Lakers start new season with a focus on defense — again

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error EL SEGUNDO — When the Lakers gathered this week for their first official meeting as a team, Luke Walton and the coaching staff stressed playing with a certain mentality. A Lakers mentality.“Basically,” Lonzo Ball said, “they said it starts with defense. Defensive grit. Challenge one another and then go on the court and make people fear you.”Defense? The Lakers are a team built on young offensive talents. Ball has been billed as a transcendent playmaker with shades of Magic Johnson, while Brandon Ingram is supposedly poised to take a leap into scoring stardom.On its face, “grit” is the antithesis of the “Showtime” brand the Lakers are trying to resurrect. But with the focus of a new season centered squarely on Ball and his ability to help attract a certain Eastern Conference immortal to L.A., it might be easy to forget how grueling and unglamorous incremental growth can actually be. Tuesday marked the first of three days of two-a-day practices. Walton said the evening session would focus on conditioning or, as he put it, “fun running.”In the offseason, the Lakers added shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who immediately became the best perimeter defender on a team desperate for help. The organization is hoping some of that will rub off on second-year forward Ingram, whose 7-foot wingspan gives him the appearance of a disruptive defender, if not yet the game to match.Ingram struggled defensively as a rookie, which he chalked up to still learning opposing players and their tendencies.“You’ve got to watch film on all these guys,” Ingram said, “and find out some of their weak spots or some of the things they don’t do well – and of course how to stop them in some ways.”Walton believes Ingram has the makings of a great defensive player.“It will happen during his career,” Walton said. “The guy covers six feet with every slide he takes. He’s low, he’s balanced and he wants it.”Even Ball, not hailed as a defensive difference-maker, seems to be buying in.“You can’t win without defense,” he said. “That’s proven. Got to come out here, got to get it done.”Walton has less time to implement some of his principles than he would have in past seasons. The Lakers have just four days of practice before Saturday’s preseason opener, opposed to seven last year.“I’ve already made the decision we’re just going to sacrifice some of what we would put in before our first game as opposed to try and get everything in,” Walton said. “There’s a list of things we want to get in before we play a game and we’re just not going to get to it all. We’re fine with that.”center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe Lakers have ranked in the bottom three in defensive efficiency for the past four seasons. Last year, the 110.6 points per game they allowed per 100 possessions were 30th in the league – the second straight year they ranked dead last in the category.Given that, there was really only one place for Walton and the Lakers to start with Tuesday’s practice.“Two hours of defense,” Ball said.The supersonic offense, with highlight-worthy lobs and a cloudburst of 3-pointers, comes later.“The focuses of today’s practice were individual defense first, team defense second, then transition defense and finishing rebounds,” Walton said. “You’ve got to end every possession by finishing it off.”last_img

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