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Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher defend the Lakers' defense

After NBA legend Jerry West says team was having trouble because of age factors, Fisher and Bryant say there's been improvement in the last 10 to 11 games following a change in strategy.

January 24, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant force Suns point guard Steve Nash to pass after he drove into the lane and found power forward Pau Gasol waiting in a game earlier this month.
Lakers guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant force Suns point guard Steve… (Ralph Freso / Associated…)

The Lakers definitely get defensive when talking about their defense.

It happened Monday, as word of Jerry West's recent comments trickled through the locker room and spilled into media interviews after Lakers practice.

The NBA legend recently said his former team was having trouble defensively because of ever-advancing age, an observation that could be supported by the fact that 10 of the Lakers' 14 players are 30 or older.

Not that Derek Fisher wanted to hear much about it.

"You probably won't get me to respond in any way to Jerry West.… I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," said Fisher, 36. "But anybody else who has anything to say about how we've been playing defensively, it's just unfounded and not true.

"Statistically, the numbers are there. The last 10 or 11 games we're seeing the difference. Teams are not shooting the ball as well. Our opponents' points per game are down."

Kobe Bryant and Fisher said the defense had improved since adopting a different strategy the last few weeks, funneling players toward the baseline and sideline instead of the basket. In the past, the Lakers wanted opposing guards to try to challenge their big men, but not any longer, putting more pressure on the guards and small forwards to defend better.

"The intensity, we could definitely ratchet it up, and we have," Bryant said. "I think our last 10 games, 11 games or so, we really performed well and played hard."

The Lakers have allowed an average of 91.8 points in their last 11 games, though they fell apart in a 99-92 loss to the Clippers and a 109-100 loss to Dallas.

"We've obviously had some slip-ups," Fisher said. "The Clippers game, it's not even the game, but there were two- or three-minute stretches where we didn't play good defense. We're working hard in finding a way to a play a perfect 48 minutes. I don't know if we'll get there, but we're working on it."

Barnes apologizes

When Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left Sunday's NFC Championship because of a sore left knee, it sparked criticism among current and former NFL players on Twitter. It also affected Lakers forward Matt Barnes, who was watching the Bears' 21-14 loss to Green Bay.

"I can't believe Jay Cutler hasn't even TRYED to come back," Barnes wrote in a post on Twitter. "This is to go to the Super Bowl…. That's crazy."

Barnes retracted his comments with a series of Twitter dispatches Monday, saying he got "caught up in the emotion of the game."

Wrote Barnes, with grammatical errors included: "I apologize 4 my comments made [Sunday] about Jay Cutler w/out knowing the facts, it was wrong of me 2 ASSUME that he really wasn't hurt..The way he was laughing & his facial expressions through me off.. Again it was wrong of me"

The Bears said Monday that Cutler had sustained a sprained left medial collateral ligament.

Utah's struggling

Here comes the Jazz?

Utah has a decent record (27-17) but has lost four consecutive games to unlikely teams.

The Jazz lost by seven at Washington, eight at New Jersey and 11 at Philadelphia, all of whom are well under .500.

Utah also got blown out by Boston, 110-86, with All-Star guard Deron Williams logging as many turnovers as points (five).

"All teams go through that span, lose three or lose four," forward Lamar Odom said. "The [Miami] Heat, Boston, us. The only team that hasn't gone through it yet is San Antonio."

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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