Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton said all media day long that defense was the number one priority for training camp, and in Day 1 of basketball activities the team found out how serious he is about it.
The Lakers spent all two hours of their first session working on nothing but defense. Walton and his coaching staff worked 18 of the 20 training camp roster members through defensive drills all morning as training camp officially opened. Brook Lopez (back) and Andrew Bogut did not participate in drills.
“The main themes, focuses, of today's practice was individual defense first, then team defense second, then transition defense after that, then defensive rebounding. We did different drills for all of those and kind of made it competitive,” Walton said.
Coach Luke was complimentary of the level of competition he saw from the entire team, and liked what he saw from two of his cornerstone players in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
With Ingram, it was the incredible space he covered while sliding defensively that Walton appreciated. Where he sees room for improvement for Ingram is his balance. For Lonzo, Luke noted the star rookie is still in the process of learning how to use his size to his advantage, but liked the improvement he saw by the end of practice.
“Lonzo was good. He's got length too, so a lot of what we're trying do... a huge part of defense is communicating and talking, and he got louder as the day went on. He's got length where if he jumps up and contests a shot he can make people miss, and by the end of practice he was doing that,” Walton said.
Moving as a unit on defense takes trust, discipline and an understanding of principles across the entire team. It makes sense that Walton wants his team talking on the court, something that’s been noticeably absent in recent years. Ball noted the importance of learning how to rotate as a unity as the key going forward, and that can only come with crisp communication as they grow together.
“I think just the rotations. Once we get that down pat we'll be alright, because we have great speed and great length, so we can use that to our advantage,” Ball said.
On an individual level, Lonzo is going through the growing pains of learning pro-level schemes. He has a mountain of knowledge to digest in a very small amount of time.
“Just getting all the terminology down,” Ball said when asked about his biggest challenge on defense thus far. ”We've got a lot of words we've got to call out, and just trying to learn them.”
From the sounds of things, Lonzo will have ample opportunity to learn the new language of his life.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com