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First order of business for Lakers: Fix the help defense

Dec 11, 2012, 11:32 AM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard AP

It’s been a pretty regular happening for the Lakers the past few games:

The opposing point guard blows past Chris Duhon without much resistance. Dwight Howard sees it coming early (there’s a reason he’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year) and rotates over to cut off the lane — but then nobody helps the helper. Nobody makes the next rotation to pick up Howard’s man, or if they do it is late. Either way a big man gets a shot at the rim or there is a wide-open guy on the perimeter for a kick-out corner three.

The Lakers defensive rotations are maybe their biggest weakness right now (outside of injuries, anyway) and if they are going to start winning that is the first thing that has to be fixed.

Howard is understandably frustrated as he tries to quarterback this thing and he said as much to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

“Guys have to understand I’m going to try to block shots and I’m going to help as early as I can and I’m going to be there,” Howard was quoted as saying. “We have to get each other’s back.”

And, Kobe Bryant endorsed the frustration, saying, “He should be. He can’t do everything defensively. He’s doing as much as he can, changing shots and the things of that nature. But when teams are getting out in the break and laying the ball up so many times, there’s not much you can do.”

The thing is, Kobe is part of the problem — his rotations have been terrible at times and at other points he was busy arguing a call and didn’t even get back over half court to help in transition. Howard has barked at Kobe because of it. The bigger issue with Bryant is that he has gone back to doing a lot of roaming when his man doesn’t have the ball — he is gambling for steals and getting caught way out of position because of it. Our own Darius Soriano broke it down with video over at ForumBlueandGold.com.

We shouldn’t just single out Kobe, there isn’t a Laker who is blameless. They all are slow on rotations, get caught ball watching and when you then play a team like the Jazz that moves well off the ball you pay a serious price. But with Kobe as the team leader, more is expected of him.

While Mike D’Antoni’s offense might be free flowing, a defense is about discipline. And right now the Lakers have none on that end of the floor. That is not something the return of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol is going to instantly fix, but it is the biggest key to the Lakers turning this thing around. They are scoring points, but the Thunder, Jazz and even for a quarter Magic and Rockets exposed them on the defensive end. If the Lakers defense doesn’t improve, the team won’t, at least not to the level Lakers fans expect.

  1. skids003 - Dec 11, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    This is the tenth article on this in the last few days. The great Kobe cannot be expected to play defense, his job is to jack up 30 or more shots per game. The others must play defense. All he does is drift around loking for cheap steals.

    • fanofevilempire - Dec 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      and you keep reading the articles, don’t you have anything better to do.

      get lost fella.

      • skids003 - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        No, not really. I enjoy reading the stupid comments mostly. You added one right in there for me.

    • aboogy123456 - Dec 11, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      Kobe can still play man defense at a high level, and I don’t want to see him overwork himself and not be rested enough to score or play Defense in the playoffs. Your talking point is an example of how people are focusing too much on the negative of kobe. you conveniently forget examples of him single guarding westbrook in the playoffs and doing a great job when lakers need it most.

      Also, kobe playing free safety and going for the turnover isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The other night he did that while guarding Xavier henry, creating havoc and forcing Henry to have to try and score. I think forcing Henry to try and score is a good strategy in that case.

      • borderline1988 - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:21 PM

        True – Kobe can play defense at a high level when he wants to. Fact is, he almost never wants to.

        And the whole thing about needing Kobe to be rested to score or for the playoffs is just a bunch of hogwas.

        Kobe never cares about getting rest for the playoffs when it comes to scoring on the offensive end, he only cares about rest on the defensive end (ever thought about that? do you think Kobe would accept taking 10 fewer shots per game so that he can be rested for the playoffs?).
        And considering Kobe’s career FG% is about 45%, it’s not like they absolutely need him to pour in the shots every game. Furthermore, Kobe has never been injured much in his entire career, and never really ‘tired’ come playoff time.

        Should we be asking Howard to take some rest on the defensive end for the playoffs?

        That whole idea is ridiculous. If a player on my time tried to pull that crap, I’d bench him immediately. If he needs rest, then decrease his minutes. But if he’s out on the floor, he better be giving it his all.

  2. aboogy123456 - Dec 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Did anybody else see Devin Ebanks take and make outside shots on Sunday? He looked confident and aggressive, and I was very excited to see that because his defense has always been great, but the reason he never could see the floor was because he couldn’t hit the open shot.

    If he actually can shoot the ball now that means they get another great wing defender that is big enough to guard forwards and quick enough to guard guards. The article is right that the lakers need to fix their help defense, but if ebanks can get more minutes that will definitely help a lot.

    • 00maltliquor - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      He makes shots a lot like that every now and then. I noticed if he’s left slightly open at the corner 3 he’ll mostly hit them. Thing is it’s not consistant, but he’s a lot better shooter now then he was at West Virginia. Still wouldn’t fully trust him to be consistant just yet.

    • unxpexted1 - Dec 11, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Can’t wait for Ariza 2.0 (Ebanks) to get going for this team. We need the athleticism on the perimeter.

  3. magicbucs - Dec 11, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Dwight didn’t have the rotation problem in Orlando. Tho he did have the problem of guys blowing past duhon lol. Thanks LA for taking him off our hands along with Earl clark. They’re both horrible.

  4. paulhargis53 - Dec 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Kobe playing good defense?!

    I shake my head at the flat out refusal of SOME of you laker fans regarding kobe and his flaws. According to you, he hasn’t lost a thing. It’s plain to see that he has to the rest of the free world. Keep your head in the sand…..

    • aboogy123456 - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:22 PM

      Laker fans realize that kobe has lost a thing, and his body is not athletic as it once was. You kobe haters act like he never has played defense in his life, when in fact he used to be amazing at defense. Now he’s not the same athlete so he has to pick and choose how he plays defense. He’s still very good just not amazing, so I have to defend against the extreme kobe haters on this site.

    • tujefablows - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      And you should keep your head out of all the Lakers post. Laker Lover.

    • borderline1988 - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      I don’t think he’s lost anything. Offensively, he’s still as gifted as ever, and defensively, it’s all about focus, and Kobe has never been focused much on defense unless it’s in the dying seconds of a game.

      One thing that always amazes me is Kobe’s and Lebron’s fitness levels and almost superman-like ability to not get injured.
      Remember 2 years back in the playoffs, when Lebron shut down Derrick Rose in the 4th quarter and overtime..he was still playing fresh like it was the 1rst quarter, and even Rose admitted he was tired. And the guy has never been seriously injured once, even though he’s big and constantly drives hard to the rim.

      Kobe’s the same. His energy comes alive late in games, and he also hasn’t really been injured much in his 16 years in the league. It’s remarkable..I cant think of any other players like them.

  5. lemfaxx - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Defense & kobe right? Give him some extra rest so at the end he can defend well. Dont go with his scoring avg let the time management perform…

  6. spthegr8 - Dec 11, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    No SH*T Kurt. Thanks for pointing out the OBVIOUS.!!!

  7. paulhargis53 - Dec 11, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    According to Phil Jackson, Kobes defense has been overated since 2003, his age 25 season. As I’ve stated before, I will definitely take Jackson’s word over any laker homer on this matter.

    Kobe may have very early in his carreer cared about defense, but he hasn’t been outstanding for nearly a decade.
    Phil even said that him being on an l defensive team BACK THEN was based on reputation….9 years ago!

    You’ve got it wrong aboogy, I’m not a laker or Kobe hater. I detest homers of any team, that don’t use reason when it comes to matters like this.
    Anyone who dares question anything about the lakers is deemed a hater. It’s stupid and pathetic.
    Do us no laker fans like them doing poorly? We certainly do, because a large contingent of your fanbase had them winning it all in preseason.
    I’m nit saying Kobe defense is bad, because I’m a “hater”. I’m saying it because its true.
    To the dummy that thinks I’m lakerluver, are you serial? You do know that pos was the biggest laker homer ever, right?
    Put the bong down little fella, you’re way past baked.

  8. teedraper - Dec 11, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    The thing is, Kobe is part of the problem — his rotations have been terrible at times
    _————————————————————

    Helin…u don’t know JACK SQUAT about bball…just shut your mouth already. No one wants to read your opinion….just state facts and that’s not a fact at all.

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 11, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      Actually, it’s fact. Watch the games.

      • spthegr8 - Dec 11, 2012 at 5:37 PM

        @Kurt Helin
        He is “TROLLING” you Kurt. Garden Variety @ BEST!!!!!

  9. loungefly74 - Dec 11, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    motivation is lacking as well…

  10. unxpexted1 - Dec 11, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    I cant believe people are all of a sudden calling Kobe a bad defender. When throughout is career was Kobe every a “bad” defender or subpar defender? Now all of a sudden after age we are going to rewrite history and act like this dude never played defense? Give me a break. I would never call Kobe an “elite” defender, but easily an above average one in his career. Especially as a one on one defender. His problem now is because of age he cheats and gambles more than. When have you ever seen kobe in his past just get balled up by somebody in a one on one situation when he was at his best. Can the smaller quicker and younger Russell Westbrook get off on Kobe, of course, but lets not act like Kobe is some sort of defensive liablility. He plays above average defense, especially for a superstar caliber player.

  11. unxpexted1 - Dec 11, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    People’s dislike for people get in the way of people objectivity just as people love for a player does. So our “homersim” is not different than the blatant disresepct you give to the lakers just due to the dislike of the orgainization and or the fanbase.

    We all know that MJ was great right? And he was a great defender right? When do you ever recall Jordan, especially late in his career being called upon to guard the opposing teams best player? They had pippen for that. BUT, if Phil Jackson thought Kobe’s defense was so overrated and subpar then why in TWO straight years in the playoffs when it really counts put Kobe on the other teams best player at the time. He had Kobe guarding Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rando, and CP3 a couple years ago, maybe 3 now. If Artest was their best defender, why not put him on these guys, yest PHIL consistently calls on Kobe in a way that he never did with Jordan. I think his actions speak much louder than his words in this case.

  12. paulhargis53 - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    AGAIN, I will take Phil’s word on Kobes defense over any lakers homer.

    Arrest can’t defend Point guards you tool, they’d blow by him.

    Keep your head in the sand. Kobe has not been above average in almost a decade.

    Read the book by Phil, at least google it.
    Phil knows more about hoops than any of us ever will. I trust his judgement.

  13. omniusprime - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    What defense? The problem with the Laker’s lack of defense is a clueless coach who can’t coach defense. Dumbtoni doesn’t do defense and his offense is pathetic as well. The rotations are late because the team isn’t being properly coached, it’s not because they’re old and slow. This all boils down to a lack of proper preparation, that’s supposed to be Dumbtoni’s job but he’s been an absolute failure at coaching defense his whole career.

    Kurt when are you going to heed us fans who want Dumbtoni gone? When are you going to call for Dumbtoni’s ouster? It’s way past time for you sports pundits to point out the real problem with the Lakers, their pathetic coach and the clueless little idiot buss boy who forsook Phil Jackson ion favor of this worthless loser.

    Fire Dumbtoni!!! Fire the little idiot buss boy!!! We Want Phil!!! We Want Jeanie!!!

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