Seven games into the 2017-18 NBA season, and the Los Angeles Lakers are starting off as a top 10 defensive team. Currently ranked 9th in defensive rating, head coach Luke Walton says it feels like the Lakers are actually starting to enjoy the defensive challenge.
Even Kyle Kuzma admits that it didn’t feel like everyone was locked in and buying into the defensive principles the coaches were teaching during the preseason. For Kuzma, getting blown out by the L.A. Clippers during their home opener was the start of the switch in their defensive mindset.
The Lakers finished with 30 assists on Tuesday night, and although Lonzo Ball only had three of them, Walton said it was one of the best games Ball has played. Ball said it was all about the pace he was playing at, something that has been a big focus for him this season.
Check out more from practice in our notes, quotes and videos below.
Kuzma on the Lakers defense: “We’re really just coming together, all looking forward to playing defense, in the preseason that wasn’t the case, I felt.”
Walton on Lakers defense: “I think as a group, we’re starting to understand what type of energy we have to play with on that end and how hard it is to be a good defensive team and how locked in you have to be…they’re starting to embrace it…they seem to to be enjoying that challenge so hopefully, that’s a trend that continues.”
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Lonzo on the defense: “We’re coming in and wanting to play defense now, we see that it makes our offense a lot easier, so when we get out there and defend it makes the game a lot easier as well.”
Kuzma on the Lakers depth at power forward: “It’s really selfless in a way, three guys that think they could definitely start, but none of us really care about that, just care about trying to get wins. Larry does a great job starting us up and me and Ju (Julius) do what we do off the bench.”
Walton on D’Angelo Russell: “Being one of our old guys, I tune in and check him out, he’s been playing great, I’m happy for him. He’s shooting the ball well, putting up big numbers and they’re having some success right now.”
Kuzma on Lonzo Ball’s extra gear: “I think he definitely has an extra gear, but for him I think he needs to play that way every time. I always tell him that he needs to be aggressive and play with that edge every time, because he plays it cool sometimes but when he’s very aggressive and he’s locked in and gets it going with the pace, we’re pretty tough to play against.”
– Kyle Kuzma grew up a Detroit Pistons fan, so it was extra special to him to have such a good night against that team
– Walton was most impressed with their assist to turnover ratio on Tuesday night
– Jordan Clarkson is leading the team in scoring (even though he’s coming off the bench)
– Walton said against Detroit, he was getting ready to sub Larry Nance in for Kuzma at the end of the game, and Larry recognized Kuzma was on a roll, so he suggested to keep Kuzma in the game (goes to show how unselfish Nance is).
– The Lakers are leading the league in paint points, and over 50% of their points are coming from the paint
– Walton says Damian Lillard is one of his favorite point guards in the NBA