The Los Angeles Lakers Are Victims To Their Own Defensive Tendencies

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 5, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers talk in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center on February 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the 76ers 99-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

To be a follower of the Los Angeles Lakers, it is necessary to come to terms with several absolute truths about the team, with the purpose of preserving sanity as the main motivation.

For instance, everyone wishes Pau Gasol would attack the rim with authority on the offensive end, but his versatility and talent makes his sometimes soft approach easier to live with.

Likewise, the inconsistency of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom have been a point of contention as long as the two have donned the Laker purple and gold, but their talent and potential have over-shadowed inconsistency issues.

In both cases, each of the players mentioned are battle tested and approved, and their obvious impact on the fortunes of the team outweigh any questions about their motivation or desire.

Harder to reconcile is the Lakers' inability to defend on the perimeter, and that may be the one issue that Laker fans will be hard pressed to dismiss as an anomaly they are willing to deal with.

It's a familiar concern for the Lakers, but it is one that threatens to derail repeat championship aspirations, and has to be considered the major flaw for one of the league's most talented teams.

Los Angeles won the title in 2009 and the specter of defensive incompetence on the perimeter nearly came back to haunt them in the series against Houston, where an under-manned Rockets team pushed the Lakers to the brink of elimination.

Houston was capable of this because Los Angeles had no answer for Aaron Brooks, who abused one Laker after the other on his way to almost causing one of the biggest upsets in recent playoff memory.

The primary victim was Derek Fisher who lacked the foot speed to stay in front of Brooks, and although Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar had the speed, they lacked the defensive discipline.

Fast forward to this season and the situation remains much the same, except the rest of the league has realized the best hopes of defeating the Lakers is to attack them at the point guard position.

The teams that have achieved the most success against Los Angeles have employed this theory, and once it happens the rest of the Laker defense is subject to the chaos it creates.

Every defensive problem the Lakers have can be traced back to the inability to defend the perimeter, because once penetrated, the defense has to rotate to cover open opponents, which throws everyone out of position.

In last night's loss to the Miami Heat, Carlos Arroyo, an average player, resembled a superstar as he constantly penetrated the porous Laker defense for short jumpers or passes to wide open teammates.

The ruse was simple but highly effective as Arroyo would beat his man, then throw a pass to the open player once a defender stepped up to impede his progress.

The game would have never gone to overtime if the Heat would have managed to hit some of the plentiful open looks they received from the perimeter, as a result of their penetration.

The answer for Los Angeles may be a reluctant benching of Derek Fisher, who no longer possesses the quickness or lateral movement to stay in front of the younger guards he is matched against.

This is a move which would benefit the Lakers, but is unlikely to happen due to the stubborn nature of Coach Phil Jackson and his unabridged faith in Fisher to produce.

Fisher deserves credit for all he has meant to the franchise, but it is possible for him to be just as effective as he has in the past by accepting a demotion to the bench in favor of younger legs.

It may be time for either Farmar or Brown to assume the reins of the team because they bring the speed and athleticism which Fisher lacks, if not the same level of understanding and knowledge of the game.

It is a concern that must be dealt with, for the future of the franchise and the viability of the Lakers as contenders is at stake.

This is not something that will simply go away, and the strength of the league in general has improved, so the Lakers must take the necessary steps to improve if they hope to hoist the championship trophy in June.  


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