Luke Walton talks with the media at practice on Oct. 22, 2016.
(Joey Ramirez/Lakers.com)

Lakers Aim for Defensive Improvement and More In Regular Season

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

After the Lakers’ loss in Friday’s preseason finale, head coach Luke Walton made clear that he will continue to make adjustments to the starting lineup if it keeps giving up early leads now that the regular season is here.

Apparently that message was received at Saturday’s practice, as Walton labeled his starters “really good” at the session four days ahead of the season opener against Houston.

“Luke definitely had a different approach to practice today,” Brandon Ingram said. “I think he made a lot of emphasis on the first group today and they did a lot better coming into practice with better energy and a lot of enthusiasm.”

In particular, Julius Randle — who led the NBA in preseason rebounding per 48 minutes (13.6) — stood out, as Walton said he might have even tallied a triple-double in practice with all of his contributions.

“He was pushing the ball, attacking the rim when it was open,” Walton said. “When it wasn’t, he was playmaking for the guards. We all know he’s capable of playing that way. It’s just a matter of getting him playing like that all the time.”

Walton’s players continue to echo his desire to sharpen up, particularly on the defensive end.

While offense is certainly a focus, too, Larry Nance Jr. said that the team has made strides from last year, when they allowed the NBA’s fourth-most points per game (106.9).

“Last year we were among the worst teams in the league actually in both categories,” Nance said. “But defensively I’d say everybody’s actually putting forth an effort on that end this year, which is just 10 times better.”

LNJ

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Even Nick Young — who has long held a reputation as a subpar defender — has joined in on this new focus, as Nance said that his teammates keep calling him Bruce Bowen in practice, as well as jokingly comparing him to Gary Payton, Kawhi Leonard, Dennis Rodman and Tony Allen.

Walton, however, keeps Young in check by saying he shoots like Allen — a player known for being unable to connect from the outside.

But Young has certainly bucked that mocking this preseason by shooting a team-best 48.8 percent on 3-pointers.

“He was born to score,” Nance said. “Some of the shots he takes, we’re like, ‘What are you doing?’ — until it goes in.”

Nance said that he’d like to see the team put together a top-15 defense this year and that he personally is feeling much better after struggling with knee issues last year.

He claims that he has recovered enough this preseason to finally jump off his right leg for the first time in three years.

“It’s definitely getting stronger and I’m getting more confident using it and everything like that,” Nance said. “In terms of health, I feel great.”

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