With a defensive-minded coach in Darvin Ham and continuity heading into the season, the Lakers were expected to be a top defensive team. So far, that hasn’t happened, as the Lakers are tenth in the NBA in Defensive Rating at 113.4.
One of the reasons for the Lakers performing below expectations on the defensive side of the ball is due to injuries. Jarred Vanderbilt is arguably the team’s best wing defender and he missed the first 20 games of the season with a left heel bursitis.
While injuries to key players help contextualize some of this team’s failings, it is not the only reason. Anthony Davis talked about communication being the key to unlocking this team’s defensive potential during his postgame availability following a loss to the Pelicans.
“For as far as the defensive end, our communication has to be better,” Davis said. “We’ll talk about something and then go out and don’t do it. It’s a lot of ‘We’re supposed to do this but guys did this.’ Guys are trying to do the right thing but it’s not the right thing as far as a coverage or a scheme. Those are the little details that can win or lose you a basketball game…We just have to be better at that and really lock in on our details and make sure that we do the little things and not beat ourselves.”
A few of these examples came up against the Pelicans. Jose Alvarado stole the ball from LeBron James from behind and that steal was possible due to a lack of communication. Teammates were supposed to tell James someone was trailing and trying to steal the ball, but no one did and you could see James’ frustration from the lack of communication on the floor.
Jose Alvarado hides to get the steal on Lebron James pic.twitter.com/XWzo0xa1SO— Ball (@ThatsAllBall_) January 1, 2024
Ham has stressed that communication and defensive effort are all part of the details that this team can’t skip if they want to be great. They’ve fallen short of the high expectations people had for them this year, but there’s still a lot of basketball to play and January has a softer schedule that has the Lakers primed to go on a run.
If they can clean up these issues and compete hard to start this five-game homestand, they can be as good on the court as they look on paper.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.