Practice Report: For L.A., Defense Trumps an Ill-Advised Shot
Defensive effort is always going to be more important to Mike Brown and his staff than an ill-advised shot on offense here or there, but let's begin with the clanked three-pointer Andrew Bynum attempted with his team leading 56-50 with 10:05 on the clock in the third quarter of L.A.'s 104-101 win on Tuesday at Golden State.
Brown almost immediately signaled for Josh McRoberts to replace Bynum, later explaining that he "wanted to go in a different direction" as his center took a three that in context might have hurt the team's rhythm.
"If I'm feeling like we're not getting production the right way from certain guys on the floor, I'll make a change," said Brown. "It's as simple as that."
Brown sent Bynum back into the fray to start the fourth quarter, but quickly wanted to go "in another direction" once again at the 9:33 mark, pulling the first year All-Star for good. As Brown explained in more detail after Wednesday's practice, his concern was more about Bynum's involvement, or lack there of, on the defensive end.
"I didn't think that defensively he was active enough when he went back in," said Brown. "I thought we needed to be more aggressive in the pick and roll on the weak side, on the ball, in the post."
Bynum, who ranks third in the NBA in rebounding at 12.2 per game, grabbed only four in 40 minutes of playing time in Sunday's loss to Memphis, and five in his 23 minutes at Golden State.
"I know he didn't rebound well (Tuesday) night or the game before, and I spoke to him about his rebounding at halftime (vs. Memphis)," Brown relayed. "I spoke to him again about it after (Tuesday's) shootaround. Watching the tape, maybe his activity hadn't been what it was in the past on the weak side or on the glass."
There's the larger issue. Bynum can be so dominant defensively with his rare combination of sheer size, length and athleticism, that even a slight drop off in his role keying what has at times been the league's top field goal percentage defense sticks out like a 7-footer pulling up for a triple.
Even while the Lakers have scored the ball with greater ease since Ramon Sessions arrived from Cleveland seven games ago, hitting around 47.5 percent of their shots towards 101.7 points per game (more than six above their season average), the defense has slipped, allowing nearly 99 points per game on 45.4 percent field goals, up from 93.2 points on 42.7 percent averages.
And it's not because the Lakers are playing at a faster pace since Sessions arrived, since according to hoopdata.com they are averaging only one more possession, 94 to 93, with Sessions than in the six games previous to his arrival.* *This includes games from March 2-11, excluding two overtime wins at Memphis and New Orleans.
Assistant coach Quin Snyder previously told us that part of this is a natural tendency to relax on defense when scoring is coming more easily that can change soon enough, but today it's also about how the Lakers are protecting the paint.
No one plays a bigger role than Bynum towards that end, but his teammates are confident that things will be just fine.
"We addressed it, and obviously we want Andrew to do well for us, be at his best," said co-captain Pau Gasol. "He's had a tremendous year and he'll continue to have it. We don't want to make too big of a deal about one isolated incident or game."
Brown, for his part, said Bynum was "great" at Wednesday's practice. He doesn't expect Bynum to be launching threes against the Thunder in L.A.'s next game on Thursday evening, but he most certainly will be watching how Bynum attacks the glass and the defensive paint.