Lakers News: Kurt Rambis Wants To Make Lakers A Top Defensive Team

Lakers News: Kurt Rambis Wants To Make Lakers A Top Defensive Team

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the Lakers hired Kurt Rambis to become a part of the coaching staff. Rambis spent many years as an assistant under Phil Jackson and his main focus was on the defensive end of the floor. In an interview with Eric Pincus, Rambis spoke about the challenge of turning the Lakers into a top defensive team.

“That’s going to be our challenge, is to make it a good defensive team,” said Rambis.  “Even if you had Metta and you had Dwight on your team, you saw from last year … it still doesn’t mean the defense is any good, just because you’ve got a couple of good defensive guys out there.  It all comes down to five guys who are willing to make those sacrifices.”

Not only did Rambis lose two former defensive players of the year, but he lost two guys who showed up on all of the Lakers best defensive five-man rotations.

Of the Lakers Top 10 five-man defensive rotations, either Metta World Peace or Dwight Howard were a part of eight of them and six of the top 10 — including the top three — featured both World Peace and Howard.

It’s not a secret, Rambis is going to have his work cut out for him as the Lakers exercised a plethora of bad habits on the defensive end — and were subject to flaws that weren’t correctable. The biggest problems on the defensive end were the Lakers starting backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.

Nash, a 39-year-old point guard playing in a league dominated by younger and quicker ball handlers, wasn’t able to stay in front of any of the NBA’s speed demons, which forced rotations every time he was blown by. Bryant tended to make matters worse by getting sucked into the paint and not closing out on shooters.

Because of these two issues at the top, the Lakers consistently surrendered either high percentage shots around the rim or open threes along the perimeter. The Lakers allowed the sixth most shots at the rim last season, and teams shot 65 percent on those shots. They also gave up the 10th most three-pointers last season. Fundamentally, those are the two shots you want to give up the least, and teams were getting the shots they wanted at high frequencies last season.

The fix won’t come easy, as gap penetration is the main culprit for many of the Lakers defensive deficiencies. However, the addition of Jordan Farmar can help cut down some of the time opposing point guards spend in the paint. Having a healthy Steve Blake can also help in this area as he, at the very least, forced opposing guards to work for their time in the paint.

While not entirely impossible, it’s hard to imagine Rambis turning this group into the 15th best defense from the 19th. If he is able to do so, it would be a tremendous improvement, and could ultimately win the Lakers a few more games during the course of the season.

(Statistical support for this was provided by and


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  • Rarthadys

    Lakers did not have a happy locker room last season that put many players out of their character a little bit. The media like to use stats to support their argument, nothing wrong with that, it was just the Lakers had a abnormal season with a drama queen who ask for the team to be given to him. Try to push the team to get rid of one of the greatest player in franchise history, didn’t want to pick n roll with the best PNR PG in league history….. I can go on and on with all the drama caused by you-know-who.

    Nash is not a good defender, Kobe is slowing down,Pau can barely block any shots anymore. Knowing their weakness, they need to play team defense, the older guys can’t steal a lot balls or block a lot of shots. It takes team defense to create opportunity for younger players to do the steals and blocks.

    • Daryl Peek

      Totally agree on the team chemistry plight.

  • ra

    And also recall that one of the roles of DH was to be the ‘last stand’ at the hoop ‘when players blow past Steve Nash’. So, we don’t have that now (Kaman?). The Lakers used to be famous for their ‘big’ + ‘long’ defense (Bynum, Pau, LO), but not anymore.

    Hopefully, the new players are ‘sharp-shooters’, and the philosophy of blowing out the opponents by outscoring them by 20 points per game will work.

    • Daryl Peek

      The thing we do have now is speed on the wing. Farmar, Johnson, Young and Harris will be a big improvement in helping stem some of those blow by’s. I hope Shawne Williams can show he has something left in his game and has matured past the off the court problems. Williams was a great young versatile defender in NY with D’Antoni. Blake is very underrated as a defender. He’s like Fisher was as a bull dog fighting through screens against the pick and roll.

      Keep in mind Gasol was the main rim protector during the championship runs. It was Gasol averaging 2 blocks a game in the playoffs while Bynum played limited minutes. LO never averaged more than one block a game.

      The Lakers D was a team defensive function with Rambis as the coordinator for Phil. The overall team D was never great but sufficient. I can see them being sufficient again with better chemistry.

      There was never a level of comfort with Howard as the team leader defensively. Couple that with Kobe’s gambling being the biggest disconnect in communication, team D wise. When you look at the raw stats the team was actually better defensively when Kobe was off the floor.

      • ra

        Speaking of which, recall that Kobe many times played ‘floating defense’ (not quite zone, but close to that). He would try to handle his opponent and Steve Nash’s as well (when both were on the floor). Difficult task defending 2 people, and trying to be the top scorer on the team as well.

        I’m sure that will change now.

        Do you think that Lakers will play more zone this year?

        • hookedonnews

          A lot of people thought they should have played more zone last season. I think rather than “floating defense’ what you saw was Kobe ball-watching and going for steals rather than trying to defend Nash’s man. He was roundly criticized for letting his man get away from him so much last season. I never saw him trying to defend his and Nash’s man. Few players can guard the top PGs one on one. Unless you have an elite defender (and there aren’t that many), team defense is the only way to keep people like Westbrook out of the paint. Kobe can be a good one-on-one defender if he wants to. Kyrie Irving will attest to that. Maybe they will play more zone. I guess Rambis will be the one to make that call.

          • Daryl Peek

            Exactly on Kobe’s defense. Couple that with the age factor. Kobe is no longer a game to game lock down defender anymore. He’s admitted this. After the Shaq era Kobe began to develop that ball-watching habit.

            Another reason he gets criticized big time for poor defensive effort is how he almost never makes an effort to get back after a turnover of his own. Both Bynum and Howard took issue with this and often had heated confrontations with Kobe during the games because of it.

            For years all the blame went on Fisher and Blake. That was continued with Sessions and Nash. Kobe is a guard also. The number of great SG’s in the league is a very thin pool compared to PG’s, and when the Lakers went against a KD or Wade, Metta or Ariza were charged with guarding them. Phil tried to protect Kobe to keep his legs fresh for scoring in the 4th. This is why the Kobe/Gasol Lakers weren’t nearly as effective defensively as the Kobe/Shaq Lakers.

            Again Fisher and Blake are very underrated as team defenders. I’m not trying to bash on Kobe but the communication breakdown is a huge problem. Ball watching is only effective when you have a supporting cast that can make up the difference, like the 90’s Bulls roster, the Kobe/Shaq Lakers or the James/Wade Heat.

        • ra

          Really? Kobe was ball-watching for steals? I don’t recall Kobe ‘recently’ being a top-stealer in the NBA. It was even mentioned on the Lake Show ‘consistently’ that they noticed he was helping out Nash, or trying to help him out.

          I’m not even sure of even one time during the last year in which Kobe got ‘yet another steal – and there he goes downcourt for the dunk’!

          Why else would he be watching the ball? To see if MWP gets a steal? Who else on the Lakers did well in the steals dept.?

      • ra

        Also, the ‘length’ of the Lakers 3 frontcourt (Bynum, Gasol, LO) amounted to things that were as good as or better than just blocked shots. LO in particular has a great wingspan, and that also translates into ‘horizontal’ length (not just vertical length), which can alter plays. Players may have to run around extended arms, or watch out for potential steals, so it alters their play.

        In addition, a statistic which is not compiled is ‘altered shot’. I know that LO and Bynum (in addition to Gasol) were able to ‘alter shots’ – no blocks, but it reduced the number of made baskets (talking about the benefits of ‘vertical’ length).

  • 3339

    rambis and dantoni will not get along at all imo.

    • hookedonnews

      D’Antoni is the one who insisted on hiring him. I don’t think that will be a problem.

      • Daryl Peek

        It’s funny how people so badly want to manufacture drama to oust MDA.

        • Eddie Lazaro

          That’s how cyber media works nowadays. On all websites, ppl are spewing so many fabricated ideas that at times, has no relevance to the discussions. ESPN did that to KOBE that almost destroyed his young career then, and cyber media is not even that (fast) bad/good as it is now. The pressure and expectations of coaching or playing at Lakers is higher than any team in the league because of the franchise accomplishments. That’s where the public put Mike Brown’s head then, is putting MDA now, a very large shoes to fill.

          • Daryl Peek

            Agreed. The really unfortunate thing that most Laker fans don’t have the foresight to understand, is the small pool of championship experienced head coaches out there. Phil cannot coach forever. Sooner or later a new HC will need to have the support of the fan base in trying to continue the Laker greatness.

            My whole thing is why not give the incumbent a chance? This post Dr. Buss transition was never gonna be a smooth one. Lakers Nation is gonna have to be patient. The Show will eventually go on…

  • Lakers4Life

    All the more reason to get rid of Steve Nash.
    He’s old and just incapable of playing D on all these younger, faster, more athletic PGs. Definitely more of a liability than not.