The Los Angeles Lakers spent a ton of their media day on Monday discussing how the team needed to make improvements defensively. Anyone who watched their games last season as the team gave up layup after layup on their way to a franchise-worst 17-win campaign knows why.
"We were all pretty terrible defensively last year,” said Jordan Clarkson during an interview on Spectrum Sportsnet. “I sucked defensively last year."
So it makes sense that to improve a defense that gave up 109.3 points per 100 possessions (the worst mark in the NBA), Luke Walton put most of the focus of the team’s first training camp practice on that end of the floor.
Walton told Chris McGee of Spectrum Sportsnet that the Lakers spent “80 percent” of their first practice working on the defensive side of the ball, and while rookies are not normally known for their proficiency in that area, the new Lakers head coach said Brandon Ingram was a standout.
“The fundamentals on defense that we were teaching, he was phenomenal at,” Walton told assembled media following practice. “When you watch him closely like coaches do, you’d be really happy with the way he performed today.”
Ingram wasn’t the only Lakers player Walton had some glowing praise for:
Luke Walton said Julius Randle was "phenomenal" today and that "the way he ran the court was incredible."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 27, 2016
Julius Randle was "incredible" the way he brought the ball downcourt today at Laker practice, Luke Walton said.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) September 27, 2016
Some of this is just your standard training camp platitudes, but Walton does seem to be making a concerted effort to praise Randle’s game so far this summer. Whether it’s because he loves Randle’s game, is trying to pump him up with positivity, or both remains to be seen.
However, if Randle can channel all of his potential this season, today won’t be the last time Walton calls him phenomenal.
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