BR: How do you account for the Lakers’ poor transition defense with a roster that leans so heavily on older players?
KR: The easiest example I can give you is, usually your 1, 2, and 3 men work in concert with each other. So if your 1-man, say, drives in, then your 2 and 3 get back on defense. Then everybody fills in from there. You build your transition defense out of that, so you’ve got to make sure, whomever is taking the ball, that guys adhere to their responsibilities and are held accountable to do their jobs if a player’s not getting back to slow the ball down, to stop and hold everything up until everybody gets back in transition.
It’s a mindset, too. When you see you’re not going to get the rebound and the other team is going in that direction, you’ve got to get back. There’s drills and you start hammering these points home to players in training camp. There’s no reason that, regardless of the age the Lakers were at last year, that if they were organized, they couldn’t have gotten those things done.
That doesn’t account for turning the ball over, you know what I mean? There’s a whole lot of stuff to do with that, so you can’t turn the ball over, which is kind of what I meant when I said that defense starts with your offense. If you’re doing things correctly offensively, then it helps your transition defense.
BR: How do you compensate for the loss of two defensive specialists like Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace?
KR: Even with them on the team last year, they may have been able to do things to cover up for mistakes on some level, but, like I said, it takes all five guys. You can’t have Metta World Peace out denying the guy on the wing whenever he’s supposed to be part of a rotation. That doesn’t help you out because the other team ends up with a layup. All five guys have to be part of the defense. That’s what we have to do as a team. We have to get guys functioning at a very high team level and not just worry about individuals.
If you just tell everybody, “Match up with your guy and don’t worry about help, you’re just responsible for yourself,” that’s not going to work. You want to challenge them to be good individual defenders, but it takes five guys to figure that out.
BR: How might better team chemistry affect the Lakers’ ability to defend as a unit?
KR: Chemistry is always going to help you out. It’s difficult to attain, especially when you continue to add new faces and your team is changing all the time, bringing in different people from different backgrounds with different perspectives, different styles and personalities. To get everybody on the same page, that’s always a challenge when you add new pieces, and it’s a challenge that the Lakers had to deal with last year.
But always, if there’s good camaraderie and good chemistry, if there’s good understanding, then players, historically, do a much better job of sharing the ball offensively, and they, historically, do a much better job of covering each other’s backs and trying to help each other at the defensive end. You want guys to have that sort of responsibility toward each other, not to let the other guy down defensively, and try to figure out how to make your teammate better offensively.