There is no doubt that defense has been a major issue for the Los Angeles Lakers so far this season. Head coach Luke Walton’s team ranks 29th in the NBA in points allowed, 23rd in defensive field goal percentage and 23rd in defensive rating.
This comes just a year after the Lakers were a borderline top-10 defensive unit. That side of the ball is undoubtedly a big reason why the team has gotten off to a slow start. Walton previously said that they were at “square one” when it came to defense.
Now Walton believes there has been some slight progress. “Square two. It’s getting better because we keep working on it and guys want to win,” he answered when asked where the team stands.
“Guys know that we need to be a good defensive team to win. We are very, very early stages but we’re starting to get a feel of what our guys are good at; what their strengths are as individual and team defenders.
“The players are starting to get a feel for the coverages we like running, the vocabulary, all those little things we’ve talked about. It’s getting better. We’ve seen it getting better over the last four or five games but it’s got a long way to go.”
There has certainly been some improvements on that end, with JaVale McGee leading the charge. Walton believes the things the Lakers need to improve upon most comes with time.
“Part of growing a new team is learning strengths and weaknesses of each other. Part of it is yeah, we have to get better individually with guarding our man,” he explained. “And then part of it is also understanding where we might be getting beat and anticipate being there to help guys out. That comes with time.”
This start hasn’t changed Walton and the Lakers’ ultimate goal and though Walton has seen some improvements, he knows his team remains far away. “We have a goal to be a top-10 defensive team. That’s a far, far away goal right now,” he admitted.
“The Denver game, we put up a nice defensive number. San Antonio, we put up a decent number. Take the first quarter out, I’m assuming our Minnesota game was a good defensive game. It’s there. We just need to do it for longer stretches and more consistently.”
After playing back-to-back games, the Lakers were given a day off. They returned to practice with an emphasis on transition defense, and carried that into a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.