at the goal, and then rebound and secure the ball puts us in position to be successful throughout the season.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham, meanwhile, says the Lakers’ defensive problems can be solved by a holistic tactical approach, describing his coaching style as “360-degree” basketball.

“You hear about these offensive gurus, or these defensive gurus — both sides of the ball affect one another,” Ham said.

“If you’re able to play great defense, then your offense is going to look great, because you’re not playing against a set defense.”

“If you’re allowing people to score, then your offense is going to struggle because you’re playing against a set defense.”

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