The Los Angeles Daily News wrote:
For the NBA’s 30 teams last season, the difference between finishing in the top third and bottom third defensively was two baskets a game. The 10th best team allowed 95.4 points per game, while the 10th worst gave up 99.8 points.
How about the Lakers? They ranked 15th in the league in scoring defense and 12th in field-goal percentage defense. They were neither a good defensive team, nor a bad one, but ``decent’’ in guard Smush Parker’s evaluation.
If the first day of training camp was any indication, though, the Lakers intend to be a more aggressive and much improved team defensively. The Lakers devoted nearly 75 percent of their three hours on the practice court Tuesday to defense.
``That's all we did,'' center Kwame Brown said.
The only reminder the Lakers need about the importance of defense comes from their first-round playoff loss to Phoenix. After taking a 3-1 lead in the series, the Lakers gave up 114, 126 and 121 points as the Suns advanced in seven games.
``That has to be our focus if we’re going to make the playoffs and think about advancing,’’ forward Lamar Odom said, ``and trying to beat some of the top teams in the league.’’
Odom added: ``We didn’t win enough what I call `ugly’ games. Sometimes you’ve got to win ugly.’’
The Lakers worked Tuesday on everything from individual defense to full-court defense to help defense. One of the central messages was about the need to talk more on defense, especially when it comes to stopping the pick-and-roll.
It was a distinctly different first day of practice from last October, when the emphasis was on learning the triangle offense with Phil Jackson back as coach.
At media day, Jackson stressed that the Lakers could come up with more steals and force more turnovers to generate more possessions on offense. Jackson underwent hip-replacement surgery Tuesday while assistant Kurt Rambis ran practice in his place.
``If you look at the versatility of our team, we have a lot of guys that can play a lot of different positions,’’ Rambis said. ``When you turn that around and look at the defensive end, we have a lot of guys that can help each other, that can do a lot of switching; they can also do a lot of gambling.’’
So the Lakers will take risks this season, in the hopes of not having to bring up the ball every time on offense. Rambis talked to the guards about overplaying the passing lanes and talked to the big men about rotating faster to draw a charge or block a shot.
``I think when you have a year under your belt,’’ Kobe Bryant said, ``you find yourself reacting more instead of thinking and then reacting.’’
New man: Odom ran the floor Tuesday for the first time in months, as he spent time away from the game after the death of his infant son. He said his back was a little tight; Rambis said it was good to see Odom smile.
But Odom also said he would try to make a change this season when it comes to his emotional nature on the court.
``I vowed to myself this year to, when the refs make a call, to stay away from it so I keep myself into the game mentally as well,’’ Odom said.