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Lakers' new defensive scheme paying off during recent winning streak

After one too many poor Laker defensive performances where the team appeared exposed on screen and rolls, help defense, closeouts, transition defense, you name it, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and assistant coach Chuck Person added a few tweaks to a defensive scheme that has since yielded tangible results.

It started modestly enough with the Lakers' 108-83 win Jan. 5 over the Detroit Pistons, forcing them into 19 turnovers, protected the basket by yielding only 40 points in the paint and holding the Pistons to a three-of-13 mark from three-point range. The effort reached new heights in the Lakers' 109-87 victory Sunday over the New York Knicks, where they held the league's top scoring team (108 points per contest) to 36% shooting. And considering the Lakers (27-11) on Tuesday match up with Cleveland (8-29), the league's fifth worst offensive team, the effort should continue to bring results.

"We're figuring out the defensive system," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "We never really had a system. We've always read and reacted to each other. But I think putting in the system will help us down the road and help us be better. We're just learning."

So what is it the Lakers are exactly learning?

"You wouldn't understand so I appreciate it," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson playfully chided a reporter when asked what specific changes the team's new defensive scheme brings. "I don't mean to demean you like that, but I think it's a little beyond...."

"Yes you do," a reporter chimed in.

"You think I do?" Jackson asked grinning.

Moments later, Jackson outlined to a small group of reporters what the difference has entailed.

The guard goes underneath their teammate and over the top of the pick. What happens in that regard is now you have a big guy rolling to the basket and it's got to be picked up by somebody," Jackson said. "On the wing, we're staying consistent with being able to send picks down on the baseline. The rest of the stuff that happens on the backside is what's really the key, how guys come over and help on the baseline to take the charge and the guy that rolls."

In other words, the Lakers now stress more accountability in defending the perimeter, ensuring players don't drive through the middle of the lane and provide themselves enough flexibility so that the frontline doesn't have to leave the basket unattended.

"We want to make sure we influence the ball down the sideline and then to the baseline," Jackson said. "It's not a total departure from what we've done, but we just tweaked it a bit."

Add in the emergence of Lakers center Andrew Bynum, and you have what Bryant describes as a "shot blocker" who will "clog the middle up" and "contest everything."

"I'm close to the rim all the time now," Bynum said. "We're switching off and I'm just guarding guys next to the block and next to the rim."

Don't mistake the Lakers' emergence on defense as an indictment on the team's past defensive teams. Former Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis ran the team's defense that led the Lakers to holding the Orlando Magic to an average of 91.2 points a game in the 2009 NBA Finals. The Lakers secured Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals by holding Boston to 79 points. But with very little working, double-digit losses to Milwaukee and Miami on Christmas Day prompted Person and Jackson to make a change. So far, it's worked.

"We're trying to break habits, more than anything else," Jackson said. To really learn, you have to break the old habits. Some of those are difficult to do. We've been playing a form of defense that has been pretty good for us the last four years. But we're trying to make some adjustments in it and breaking those habits take some time."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
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---------------------------REPOST------------------------

MORE ON THE LAKERS DEFENSIVE CHANGES
...................................................................................
From Andy Kamenetzky’s Land O’ Lakers Blog. Here is excerpt:
...................................................................................
Considerably more enthusiasm was offered by Kobe about the Lakers' improved play on the defensive end. As Kobe described it, Chuck Person's defensive background, combined with Phil's desire to continually "add things to the mix" was the impetus for an adjusted attack:
...
"We're figuring the defensive system before, and it's funny, because we never really had a system before. We've always read and reacted to each other. But I think putting in this system will help us down the road and help us get better. We're just learning it."
...
Kobe later described the new approach as equal parts "effort" and "organization":
...
"Make people take contested, tough shots. That's the key. Keep the ball in front of you. Make them take tough shots. Everybody has role and everybody has an assignment and it changes depending on what position you're in on the floor. It's no different than what you see other teams doing. A lot of teams have systems. They've been using it for a period of time. We're getting used to it. A lot of things that we're doing, we've done (instinctively) over the past couple of years, but now it's kind of putting assignments on things."
...
So were the recent defensive issues the result of confused or scattered minds? From Kobe's perspective, it's a little of both:
...
"As of late, it's all adjustments. That's all that is. As of late. Prior to that, it was lack of focus."
...
It's interesting to hear Kobe talk about the Lakers playing defense without a "system" previous to this season. I may recall incorrectly, but I'm pretty certain I've heard players (maybe even The Mamba himself) use that word while talking about their defense during the 2009 and 2010 title runs. And it's not like the last two seasons were spent running around like headless, ineffective chickens on D. The 2009 squad was solid defensively and last year's champs were better at preventing points than scoring them.
...
Maybe it's a matter of semantics, since accounts have varied as to how radical the redesign truly is. But either way, everyone involved appears very pleased by the game plan, which hopefully bodes well for the polished product.
...
I also loved Kobe's cheeky immediate reaction when asked if Bynum throwing down four or five times against the Knicks was a sign of coming around offensively:
...
"Because he had four dunks? He's seven foot twenty!"
............................................................
TOM


---------------------------REPOST------------------------

ANDREW BYNUM: THE BACKBONE OF THE TEAM
........................................................................................
Excellent comments from Kevin Ding about the Lakers “Redone Defense.” Here is excerpt:
........................................................................................
There was a lot more talk after Lakers practice about the retooled defense intended to make Bynum the backbone of the team.
...
Asked about the reason for changing the strategy, Jackson said: "It was the advent of Drew coming back."
...
Bryant talked about just what a substantial change it is to have Bynum staying near the lane to pick up and challenge all comers near the basket, leaving everyone else to do adjusted rotations.
...
"We never had a system (on defense)," Bryant said.
...
Bryant summed up the changes as "keep the ball in front of you." He said Bynum's influence is clear: "We have a shot blocker. He plugs that middle up."
....................................................................................
TOM


I believe forcing the ball to the sidelines...i.e...forcing the ballhandler away from the pick is the same philosophy PJ implemented with the Bulls. I believe this will be more effective than the big man "showing" on the pick and then trying to recover back to his man.

I hope the Lakers keep the bounce in their step. So my musical selection for today is one with a little bounce from my favorite raggae band from back in the day...


You bum right here
And you bounce over there Spongi Raggae


Black Uhuru - Spongi Raggae
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDQBZg6-ZCA


You might remember when they played this on an episode on the Cosby show and Denise and her boyfriend was jammin to it...."I say Hey Mon"

I believe forcing the ball to the sidelines...i.e...forcing the ballhandler away from the pick is the same philosophy PJ implemented with the Bulls. I believe this will be more effective than the big man "showing" on the pick and then trying to recover back to his man.

Posted by: LRob | January 11, 2011 at 09:36 AM
====

What will be interesting to see is how other teams adjust to this. I think we'll see the ball swung to the weak side a lot more often with screens designed to force play back to the middle of the court. I love this game!

LRob - it is a bit "Bulllish" and also a bit of an extrapolation of the '09 execution, with a dab of the every-man-can-guard-every-position that we saw in the end against the Celtics last Finals. More, they're actually hustling and gettin' their hands up (I'm talkin' to you Pau!).

All in all, it's kind of an American Defense:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwacX6t01a4

What will be interesting to see is how other teams adjust to this. I think we'll see the ball swung to the weak side a lot more often with screens designed to force play back to the middle of the court. I love this game!

Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 11, 2011 at 09:52 AM
--------------

I'm with you. This is when it gets fun :-)

Looks like Doc is trying to sound the alarm down in Boston. We'll see if it falls on deaf ears on not...
-------------------

"This year's not like last year, where you can coast," Rivers admitted. "You don't have home court this year, you could go home."


That knowledge has created a fork-in-the-road moment for this year's squad as they try to overcome its struggles and tread water in order to remain relevant in the conversation for home court.


"We're a defensive-minded group and for some reason over the last couple games, it's just not happening," Paul Pierce acknowledged. "I don't know. I mean everyone's got to look themselves in the mirror, check themselves at the door and just figure this out to get through this little skid we're on."


http://espn.go.com/nba/dailydime/_/page/dime-110111/daily-dime

@MVP - Kobe did receive star treatment earlier in his career. The non calls and lack of "respect" really started after the Colorado incident. At Kobe's peak he was still able to dominate despite the refs. However, now its becoming more of a challenge as his athletic ability diminshes.

Posted by: LRob | January 11, 2011 at 07:51 AM
====

I respectfully disagree. I've watched almost every game for his entire career. As a young player, he had to earn that superstar status, but he had the impairment of being paired with the other best player in the NBA, and was universally considered smug, arrogant and petulant. After watching the Jordan rules, he never received anywhere near the treatment that MJ did. Ever.

Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 11, 2011 at 09:36 AM
------------

I'm glad you didn't choose to disrespectfully agree...j/k. I've seen all the games also and I thought Kobe got star treatment early on. I do agree that it was never on MJ's level.

TEAM DEFENSE . . .


No matter the scheme or system, at the NBA level good defense is predicated on TEAM defense. One-on-one, lock-down defenders are rare, and even they cannot individually stop another player when confronted with pick-n-roll and other off-ball action. It is all about TEAM defense.


The rhetoric about this "new" system (or new commitment to a system), is good news. This is part of what I have been hoping for, referencing my post a few days ago ("RANDOM ZEN THOUGHTS"). This reflects a level of humility (rather than arrogance) and confidence (trust in the TEAM) badly needed. This is very good news.


TEAM defense does require a cohesive unit with each player's instincts directed by his trust of the other four. It takes practice, game experience, and... more practice. The Showtime Lakers were able to function with great TEAM defense even in later years when James Worthy was unable to practice. This edition of Lakers can also excel even if Kobe does not practice on a regular basis.


Added plus ~ This "new" scheme is one with which Joe Smith is accustomed. It should excellerate his transition to playing time (5-7 minutes per game) as stop-gap for Drew/Pau/Lamar when injuries/fatigue/fouls crop up.


After the next three games, the argument can be made that the schedule will present as many as 11 of 14 games against playoff teams. This will be a great time for the TEAM to develop confidence based upon performance on the defensive end. I have a good feeling about this!


LakerMike

it is pathetic to hear kobe say that the lakers havent had
a defensive strategy,can you imagine how much better the team
could have been. where have the coaches been all this time?

I'm glad you didn't choose to disrespectfully agree...j/k. I've seen all the games also and I thought Kobe got star treatment early on. I do agree that it was never on MJ's level.

Posted by: LRob | January 11, 2011 at 10:09 AM
===

You know me. I just abhor the expression "agree to disagree." I've been battered in here as being snobby because I dislike that expression, but to me it's only use is when a debate goes in circles and someone chooses to END the debate. I think people either agree on something or disagree on something (or somewhere in the middle), so I prefer to "respectfully disagree" with people as astute as yourself with the hope that the conversation continues (as it did), so I can potentially learn something new. In this case I did learn something new. You see things objectively are very moderate in your viewpoints and you are probably right about Kobe. I always measured things with him against Jordan because I view them as essentially the same player, so it irks me that Kobe has not received the same treatment throughout his career that Jordan received from the refs .. especially because I am a biased Lakers fan. I do stick to my guns that Kobe's career scoring average would have been higher if he had received the preferential treatment that he deserved and that Michael Jordan's would have been lower because the refs overdid it with him.

it is pathetic to hear kobe say that the lakers havent had
a defensive strategy,can you imagine how much better the team
could have been. where have the coaches been all this time?

Posted by: Bob T | January 11, 2011 at 10:23 AM
====

Who cares.

LAKERMIKE... Excellent post on Team Defense.
...
What I love about the Lakers defensive changes is the strategy of switching on screens to keep our bigs, especially Drew, patrolling the paint. It’s the smart move when you have a great shot blocker like Drew and the team size and versatility for players able to guard multiple positions.
....................................
TOM

@Lew - thanks for the bus.


@63 Footer - A nice serving of blues with Son House. mclyne had me thinking of him when he posted Jack's cover of "Death Letter" yesterday.


@MVP - You mentioned someone putting together a video of the non-calls on Kobe. One of the best I've seen is from the 2008 finals that showed all the fouls the C's were allowed to get away with. Go to the 5 minute mark of this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nepmd2ygMK4

Jon K - how about these:


CAANNN YOOOUUUU DIIIGGG ITTTTT? (Shaq)


NOBODY DESTROYS RON ARTEST. (Ron)


NO SYMPATHY!! (Kobe)


Bynum a great shot blocker?
Laying it on a lil thick don't ya think?

ONE MORE FOR JON K . . .


"I AM FUNNY, DAMMIT!" (Justa)


LakerMike

You know what would really please me? If Houston would trade Yao's expiring contract to an Eastern conference team looking to dump salary. And do it before the All-Star game.

That's probably the only way Bynum will make the All-Star game, despite having the second most votes at center. Or unless he really picks it up and averages 20 & 10 from now until the coaches pick the bench players for the game. Right now there are too many bigs that would go ahead of Drew unless he gets voted in by the fans (Duncan, Nowitzki, Love, Gasol, Griffin, Randolph, Millsap, West, Aldridge, Nene, Jefferson, Chandler, maybe even Odom.)

It would be nice to see the Lakers get 3 players in. Boston has gotten players in for the last 3 years and Orlando got 3 in in 2009. It would be good to see either Bynum or Odom get some respect even though their stats aren't quite as high as some of those other guys.

It is absolutely amazing that we are in the 2nd week of January and the Lakers are NOW working on a "defensive system"! Kobe has been talking about it all year and when I look back on the training camp opening on NBA.TV.............I can remember Norm Nixon astonished at HOW the Lakers were practicing and how they weren't working on anything especially on the defensive end.

What has Phil Jackson been doing?? One of Phil Jackson's achilles is his arrogance and a byproduct of arrogance is laziness.................and the fact that there has been no emphasis on defense is inexcusable for this coach. I believed then and I believe now that Kobe may have planted that yahoo story

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=aw-jacksonlakers010411

not to wake up his fellow teammates but to alert the coaching staff because since that article has come out Phil has been much more attentive and alert on the defensive end. At some point and time he is going to have to swallow his stubbornness and make personnel changes or at least reduce minutes because Fish and Gasol have been killing us on the defensive end all year long.............especially Gasol. Hopefully as Bynum rounds into shape he can cover for the two huge defensive liabilities but will it be enough to win a championship?

Fortunately this will be Phil's last year of coaching because thus far he has been horrible and at times seems to not even have a clue to what is going on. I think this may have been a wake up call for the old coach and maybe he's starting to get his act together.

Maybe he was inspired by this quote from the yahoo article

"In a lot of ways, this run is nearing an end for the Lakers. The Zen B.S. has run its course, the way every coach’s mantra does over time. Why it worked so well, for so long, had far less to do with the meditations and far more to do with the staggering array of talent under Jackson’s watch. This promises to be an excruciating season for the Lakers, and they still have so much to reassemble about themselves to be champions again.

Jackson started with a long, hard 2½ hour practice on Monday, and that’s what these Lakers needed. For the good of his final championship run, that’s the private place where the coach needs to be a coach again."


I for one certainly hope so!

@MVP - You mentioned someone putting together a video of the non-calls on Kobe. One of the best I've seen is from the 2008 finals that showed all the fouls the C's were allowed to get away with. Go to the 5 minute mark of this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nepmd2ygMK4

Posted by: LRob | January 11, 2011 at 10:28 AM
===

That was a brilliant video. You da man! Thanks a lot. I especially loved the hand checking stuff and KG's multiple illegal screens which the whole league complains about. I agree wholeheartedly with the announcer about the 2004 Pistons are right there with the 2008 Celtics as 2 of the best defenses in NBA history. Great stuff!

Jon K - Here's a few more.

"Good. We'll beat the hell out of them." (Kobe when told the Phoenix Suns are much worse this season than in years past). "You have to ask him. I only count to two." (Ron Artest when asked where he would rank LeBron James under Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, whom Artest ranked first and second in the league).

Phil Jackson has an Achilles heel? Let's see. 19 years as a head coach. 11 championships. 13 trips to the NBA Finals. 1 ECF exit. 3 second round exits. 2 first round exits. 0 playoffs missed. OK, he's not PERFECT, but he's as close to perfect as any head coach in NBA history has been, and that includes Red Auerbach. If he didn't stress defense too hard in the first half of this practice season, I'm sure he has a good reason. I'll defer to Phil any day over the so-called experts. Any day.

LakerMike - LOL and thanks! Not sure about "iconic" but okay... :)


Say hi to MrsLakerMike - and get your bobo on a chat one of these days!

@LRob
sweet reggae track!
coming back it you with more soothin tunes:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hdlPzBlil4

@63
cool wayback track with Son House!
going with the original version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDCNbacVt5w&feature=related

@justa
"NOBODY DESTROYS RON ARTEST"
This has to by my all time favorite quote from anyone ever!


As for the Laker's newfound defense: IT'S ABOUT FRICKEN TIME! It only took you guys two and a half months of the season to decide to play effective D!

I think the best thing about having a defensive "system" is accountability. Every player will have a "defined" assignment on defense which minimizes the "freelancing" and finger pointing during defensive breakdowns. That being said, the Cavs will be a great team to get additional practice of this "new" defensive system. Let's go guys; put together a nice winning streak leading up to next Monday's game against OKC, nail down the "systems" - offense and defense - so we can put Boston to sleep on the 30th! In my opinion, this is THE biggest game of the early season for the Lakers and there can be no excuse for losing - even with Mr. Barnes out of the line-up.

This team will be at another level come the 2nd half of the season. By then, they will have slowed down their offense with additional ball movement - inside/out & triangle - and vastly improve their defense. This coach has the luxury of having so many combos at his disposal; we "ain't" seen nothing yet and neither have the team's opponents! Patience my friends; the best is yet to come!

mclyne - mine too. There's just something about Ronron... As much as I was vehemently opposed to him becoming a Laker, I am now firmly entrenched on the I HEART RON bandwagon. (Yes - the crow was tasty!)


I'm also happy he put a little fear into the Bricks the other night. That's the Ron I want on our team - the guy who - on the court - is capable of pretty much anything. Don't mess with the Lakers. You won't like us when we're angry.

...forgot to add the White Stripe's cover of Son House(in case anyone missed it from my post last night- it's definately a performance not to be missed):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fM2qhG8mA4

Best Iconic Lakeraholic Phrase:

1. "THIS IS BASKETBALL!!!!" (Kobe screaming at Sasha on the bench.)
2. "ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!" (Bynum pleading with an official after a false call.)
3. "I'm befuddled. I'm very befuddled." (Phil Jackson talking to the press after being befuddled.)
4. ACKNOWLEDGE ME PLEASE!!!!! (Ron Artest game Game 7 of 2010 Finals)
5. Drew to Sasha: "Give me the f**king ball!"
6. "Sacramento will never be the capital of California! Los Angeles is the new capital of California!"--Shaq
7. "CAANNN YOOOUUUU DIIIGGG ITTTTT?" (Shaq)
8. "NOBODY DESTROYS RON ARTEST." (Ron)
9. "NO SYMPATHY!!" (Kobe)
10. "Good. We'll beat the hell out of them." (Kobe when told the Phoenix Suns are much worse this season than in years past).
11. "You have to ask him. I only count to two." (Ron Artest when asked where he would rank LeBron James under Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, whom Artest ranked first and second in the league).


What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

I'm also happy he put a little fear into the Bricks the other night. That's the Ron I want on our team - the guy who - on the court - is capable of pretty much anything. Don't mess with the Lakers. You won't like us when we're angry.

Posted by: justanothermambafan | January 11, 2011 at 11:09 AM
=====

Who in the Lakers 9 man rotation is "soft"? Lamar? Not anymore. Pau? Not come playoff time. Blake? That's not his reputation. Brown? He looks pretty tough to me. Bynum, Artest, Kobe, Fish and Barnes are as tough as they come in this league. Like you said, justa, "Don't mess with the Lakers!"

According to sources (e.g. Stephen A. Smith on the Dan Patrick Show), Rasheed Wallace is planning to come out of retirement and return to the C's because (and we quote) "He wants another shot at the Lakers in the Finals." Our friends over at SLAM Magazine have the write up.

Go ahead, make my day.

"One lucky shot deserves another" (Shaq on Fishers LUCKY shot)

Not clutch, but lucky.

"@MVP - You mentioned someone putting together a video of the non-calls on Kobe. One of the best I've seen is from the 2008 finals that showed all the fouls the C's were allowed to get away with. Go to the 5 minute mark of this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nepmd2ygMK4

Posted by: LRob | January 11, 2011 at 10:28 AM "

Haha. These videos are good for a laugh but I typically hate partisan videos that are designed to show that one team got better treatment than another. You could mix clips from any game and make it look like it was called all one way.

@Jon K
(Ron Artest when asked where he would rank LeBron James under Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, whom Artest ranked first and second in the league).

Another priceless gem!!!
I wish there was a page that contained all of Ron-Ron's funny quotes as a Laker!
I would read it every morning for a good laugh.

@justa
" Don't mess with the Lakers. You won't like us when we're angry."
I love this too about Ron. I love it that he quickly recinded his hand from the Knick's player's neck like he knew he was going to be in HUGE trouuble if it was on there a second longer.

I predict the Lakers will ditch their "new" defensive system when they find out how weak the Cavs are, the Lakers will win in a shootout with both teams scoring in the 100s. Then, the Lakers will continue ditching the defensive system because of the weak schedule that follows (GSW, NJ, Clippers) Then, the Lakers will get pushed back to square one again when they get beat down by either OKC, Dallas, Denver, or Utah because they got too comfortable running up the score and not playing defense against the weak teams. This is a dangerous upcoming week for the Lakers, they play 4 weak teams in a row, and may get comfortable, and then immediately face 4 playoff-caliber teams IN A ROW plus Boston and San Antonio to follow. Knowing what happened in December, I wouldn't put it past the Lakers to go through a "spell" again. This is the week to take over Dallas for the #2 spot in the west and to stay in the hunt to challenge the Spurs for home court advantage. This week IS the test to see if the Lakers have learned anything from December.


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