Among the criticisms that face Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni on a daily basis, defense seems to be the top choice of what draws the ire of Laker fans the most.
Known more for his offense than his defensive scheme, the Lakers ranked 21st in the league as they allowed 101 points per game and gave up way too many easy shots possession after possession. The solution: Kurt Rambis.
Rambis was a Lakers assistant during most of the Phil Jackson era and will try to help an aging roster that was frustrating to watch on the defensive end for the entire year last season.
In his first Lakers media day since 2009, Rambis was the first to stress the importance of defense this season:
When you look at our team, clearly we’re going to have to be a team that functions at a high level in terms of our team defense; we don’t have guys that are going to just shut somebody down, said Rambis. That means we have to put a lot of pressure on strong side action, the weak side has to to a great job with being supportive and helping guys with a strong side action.
We’ve gone over the defense all summer long that we’re going to put them in a situation and position to where they can be functioning at a high level. But it’s going to be up to our job in training camp and preseason to make sure that they’re able to do what we want them to do.
With a defensive perimeter that features aging veterans Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, coupled together with a less than defensive front line, the Lakers might be in some trouble again this season.
However, perimeter players Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and whomever makes the team out of camp, will be counted upon to provide some defensive relief. Under Rambis, the Lakers were a very competitive defensive team and with a full training camp under D’Antoni, his system should be easily installed.
When Rambis was hired, many suggested this was an olive branch to former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, but D’Antoni and general manager Mitch Kupchak maintain he was hired because he was the best man for the job.
This year more than ever, the Lakers are going to need to play as a team and without Kobe for a possibly long stretch at the beginning of the year, a strong defense could go a long way in the standings.
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