From Day One of his tenure as Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Frank Vogel made it clear he first and foremost wanted his team to sow fear among opponents with a rock-solid defense.
Vogel managed to get All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis on board with his vision for the team, which famously resulted in the franchise’s 17th NBA title last year. The Lakers continue preaching the defense-first approach this season despite the many personnel problems they have been struggling with.
Incredibly, L.A. remains the NBA’s No. 1 defense with a rating of 106.0 even though Davis, a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, has missed half of this season’s games. And the feat predictably has a lot to do with the architect behind the Lakers’ defense. “It’s something I demand of my group,” Vogel said of remaining focused on the defensive end despite the turmoil of the season.
“I’ve always demanded a high level of defensive intensity, care factor, hustle, and I think that’s what you’re seeing in these types of stretches where guys are diving on the floors for loose balls. This is what wins for you. You can have as much talent as you want. If you are not going to play harder than your opponent and honor the defensive end, you’re not going to win at a high level. It’s what’s expected of our group.”
Following the 100-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Vogel praised L.A. for defensive disposition, communication, and determination, particularly as his players suffered frequent setbacks in the third quarter over the last few weeks. But despite holding Cleveland to just a 38.8% shooting efficiency, he still found issues that need fixing in the games to come. “We’re having a problem moving on to the next play as a group,” he said.
“We get caught up in whatever happened on the offensive possession or defensive breakdown or concerned about the refs and our focus isn’t where it needs to be on the next play and we’re having breakdowns.
“I think it was a free-throw blockout, I’m not exactly sure. We had a couple transition plays last night where we weren’t matched up and it’s not acceptable. We have to raise the accountability piece in this stretch and I think that’s what I was frustrated with the most during that stretch. We’ve got to move on to the next play and get focused.”
Lakers ‘focused’ on snatching Andre Drummond off buyout market
The Lakers can still improve in areas such as paint defense, which took a hit after JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard left the team in the offseason. Both the front office and players are reportedly working hard to fill the void created by their departures though by convincing Andre Drummond to move to L.A. following his buyout agreement with Cleveland.
Drummond is believed to be interested in hearing offers from multiple teams including the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks, but the Lakers are considered to have an edge over their rivals to his signature as they can offer the center a spot in the starting lineup.
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