After a lengthy and drama-filled offseason, NBA teams are steadily gearing up for the beginning of training camp, following the scrums at media day. As for the Los Angeles Lakers, the excitement around the new UCLA Training Health Center is contagious, with the players, coaching staff and front office all anxious to get underway.
With Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka assembling a formidable roster, it is now up to head coach Luke Walton to set the stage for the season. These first few practices usually reside with the theme of training camp, as the coaching staff preaches what they want their players to buy into. That situation for the Lakers isn’t rather difficult to decipher, as their shortcomings usually came on the defensive end.
Although they did struggle as a collective group, Larry Nance Jr. is someone who takes pride on that end and is vowing to ensure things improve. Now that practices are underway, Nance Jr. described how the 2017-18 Lakers have truly bought into the defensive schemes thus far, via Chris McGee of Spectrum SportsNet:
Larry Nance said they did finally do some offense put in some sets but focus is D “more guys buying in this year the technique of it all”
— Chris Geeter McGee (@geeter3) September 27, 2017
Nance Jr. was a defensive anchor for the second unit, with his basketball IQ and ability to help on display during many games. However, a defense is only as good as their weakest link. Often times, certain defenders would be left out to dry because certain Lakers weren’t able to help the helper, usually due to a lack of communication and rotations.
During media day, Walton gave a preview of the first practice, stating that the entire session would focus on defensive approaches. He fulfilled his guarantee, also stating that the Lakers must improve their defensive efficiency to truly contend.
The Lakers ranked last in the NBA in defensive rating last season, leading to the franchise making a series of defensive upgrades this offseason. Players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, and Andrew Bogut will help, but the entire roster will need to buy in if they want prolonged results.