(Joseph Sherman/Los Angeles Lakers)

Focus on Defense in Early Days of Lakers Camp

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

It’s not exactly a secret that all eyes are on the Lakers this season. And the reason why is even more obvious.

When you pair two generational talents like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, you’re bound to draw a spotlight. But inside the Lakers’ gym during the first two days of training camp, another player has his teammates abuzz: Avery Bradley.

“He’s the guy that everybody’s talking about,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “Anthony and LeBron look imposing together, that lineup today looked imposing together. We’ve got two of the best players in the world competing together and all anybody’s talking about is Avery Bradley’s tenaciousness. That speaks volumes about what he’s been able to show in the first couple of days.”

Twice named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team, Bradley could be the Lakers’ x-factor this season. Though listed at 6-foot-2, the 28-year-old is known for taking on any challenge with an aggressive, in-your-jersey approach.

Vogel learned this firsthand while coaching against Bradley in the Eastern Conference, when the former coached Indiana and the latter suited up for Boston.

“[He’s] being in the face of whoever has the basketball,” Vogel said. “It became very clear from coaching against him, I’d say, ‘Don’t dribble the ball. If Avery’s on you, pass the ball. Give it up, because you’re not going anywhere off the bounce with Avery Bradley on you.’”

And Bradley’s rave reviews are also coming from the guys he’s sharing the court with.

“AB hounds on the ball defensively and off the ball,” Danny Green said. “He’s tough to get by, tough to get around.”

Between Bradley, Green, James, Davis, Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard, the Lakers’ roster boasts a combined 21 All-Defensive selections.

So it’s no surprise that Green replied to a question about the team’s offense by talking about the other end of the court.

“I like the fact that we’re more defensive oriented,” Green replied. “Go over that stuff first. That’s the more important thing.”

Toss in other defensive-minded players like JaVale McGee, Alex Caruso and Kenatavious Caldwell-Pope, and the Lakers have the recipe for a potentially dangerous squad on that side.

But in terms of setting a physical tone, Vogel has turned to Howard — a three-time Defensive Player of the Year — to establish how the Lakers want to play.

“Defense is all about will: How bad you want it,” Howard said. “If you want to stop somebody, you have to bear down and do whatever you can to stop them. That’s the mentality we have to have playing against the best players in the world.”

Howard has lofty goals and confidence for his squad, saying that the Lakers could be the “best defensive team in the league.”

Vogel — who coached two top-ranked defensive teams in Indiana — feels that this team could accomplish that feat, but also knows how much has to happen to make it a possibility.

“There’s no doubt we can be,” Vogel said. “But it’s gonna be on me to keep them drilled and prepared with the game plans. It’s gonna be on them to commit and continue the care factor through 82 games.”

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