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Jerry West's criticism leaving the Lakers defensive

The words Jerry West spoke about the Lakers' defense and age four days ago reverberated around the team's practice facility Monday in El Segundo.

Kobe Bryant claimed ignorance about West's comments and Phil Jackson appeared indifferent. As the keynote speaker Thursday during the annual Orange County Automobile Dealers Assn. luncheon, West said: "If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get it? The reason you ‘can’t play defense’ is because you can’t! ...I don’t think the Lakers will be good for much longer. You can keep a car running for a long time by changing the tires, etc. You can’t change a player’s tires."

Bryant nodded in agreement when informed of the substance of West's criticism and Derek Fisher offered the utmost respect for West, who drafted the veteran guard as a rookie in 1996.

"You probably won't get me to respond in any way to Jerry West," Fisher said. "I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him."

But then each of them did comment. Bryant went at length explaining how the Lakers' defensive identity relies more on a collective effort, communication and mastering concepts than on athleticism or a lockdown defender. "We're ranked like what, third in the league in defense?" Bryant said. The Lakers are actually fourth in holding opponents to 43.8% shooting  from the field, but that mark was tied for third the previous day. Jackson, who agreed with West's assessment after Sunday's practice, said the second day of back-to-backs indicate whether a team's mileage has caught up to them. Considering the Lakers' 8-1 mark in the second game of contests played on successive nights, Jackson suggests it hasn't. And even if Fisher maintained respect for West, he did point out that the Lakers allowed a fifth-best 93.3 points per game and a fourth-leading 43.9% mark from the field in the last 10 games.

"I won't respond specifically to him," Fisher said of West. "But anybody else who has anything to say about how we've been playing defensively, it's just unfounded and not true."

Consider West's motivating tactic a success since the media happily carried the message. The substance of his criticism, however, reveals a misleading assessment on the state of the franchise.

Are the Lakers too old?

It's indisputable that the Lakers are old, considering the roster has 10 players who are at least 30. But it isn't so much the Lakers' mileage that could hurt their chances to three-peat as much as it is in how they manage their resources. In the last four NBA Finals, experience trumped youth and athleticism. And the San Antonio Spurs, Lakers and Boston Celtics are all considered favorites because their experience will help them pace through a long postseason.

The success or failure in navigating that terrain rests mostly on how healthy the teams' rosters remain. The Lakers have tried ensuring a positive outcome by constantly adjusting practice schedules, such as Jackson's giving the team a day off Saturday after playing 15 games in 25 days. It involves curtailing practice time, such as having Bryant sit out most practices and giving the starters days off after games. And it focuses on managing playing time, such as Jackson's lowering Pau Gasol's minutes or ensuring Fisher plays no more than 30 minutes a night. 

The Lakers' quest in staying healthy proves ongoing considering that Matt Barnes doesn't expect to fully recover from his surgery that removed torn meniscus from his right knee and that there's no definitive timetable for Theo Ratliff's return from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He's been out since mid-November. Considering contracts to the Lakers' veteran corps will expire fairly soon, including player and team options to Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom, respectively for the 2012-2013 season, expiring contracts to Bryant, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest after the 2013-2014 season, it's also not a stretch to say that the Lakers will soon have to focus on adding youth to their roster, an additional challenge considering the team's success equates to less-than-desireable draft picks and General Manager Mitch Kupchak's opting for veteran players who either have specific skills (Artest) or are willing to take reduced roles (Steve Blake, Matt Barnes) over keeping young players fixated on playing time (Jordan Farmar) or money (Trevor Ariza). 

"It's really about taking care of your body, making sure you're strong and making sure you're ready to go and compromising areas you might be weak at that were strong when you were 21 or 22," Bryant said. "You have to do a lot of self assessing. You have to be honest with yourself and where you are physically. Then from that standpoint, you can make adjustments."

How do the Lakers look on defense?

Jackson agreed with West's assessment that the defense needs work, but for different reasons. Statistically, the Lakers have fared well in several categories, including points allowed (an 11th best 96.4 points per game), opponent's field-goal percentage (43.8%, fourth in the league) and opponent's three-point field-goal percentage (33.9%, fifth overall). There's also been marked improvement partly thanks to a new defensive scheme in the last month that focuses on forcing players toward the baseline instead of into the center of the lane, closing out on shooters and keeping the post players close to the basket. But as indicated in the Lakers' 109-100 loss last week to Dallas and the team's struggles holding speedy young teams, such as the Clippers and Thunder, in the open court, the Lakers' discipline remains a work in progress.

This points more to Lakers playing to a deliberate pace, using the frontline's talent and height advantage in Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Odom. The Lakers' mileage from three consecutive NBA Finals appearances makes it not worth it for them to run and gun, a trend they initially set during an 8-0 start that boasted the league's highest-scoring offense. But even if the Lakers lack those parts, they have other qualities such as size, experience and talent that can offset those deficiencies.

"We're not a fastbreak team by any stretch of imagination," Bryant said. "But fastbreaks don't win championships anyway. If they did, Phoenix would've won a bunch."

--Mark Medina

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The Lakers are old period.

We get it, Jerry!

The Lakers are an old, decrepit team about to fall into a deep decline. The 22 year championship drought the Celtics experienced, following their 16th title, will seem like 10 minutes compared to the dry spell LA is facing!

Now, tell us something we don`t know. Such as, when exactly does Joey Buss take over full control of the Lakers?

To say that I have tremendous respect for Jerry West is an understatement.

I'd expect Magic Johnson to do something to undermine this team before I'd expect Jerry West to. Yeah...

Jerry West is just making his presence known and motivating this team. That's it.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

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


Thanks, Jon K. Those droll trolls are a-trollin'. Hold the line, brother! Until tomorrow, I'm out!


The Celtics are leading the league in points allowed.
Has anybody asked the Celtics if they are too old to play defense?
What was Mark Jackson observing during the Mavs game when he said you could pick and roll the Lakers to death?
Was it because they're too old? Or, was it because that's the type of defense the Lakers have always played

Hey I'll have video up in a bit. Youtube is going through some maintenance thing

I agree with Jerry West and would like to defend him.

I think what he meant to say is that the Lakers are older and are not fast as younger teams. They have problems defending fast breaks and transition defense.

It is true that they are older. Playing good defense takes up a lot of energy and effort. It is tough for the Lakers to defend against speed night in and night out, in the regular season I believe.

However, this doesn't mean that they can't adjust playing great defense. They can play good defense agains the speed by slowing down the game. Also, playing the team game and taking good shots are part of their defense(good offense is good defense). Taking good shots will go in most of the time, and this will eliminate breakouts. Even when they miss good shots, it is in the flow of their game and they are better at defending the transition.
Also, comes playoff, I believe they will put in more energy and effort playing defense against the fast breaks and fast transition. I just can't see them doing in regular season game becuase it takes too much too on their body, especially Fisher and Kobe.

Do you think that the new generation sneakers that the lakers use; kobe v, hyperdunks may helpto lengthen a players shelf life? when you compare them to basic shoes like the 90's reebok pump

The Lakers are not that old. Shannon Brown and Andrew Bynum are rounding into nice players. The Lakers will have no problem bringing talent to L.A. As far as adding youth, give me some role players in their mid-twenties, with playoff experience to spell a veteran team. You can keep "can't miss" rookies and sophs that pad their stats like looters in a riot playing on garbage teams.

Well, you know the old saying: "sticks and stones..." Just let your game do the talking. Whether you're pacing yourselves or not, just be the last team standing in June. That's all it's going to take.

Jon K's got it right - it's more about motivation than specifics. Consider the forum and the context - West was talking to an auto dealers' association... and that industry's as beleagued and old as it comes. This is about the big picture, not anything macro. You think he got some people fired up? Yup, from those at the luncheon to Lakers nation and beyond. Pretty impressive for a retired guy.

you know, i'm amazed that this dead horse can even move. you guys(in the "news" biz), are doing your best to take those comments out of context and create a story.

the fact is, the Lakers aren't the quickest team in the league and if nothing else happens but the same players continue to play, then no, they won't be great for much longer. that doesn't mean that they're dead today!

every interveiwer who asked about this whole thing ANOTHER day really sucks. that just my opinion of the way the job is done, not a comment on any nice people anybody might know...unless you count how i feel about them professionally....

this whole story is moronic. so are the home team reporters trying to make that team even older and more decrepit than they might actually be. this isn't even cynicism. it's just negativity and unwarranted negativity when the team has done so well and actually tries to work together.

the Lakers, the fans and even the writers themselves all deserve better.

No disrespect to Jerry West his one of the best player of his era and one of the best to spot good player talent as GM but seems that his getting old himself or shall i say he got Dementia probably...

To all the Lakers trolls and hater chill men.Lakers will win it all comes June...

Hi Marina miss you.Nice to read your profile pretty.But one thing is missing you did not post your own picture.I been waiting for it for a long long time.Anyway were the same diehard Lakers and KOBE fans...

Next Jerry will come out and clarify his statements and say...

yes the Lakers can win the title this year if they improve their defense (agree)

yes they can continue to be championship contenders over the next few years with existing roster and a few tweaks (agree)

@Adrian - I know you're a Laker faithful and I respect your opinion, but that was not a good comment about the Logo. He has always been very clear and competent every time I've heard him speak. He was simply calling like he sees it...I have no problem with that.

he never said that the Lakers have no chance this year or next year. he said that the current team can't stay effective for many more years, which is obvious. in fact, that's always the case. since he was a "keynote" errr... motivational speaker, he was trying to get a message across to his audience.

since he's Jerry West, and press releases tend to follow the places that he frequents, "reporters", "the media", or whatever cute name that is used for the guy who makes a living entertaining us about what famous people do took the text and started making "stories" out of it. what has followed is an orgy of the kind of question that makes the players and the fans of the game say, "why the heck are you interurrupting the game to talk to a guy who doesn't even play basketball?!!". it's like they all get a script and all begin asking the same leading questions so that they can write "stories".

a story is nice. i like to read them in between action. this is not a story, however. it is a distraction. it's gotta even be demoralizing for the team, NOT for what West said, but because they're being bullied by a crowd of guys asking the same questions over and over with no regard for the game itself. i'm not surprised that Ron has decided to roll his eyes and drool instead of trying to answer unanswerable questions about his intelligence or if his team is too old to win at basketball when they have one of the best records in the league at the halfway point and no one can really say that they've extended themselves to the fullest.

i remeber when the local newspaper supported the team, not because they were sycophants, but because that was part of the unity of the team, fanbase, and media. everyone cooperated to make the best fun out of the whole experience. i think that was one of Chick's abilities. that old time work ethic...

cynical is good. it indicates experience. Jim Murray was cynical. Chick Hearn was a cynic at times. being cynical doesn't mean just being pessimisitic, however. it's not about being mean. telling it like it is, isn't the same as manufacturing a story. it's also important to admit the good things that are happening. we are certainly fortunate to see a team of this magnitude once again here in L.A.! 3 times already, we've been to the finals, Cleveland hasn't seen that. i'm sorry to say that we are being led astray by talk radio and these sports blogs. this is a great time to be a Lakers fan and we should really be enjoying it!

as Jerry West said, it won't last forever. when it ends, i pray it starts right back up again!

stop whinning fisher start playing defense whilre ur playing...maybe the comment of mr west is for fisher...

Let me just say this:

When Michael Jordan was Kobe's age, he was in his second year of his two-year retirement (after only winning three to date.) Oh, and then he came back and won another three (with his sixth Championship coming at age 35.)

And how many times have you heard other team's color commentators tell you mid-game that (even at the ripe old age of 30) Pau Gasol is "for so many reasons the best big man in the NBA today?"

My man Kareem was 40 when he won his 5th Championship in 1987 (taking it in 6 against a 30 year old sprout named Larry Bird)...and the Captain did it again the very next year in '88!

And don't forget we got Andrew Bynum, who's years before he even reaches a full-court fruition...

My point is, if you have the drive, it's not so much about age as keeping healthy in the long run. The best teams in the Association this year are all facing the same reality.

Regardless of what the honorable Mr. West says at his auto club, in my heart I believe that predictions of a rapid Lakers demise is...well...


There are a couple of things about the Laker defense that befuddles me. One is that when they are defending outside shots ,especially 3's, why are they guarding the shooters left side when he's shooting with his right hand. I just saw Kobe doing this multiple times in one game recently. I remember when West and Walt Frazier were able to block shots from the side . I even saw Kobe do that a few times but it seems like the favorite defense now is the hand in the face. What I also notice is that Fish used to be able to get 2 charging fouls from guys running into him and that was at least worth at least an 8 pt switch at the end of the game. Are the coaches pointing these things out and other defensive techniques, I wish we could hear from the coaches ,we seem to have enough of them. In football there are offensive and defensive coordinators. I've heard of offensive coaches on the Lakers but not defensive. I think West is concerned about the defense and has brought it to the forefront but his word is not gospel. Didn't he say Lebron was better than Kobe before Kobe won another championship.

Jerry West is the man. Any one who has followed the Laker organization for any time knows West is a company man. He's putting the challenge out there, telling the PLAYERS it's time to get off your butts & put forth a more constitent effort on "D". And West is right. However w/ their older guards (save Brown) they will continue ro have problems w/ staying in front of speedy point guards.

Finally, a Lakers game tonight

I think West's comments are his way of telling Phil to make a change in the line up. :)


Today, I am really hoping for another Laker clampdown defensive game with a lot of energy. There should be lots and lots of post action for both AB and Pau.

The Jazz are one step away from complete psychological implosion and it would be fitting for the Zen Master and Lakers to push them over the edge. I know this is a bit aggressive on my part, but it fits perfectly to PJ's gaining a psychological advantage strategy over all opponents. And it would be a great start to another run to try and gain some ground on the Spurs.

Let's go Lakers!

Cheers - PLG

West is right - the Lakers are a little slow.

They are also big, skilled and experienced. So, like Kobe said, it comes down to team D, not man-to-man lockdown D. Defense like they played in the second half at Denver will do fine.

Executing the offense well help too, getting good shots, having good floor balance for transition D and good position for offensive boards. Defensively the Lakers are most vulnerable in transition, and turnovers, bad shots and poor floor balance get them in deep trouble fast. The Lakers have really paid for turnovers this year, and for forcing too-quick jump shots (I'm talking to you, Fish and Shannon).

But, really, they no less quick than the last three-peat Lakers, with guys like Shaq, old Horace Grant, aging Rick Fox, any age Derek Fisher, old B. Shaw, old Ron Harper and the like. Size and teamwork can compensate.

This team can't beat you with quickness and athletic ability. But they can beat you.

O.K. so the Lakers are a little slow......but not nearly as slow as portrayed. Boredom is clearly the biggest cause of a sometimes passive defense. It is painful at times to watch opposing players slice through the lane like butter. The Lakers use their size to deter shots, but you rarely see a committed active defense swiping at shots and refusing to let guys get a decent shot. Bynum does it on occasion. Still, with their size, opposing teams should have a nightmare trying to score. It's not so much that their defense is bad, it's just that it could be so much better.

Jerry West is a Laker Fraud, traitor, and a raging egomaniac!
He is 'but hurt' because Magic got a statue before him and Kobe and Magic are widely considered the Greatest Lakers of all-time!

He is also steaming mad because the Lakers were going to retire him after 2002 because he couldn't control the infighting between Kobe and Shakfool and also his nerves were so shot he would not watch the playoff games and stay near the locker room and shake and wimper like a putty cat!

Every chance he gets, he throws jabs at the Lakers and especially at Kobe. Back-handed praise is no praise at all and that's what he does.

His first wife Martha Kane recalled that her husband often had difficulties opening up to her. After a big loss, the Wests would drive home and she would try to console him, but West would say "get out" at the home porch and drive away—an experience that "killed" her as a wife.

He has never been 'happy' and now that Kobe is having so much success it is literally killing him!!!

I have one thing to say Jerry, "Old is Gold!"

Bill Cosby you got the funniest name in this blog so please stop acting like your the moderator of this blog.hahahaha

next Jerry West will be saying where in a recession.. :)

I somewhat agree with West. I am not sure about being to old but they are to slow. if they had to play the same schedule as the Celtics, Spurs, Clips, and Heats they would be broken down by now. there should be a protest and investigation on why the Fakers get such a advantageous bias favorable schedule without back to back games and away games in the first half of the season.
this type of schedule give the coach time to get a good look at the new players and see how they fit and the rotation, etc etc, especially against sub 500 teams w hat the Lakers have played.



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