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Lakers' defense finally has it covered

After a fallow stretch, assistant coach Kurt Rambis' system is producing the desired results again, particularly in the last two games.

February 09, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

CLEVELAND — Kurt Rambis left the cramped quarters of the coaches' office and was sent off with a one-word salvo from a fellow assistant coach.

"Guru" was the cry from the small room adjacent to the visitors' locker room at Quicken Loans Arena.

Rambis was the assistant put in charge of the defense by Coach Phil Jackson before the season began, a long-range assignment that started out by flourishing, then foundering, but picked up again the last two games.

Andrew Bynum was out of the picture for at least eight weeks, but the Lakers were not, banding together defensively to push onward through Boston and Cleveland on the way to a 6-0 trip that ended Sunday with a 101-91 victory over the Cavaliers.

The Lakers stuffed the Cavaliers in the second half, holding them to 16 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth, not to mention 28.2% shooting in the second half. Cavaliers forward LeBron James missed 15 of 20 shots overall.

"We've really got the defense figured out now, everybody knows their jobs," guard Jordan Farmar said. "We know where to help. We've got each other's backs. It all works."

It worked well earlier in the season as the Lakers jumped out to a 14-1 start, but then opponents started creeping past the 100-point mark with regularity.

The Lakers, however, held their own against the rough-and-tumble Celtics before shutting down the Cavaliers three days later.

"I'm pleased," Rambis said. "We're getting better. It's still not where I would like it to be, but we're getting better, and that's encouraging."

Radmanovic rattled

Vladimir Radmanovic, the most recent ex-Laker, passed a physical Sunday but did not play in the Charlotte Bobcats' 96-92 loss to Miami.

He did find time to say the triangle offense was not a good fit for him, or for other role players.

"Here, I'll do what I do best. Being a Laker was a great experience, but it was also frustrating not knowing when and how I'd play," he told the Charlotte Observer. "Phil's system, great as it is, doesn't give a role player much opportunity. For Kobe Bryant, it's great. For Pau Gasol, it's great. But role players don't do much."

Radmanovic was sent to the Bobcats on Saturday for small forward Adam Morrison and shooting guard Shannon Brown in a deal that will ultimately trim $8.5 million from the Lakers' payroll.

More on Morrison

The third pick of the 2006 draft will be brought along slowly, the better to try to restore confidence in an outside shot that no longer drops with the consistency of his playing days at Gonzaga.

Morrison is averaging 4.5 points a game and shooting only 36% this season.

"We'll let him acclimate himself to this team . . . and try and get him reestablished as a player here," Jackson said. "He's had a pretty devastating injury, and recovery from that takes some time. It takes a year. He's had that, and now he's kind of rebuilding his confidence as a basketball player."

Morrison sat out last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He has been a reluctant shooter at times this season.

After a loss to New York in late December, Bobcats Coach Larry Brown was worried about Morrison's confidence.

"After he missed those first couple [shots], he didn't even look at the basket," Brown told reporters at the time. "As soon as I heard someone yell at him [from the crowd], I ran a play for him. And he didn't touch it."

Morrison's defensive shortcomings made it important for him to stay aggressive on offense, Brown said.

"Every time he comes in a game, they go right at him. He has to figure that out," Brown said. "If they're going to go at him, then if we're going to put him on the court, he's got to go after them."

Whatever happened in the past, Jackson wanted little or no part of it.

"He's fallen under the radar . . . people have forgotten about his skill as a basketball player," Jackson said. "I think he has an opportunity to start over. He's in the Western Conference, he's a Western kid in a much more hospitable environment for him."

What's up, Doc?

Jackson chuckled when told Celtics Coach Doc Rivers had been fined $15,000 for "verbal abuse of game officials" after the Lakers' 110-109 overtime victory.

"Is that all?" Jackson said. "It should have been more. That's Boston. It's just always been Boston. It just goes along with the product, you know?"


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