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Defense, turnovers top Lakers Coach Phil Jackson's list of concerns

Initially reluctant to offer a state-of-the-team assessment so early in season, Jackson allows that 'I'm not real happy with our defense,' and adds, 'turnovers is another thing I'm always focused on.'

November 22, 2009|By Broderick Turner
  • The Lakers are giving up 98.7 points per game and are averaging 14.6 turnovers a game, two areas where Coach Phil Jackson would like to see improvement.
The Lakers are giving up 98.7 points per game and are averaging 14.6 turnovers… (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles…)

At first, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was unwilling to deliver a pronouncement on which aspects of his team he finds satisfactory and which ones he doesn't.

"Um, yeah, I'd have to think about that a day or two," Jackson said, smiling. "You just can't throw that to me like that."

But true to form, after he pondered the question for a short time, Jackson was more than willing to critique his team.

He had been hesitant because the Lakers have played only 12 games, their 13th coming tonight when they play the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center.

There is also the Pau Gasol factor to consider. Gasol played his first game Thursday night after sitting out the first 11 because of a strained right hamstring. And there's the fact that the Lakers have played only three road games this season, not nearly enough of a true test.

A better indicator will come in December; seven of the Lakers' 15 games next month will be away from Staples Center.

But without any further prodding, Jackson offered his assessment -- at least of what is displeasing him.

"I'm not real happy with our defense," he said after practice Saturday. ". . . We can be a better defensive team."

The Lakers are giving up 98.7 points per game, which puts them in the middle of the NBA pack.

"Turnovers is another thing I'm always focused on," Jackson said.

The Lakers are averaging 14.6 turnovers a game, 12th-highest in the league.

Still, Jackson conceded that it's too early to get a true gauge on where his team stands.

"[By] early December, we'll have kind of a feel," Jackson said.

Talkin' 'bout practice

For two straight days, the Lakers went to work.

Rather than give his players a day off, Jackson had them practicing.

Friday's session was more about formatting the offense, getting players in comfortable spaces on the court.

Saturday's practice was more about playing and scrimmaging. And it included every able body.

"It's been good, it's been fun," Kobe Bryant said. "We competed today. [Friday] was a light day, but today was fun."

Gasol still hurting

Two days after playing his first game in more than five weeks, Gasol still was recovering.

Gasol said Friday that he was sore, but it wasn't from the hamstring injury that had kept him sidelined.

He had played 35 minutes Thursday night in his first game back and felt the effects of that in his back and legs.

Gasol practiced Saturday despite still being sore.

"Well, he didn't look as good today as he did in the game on Thursday night," Jackson said. "But it was a good run for him."

Is it natural for a player who hasn't played in just over five weeks to be sore?

"I don't know what's natural," Jackson said, smiling. "I just don't think there is any such thing."

Bynum injury update

Andrew Bynum didn't practice for the second straight day because of an injured ankle, but the Lakers are hopeful that their center will be able to play tonight.

Bynum was injured during Thursday night's game when he rolled his ankle.

"He thinks he will [play]," Jackson said. "But we're not sure. You can't tell one day's adjustment to the next. He's been better today than yesterday, but we don't know."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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