The Los Angeles Lakers lost a significant portion of their defensive identity with their offseason moves. Instead of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dennis Schroder, and Kyle Kuzma, they surrounded LeBron James with much worse defenders like Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, and Carmelo Anthony.
The results have been glaring, with the Lakers dropping from the No. 1 defense in 2020-21 to No. 16 this season. Beyond execution, effort has been a major problem for L.A. defensively, as head coach Frank Vogel struggled with the lacking roster.
James — who has also displayed poor defensive effort this season — spoke about what has gone wrong on that end of the floor.
“We’re on a Frank Vogel team and obviously it starts with defending,” James said. “It starts with the point of attack from the point guard position and then obviously this league is a huge pick-and-roll league, so bigs being able to help the guards out. Protect the guards. Guards getting back in front of the ball and the bigs get back to be big on big so we can also rebound when the shots go up, but obviously, it’s been a challenge for us this year.
“Defensively we had a lot of breakdowns and lost a lot of games because our defense had broken down. It’s also been because of our offense at times, too. Your offense can help your defense. If you are taking bad shots or you’re turning the ball over. You take a good shot and miss a long rebound. You are not getting the floor balance. You’re not getting back. That can affect your defense as well.”
When L.A. built the roster they have today, they were hopeful that offense would do its job to carry the defense. Instead, they’re even worse offensively, ranking 24th in the league. At this point in the season, it’s almost impossible to think things can improve.
Of course, just seeing consistent effort would go a long way, but that’s the area where the Lakers have struggled the most. L.A. has failed to respond to adversity in a positive way this season, and it has manifested through blown leads and failed comeback attempts.
For the rest of the season, the Lakers first need to focus on effort before they turn to execution. James has been a major culprit of that on the defensive end, and it’s up to him to start that turnaround.
Westbrook not quitting on Lakers
Westbrook admitted he had no expectations for the Lakers at the beginning of the season, but stated he’ll continue to fight until the year ends.
“[Westbrook’s priorities] don’t drastically change, but what I’m doing is changing every single night so I’m just trying to figure that out as I’m playing to be able to benefit and help my team,” he said.
“But my expectations are still the same, I’m not a quitter, it’s not in my genes. I don’t quit regardless of what the hell is going on. I’m a fighter until the end and if it don’t work, that’s cool, I can live with the results. But I’m never gonna give up or give in because of a little struggle that’s happening this time of the year.”
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