From an efficiency standpoint, the Lakers are allowing relatively close to the same number of points per 100 possessions this year (101.7) as they did a season ago (101.1). Unfortunately, a figure good enough to tie for fifth last year, only .9 behind the league leader leaves them ninth this season, almost five points worse than the league's top squad.
Good enough for then hasn't been good enough for now.
The relative lack of performance, along with providing a squad struggling with some of the fairly natural issues of focus popping up after three straight Finals runs and consecutive titles, prompted the coaching staff to make some adjustments on the defensive side of the ball a few weeks ago.
"Nothing is really different. It’s just, we’re just trying instead of letting instinctually some of the things we expect for them to just naturally pick up and expect for them to do, they’re not really getting it," Brian Shaw told me recently. "So we’re just clarifying it, and just trying to tighten it up so we don’t have as much slippage on it. And in the process maybe some of the terminology seems new or different to them, but we’re still pretty much doing the same thing."
There are changes, though, from a greater emphasis on utilizing the length of Andrew Bynum near the basket to funneling penetration towards the baseline (and out of the paint).
To get a better feel for what the Lakers are doing -- right, wrong, and in between -- we hit up coach Dave Miller, 710 ESPN's basketball analyst and longtime assistant at the college and NBA level for a chalk talk. He breaks down exactly what the Lakers are trying to do with their revised defensive scheme -- like Shaw, he says it's not all that different -- and some of the practical points of execution going along with it. The Lakers, Miller says, are improving, but haven't yet built in consistency.
"Basketball is a game of habits," he says. "You either do it all of the time, some of the time, or never, and two of those three aren't good enough to win a championship."
From there, Miller explains the basic principles of transition defense, why the Lakers seem to get so badly burned by it, and what they can fix.
It's low-fi filmmaking serving up some hi-fi information.