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Lakers to rely on youth and athleticism to bolster defense

September 24, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Swingman Wesley Johnson says, "There's definitely going to be that youth and excitement back on the court again" for the Lakers in the coming season.
Swingman Wesley Johnson says, "There's definitely going to… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )

If healthy, the Lakers have a lot of weapons offensively. With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Chris Kaman and Nick Young, the team is going to score a lot of points nightly.

The bigger question is on the defensive side of the ball.

While Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace -- both accolade-winning defenders -- are gone, the Lakers hope to use some of their newer, younger faces to pick up the slack.

“Jordan [Farmar] has already told me he wants to pick up 94 feet [defensively],” Wesley Johnson told Alex Lambeth and Jory Dreher of LakerNation.com.  "I told him, ‘I got the back. If you’re picking up 94 feet, then I’m picking up right there with you.' "

The Lakers added a number of younger, athletic players including Young, Elias Harris, Marcus Landry, Shawne Williams, Xavier Henry, Johnson and Farmar. The team also picked up shooter Ryan Kelly, though he's pushing through a foot injury.

The contracts of Henry, Landry, Williams, Kelly and Harris are not fully guaranteed.

"There’s definitely going to be that youth and excitement back on the court again,” Johnson said. "Everyone is so eager to play. Nash has that fire within him, too, so it’s really going to rub off on everyone."

Recently the players have been gathering at the team's practice facility in El Segundo. While Bryant has been present, he's spent his time rehabbing from his torn Achilles' tendon.

Gasol is still in Spain, also recovering from procedures on both knees.

The veterans are going to need support from the younger players, especially defensively.

"What’s important for us is just getting everyone to come out as a collective group and giving a good defensive effort," Johnson said. "I’m definitely going to use my wingspan to make plays happen. As long as everyone is on the same page defensively, I think we’ll be just fine."

Training camp starts on Saturday.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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