Five ways to handle Lakers' reduced practice schedule
If it were up to Lakers Coach Mike Brown, the team would always practice with full intensity.
But there are several variables that will keep this from happening. A compressed, 66-game schedule, the Lakers having at least one set of three games in consecutive nights and a veteran-heavy roster makes this ideal impractical. Still, the Lakers showed last season that their idea of resting their bodies to concentrate on a title run was flawed. There are various nuances the Lakers should follow.
1. Practice smarter, not harder. On days there are back-to-backs, the Lakers' practice sessions need to involve more walk-throughs and film sessions than intense, full-court scrimmages. This keeps everyone at least mentally engaged while minimizing the inevitable grind this season will entail.
2. Every player must do his homework. To compensate for the prolonged lockout, Brown handed every player a DVD highlighting his defensive principles, which assistant coach Chuck Person has said will involve forcing opponents to penetrate baseline instead through the middle of the floor and in the paint. It remains unclear to what degree players watched these during the off-season. But they better start making it a habit if they haven't already.
3. Be flexible with rotations. How Brown handles his practice schedule also extends to his game management. On the players' end, it's integral that the Lakers compile as many double-digit wins against marginal opponents as they can so the starters can rest. On Brown's end, it's critical he widens his rotation even if it comes at the expense of some of the reserves making mistakes. This preserves the starters' energy and also forces the entire team to grow as a unit.
4. Avoid information overload. Brown plans to spread out teaching his concepts and terminology so the information is easier to process. But coaching staff and players mustn't feel like they can short-cut that process. It's more valuable to go in-depth on a few concepts than glossing over several. On the players' end, they need to learn the terminology outside of practice to speed up the learning process.
5. Fit in intense scrimmages. To Phil Jackson's credit, he followed the four aforementioned policies, but it didn't always translate into success because of the team's complacency. One factor that some admitted led to a lack of focus was the lack of intense scrimmages. Of course, having these this season hinges on the team's health. But for the sake of team cohesivenes, the Lakers need to have at least a few intense scrimmages at the end of practice, however short they may be.
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