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Chuck Person points Lakers' defense in better direction

Assistant coach focuses Lakers on forcing opponents to the baseline rather than funneling them to the middle. In other news, Andrew Bynum's ejection in Sunday game is rescinded Monday.

January 10, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan

An embarrassing dip into history nudged the Lakers into action.

The franchise was fuming last month after thorny losses to Miami and Milwaukee, a two-game spell that became the first time since 1959 the Lakers lost consecutive home games by 16 or more points.

It was time for a change, a heightened attitude toward defense, after Milwaukee's Earl Boykins punctured them for 22 points Dec. 21 and the Miami Heat took turns pummeling them on Christmas Day.

The Lakers had won two championships under a defensive scheme installed by former assistant coach Kurt Rambis, but there was a growing need for more accountability among their perimeter defenders.

Coach Phil Jackson was bothered by the Lakers' defense this season, and assistant coach Chuck Person helped restructure and clarify a majority of the changes that were made.

The Lakers' perimeter defenders used to funnel players toward the middle of the key, where their big men would presumably step out and help stop the penetration. Now the Lakers are forcing opposing perimeter players toward the baseline and often keeping their big men closer to the basket.

Person was in charge of the Lakers' game plan Sunday against the New York Knicks, who scored 21 fewer points than they average and shot only 36% in the Lakers' 109-87 victory.

"Lately we've been paying more attention to details," Person said. "We've given some rules to our defense to hold guys more accountable for their defensive responsibility."

The Lakers used to welcome middle penetration. Now they abhor it.

"The basic principle is to make sure we keep the ball out of the middle of the floor," Person said. "We want to make sure we influence the ball down the sideline and then to the baseline. It's not a total departure from what we've done, but we just tweaked it a bit."

Despite solid recent results, Jackson said the defense was still not flawless.

"We're trying to break habits more than anything else," he said. "We've been playing a form of defense that has been pretty good for us the last four years, but I'm trying to make some adjustments and to break those habits takes some time."

One thing that has helped is having Andrew Bynum in the starting lineup. Since his return on Dec. 29, the Lakers are 6-1 and have held opposing teams to 93.1 points a game.

Bynum's technical rescinded

Bynum hadn't been ejected from a game in more than three years. Turns out he shouldn't have been booted against New York.

The NBA on Monday rescinded the second technical foul called against Bynum in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Bynum often complains about foul calls but was extra animated and actually made contact briefly with referee Leon Wood while arguing that he legitimately blocked the shot of Knicks forward-center Amare Stoudemire.

After the game, Bynum was still shaking his head.

"I don't know if it really warrants a technical or a double technical at that," he said Sunday. "You can watch the telecast. You can read my lips. I'm saying, 'Are you serious?' He's a grown man so I don't know if I showed him up or not."

Bynum hadn't been ejected from a game since December 2007.

Bynum did not talk to reporters Monday.

Jackson was irritated by the referees' crackdown this season and joked about a video sent by the NBA that addressed proper on-court demeanor.

"The [video] edit that we got from the league shows everything from genuflecting to the referees and walking away and then praying," he said. "I guess that's probably the best thing that you can do."

No more talking

Kobe Bryant acknowledged last week that his right knee was "almost bone-on-bone" because of deteriorating cartilage, but he declined a request for an update Monday.

"I'm not going to answer questions about my knee every damn day," Bryant said. "I said what I had to say. My knee feels fine. The key is to make it stay fine."

Bryant did not practice Monday and could return to resting it on most non-game days.

"It's not an issue," Jackson said. "He got out here for a week-and-a-half or so and practiced, and I think it's time for him to get back and do the strength thing."

Bryant will do strengthening exercises for the knee if he doesn't practice, Jackson said.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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