The Los Angeles Lakers have had many struggles defensively at the outset of this season, but arguably the biggest issue has been their foul problems. As it stands, the Lakers are committing over 25 fouls per game which is leading to over 32 free throw attempts for their opponents.
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The free throw disparity between the Lakers and their opponents (-24 over the last two games) was a major point of contention for head coach Luke Walton, but the players contend that the new rule changes are really causing problems.
“You literally can’t touch anybody. Well, you can. You can touch somebody. But defensively, we don’t know,” LeBron James said following Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs. “We’re trying to figure it out. We’ve got to try to figure that out because it’s just giving teams too many easy opportunities to just go up there and knock down free throws.”
James isn’t the only person having issues as Josh Hart is struggling to adjust his physical style to the official’s calls. “It’s difficult, especially for guys like myself who is a physical defender,” Hart said .
“So that kind of takes certain parts of my game out. But that’s how they’re officiating now so we’ve got to adapt to that.”
Despite that, Hart maintains that he and the Lakers simply must remained focus. “It’s always frustrating but I control what I can control, and that’s my attitude going forward,” he said.
“It’s frustrating, but they’re the referees. Whatever they say goes. The only thing we can do is react to that. If we have a negative reaction to that, it’s only going to hurt this team.”
The Lakers have plenty of time to adjust and figure out the best way to defend without fouling. Their field goal percentage defense is around league average, but the amount of free throws given up cancels that out.
In the end, it may be Lonzo Ball who has the simplest, but most realistic idea of what needs to happen. “We’ve just got to get our hands up,” Ball said. “Move our feet and be in position not to foul.”