While many expected the Los Angeles Lakers to form into an elite offensive team, the success of their positive start has been their presence on the defensive end. Head coach Luke Walton spent the majority of training camp instilling defense into his team, as acquisitions Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got acclimated to the roster.
That approach has paid dividends, as the Lakers have turned into a top-10 defensive team early in the season. Walton surely has to be happy with the defensive rotations, and ability to help in the paint, strong signs which can lead to transition opportunities for his team.
Although the offense hasn’t gelled quite as nicely as the defense, it only signals to the chemistry this team will continue to gain as the season progresses.
Although sought after as an offensive anchor, Lopez has also headlined the improved defense in the starting lineup. Although the unfortunate injury to Larry Nance Jr. stifled the help in the paint, Lopez has stood out as the shot-blocker and rim defender. Following their win over the Brooklyn Nets, Lopez pointed to how the entire team has bought into the principles of defense.
“We have a large group of guys just gelling together on the run,” Lopez said. “We are only going to get better from here. The most important thing is that we are all playing for each other, we believe in each other, we share the ball very well, we are a high energy group, and we try to do it on the defensive end. It is all about our team here.”
Caldwell-Pope and Lopez both immediately brought an upgrade to Walton’s team entering this season, capable of leading by example. Alongside other players like Corey Brewer and Josh Hart, Los Angeles is showing how a defensive presence can turn into a contagious style of play.
A strong possession always ends with a rebound or steal, which leads to many fastbreak opportunities, the exact outline Walton hopes his team transitions into. These same principles help orchestrate the offense, a strong foundation to build upon.
Although Lopez understands the importance of his offensive contributions in his first season as a Laker, the defensive output will be the factor that leads this team towards success in a tough Western Conference. The Lakers gear up for a star-studded showdown against the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night, with All-Stars Lopez and Marc Gasol clashing at the center position.
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