Phil Jackson doesn’t disagree when former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West says the current team has problems consistently clamping down on defense.
Late last week, West, a Hall of Fame player, said the Lakers are “getting long in the tooth” and drew a correlation between the team’s age — 10 players on the roster are 30 or older — and a lack of defensive consistency.
“If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get to it? The reason you can’t play defense is because you can’t,” West said.
“He’s right. We have to do a lot of things right to be able to play defense the way we want to, and most of it is about controlling the tempo of a game,” Jackson said.
“There’s something about just speed. Outright speed. We’re not the fastest team on the boards here in the NBA, but we can do it if we control things in the right way.”
West, speaking at a luncheon for car dealers in Orange County, Calif., predicted the Lakers’ age will catch up to them.
“I don’t think the Lakers will be good for much longer. You can keep a car running for a long time by changing the tires, etc. But you can’t change a player’s tires,” he said.
Players were a little less inclined to agree with The Logo.
“You probably won’t get me to respond in anyway negatively towards Jerry West. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” said Derek Fisher, who was drafted by the Lakers in 1996 when West was the general manager. “I won’t respond specifically to him, but anybody else that has anything to say about the way we’ve been playing defensively is just unfounded and not true. Statistically the numbers are there. In the last 10 or 11 games, we’ve seen the difference.
“Teams [against us] aren’t shooting the ball as well. Opponents’ points per game are down. We’ve obviously had some slip-ups … but we’re working hard at finding a way to play 48 perfect minutes. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but we’re working at it.”
Kobe Bryant agreed to a degree that the team isn’t as fast as past versions.
“The dynamics of the team have changed slightly. Last year, you had Jordan [Farmar] and Sasha [Vujacic] in the second unit running around like jackrabbits. That was their big strength, their ability to get out on the open floor. This team, we slow things down a little bit more. We run on need. We’re not a fast-break team by any stretch of the imagination. But fast breaks don’t win championships, anyway. If they did, Phoenix would have a bunch.”
Pau Gasol echoed that the Lakers can still get it done on the defensive end.
“I don’t think we’re old enough not to be able to play defensively efficiently. We’re gonna get it done and we’re getting it done at times. We’re not a group old enough not to be able to stop guys and collectively support each other.”
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Andy Kamenetzky and Dave McMenamin was used in this report.