Los Angeles Lakers: Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk: Breaking down L.A.'s D with Dave Miller

January, 23, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
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.

Monday afternoon quarterback: To foul or not to foul?

May, 10, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Lost in some of the hullabaloo surrounding the incredibly exciting final three minutes of Saturday's Game 3 win in Utah was how the Lakers handled one of basketball's great tactical quandaries: Up by three and in the penalty with only a few seconds left in the game, is it best to intentionally foul a shooter and put him on the line before a potential game tying shot can be launched?

Or do you play it straight, and ask your team to make a single defensive stand to win the game, potentially allowing a better look but shortening the game and leaving no (likely) outcome worse than overtime.

Phil Jackson generally won't choose to foul, but on Saturday he did. It worked out in the end- the Lakers won the game- but tactically could have backfired. Derek Fisher sent Williams to the line with six seconds to play. Williams made both his shots, and the Lakers called timeout to advance the ball. On the inbound, however, Ron Artest couldn't hit Fish with the inbound pass (in part because of a great open field tackle by Wes Matthews), giving Utah the ball back with a chance to win.

They didn't, of course, but had either Williams' jumper or Matthews' buzzer-beating tip dropped, there would have been plenty of Sunday morning quarterbacking around town.

Everyone has his own philosophy on how to handle this sort of situation, but to get a better feel for it I talked to a former NBA head coach to get see what he would have done.

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Chalk talk: Dave Miller on Brandon Jennings and defense

January, 9, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
The Lakers want to keep this man from wreaking havoc.

With the Milwaukee Bucks and Brandon Jennings in town for a Sunday match against the Lakers, fans and media will no doubt dwell on what's considered the Lakers' biggest weakness: stopping quick point guards. Whenever the likes of Chris Paul, Aaron Brooks or Rajon Rondo are on the bill, Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown instantly find themselves under the microscope. That Jennings was pretty quiet during December's 107-106 OT win in Milwaukee (4-11 shooting for eleven points, a solid but reasonable seven assists) changes nothing. The Laker "ones" will undoubtedly be scrutinized heading into this contest.

With Brandon Jennings coming to town Sunday night, we get into the nitty gritty of L.A.'s perimeter defense. It's a chalk talk with coach Dave Miller, who spent two years on Byron Scott's staff in New Orleans.
Podcast Listen
Brian and I have often labeled this issue somewhat overstated, in that EVERY team struggles to check speed freaks. It's not like Monta Ellis gets shut down by 28 other squads, then bumps his stats purely through four meetings with the Lakers. Containing fast guards is a struggle across the league. By extension, shutting these guys down to the degree possible also feels like a team issue, as opposed to one man's responsibility. But perhaps we're being too easy on the purple and gold lead guards. And even if we're not, there's still the matter of an ideal strategy to counter greased lightning.

For more insight, the Kamenetzky Brothers Lakers PodKast enlisted Dave Miller, who's been an assistant coach at the college (West Point, Texas, USC, Arizona State) and NBA levels (two years with Byron Scott and the Hornets). He also has a unique perspective on Jennings, having coached him at the AAU level and worked him out. Lotta X's, O's, and nitty gritty about defensive principles, which should appeal mightily to hoop heads looking to get deep inside the game. Before listening to the entire show, click below for a sampling of what Miller had to say:

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0