David Fizdale Explains Difficulty Of Teaching New Players Lakers’ Complex Defensive Scheme
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers had 12 different players see time on the court against the San Antonio Spurs. Of the 12 people in David Fizdale’s rotation, six of them were either not in the NBA at all or not in an NBA rotation one week ago.

That is simply an unworkable hurdle to get across, and it led to a 138-110 blowout win for the Spurs and the Lakers’ fourth-straight loss.

Defensively, Thursday night was easily the worst performance of the season. Giving up 138 points in four quarters to a Spurs team that ranks towards the bottom in nearly every 3-point shooting category is a bad look regardless of who’s playing.

After the game, Fizdale tried to balance handling a poor defensive effort while understanding that the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a major reason why it’s happening.

“It’s a combination of all of it. They know, we talked after the game, they know I’m not giving them one out or one excuse,” Fizdale said of the loss. “But there is a reality to a complex defensive system and injecting new people into it on the fly is a disconnect. When I tell you I was so impressed when I first came here to learn this defense. I’ve been in the NBA 22 years, something like that, I’m losing count, I was so impressed learning it. But it’s not easy and you’re tied together and it’s a string.

“Unfortunately, this is a part of the season where we’re getting punched while we’re trying to figure out rhythm, continuity, togetherness, and we get hit with Covid and we lose a lot of stuff, a lot of rhythm, a lot of continuity. Like I told them, yes, that’s a fact that we can play better and they own that and that’s the part that I enjoyed about it. To the Spurs’ credit, they carved us up. Four quarters over 30 points, they really dismantled us and did everything they needed to do to win a game.”

The Spurs absolutely played a near-perfect game and should be given all the credit in the world for that. But the Lakers simply don’t have the pieces required to win games against teams that are playing well at the moment.

Against the Spurs, the Lakers were without Anthony Davis, Trevor Ariza, Austin Reaves, Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. That’s a significant amount of firepower to be without. Fizdale did his best to recognize that without looking like he’s making any excuses.

Hopefully, before the Lakers take on the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day, they can get at least a couple of these seven players back.

LeBron James: Lakers missing defensive guys

LeBron James made it very clear why he thought the Lakers were struggling defensively. He said that it’s not a matter of having everyone 100% healthy, just having some of the defense-first players in the lineup.

“We don’t need a full roster, we just need a lot of our guys back,” James said. “All of our defensive guys are in health and safety protocols – Avery, Baze, TA and Austin. That’s all our defensive guys. We’ve got a couple more but those are our guys.”

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