The Lakers held practice at Rollins College in Orlando on Saturday afternoon in preparation for Sunday’s showdown with the Magic, returning to the city in which they secured the franchise’s 15th championship with consecutive wins in Games 4 and 5 of he 2009 NBA Finals.
While specific preparation for the Magic took place since the team won’t hold shootaround in the morning due to the 11:30 a.m. Pacific tip, Phil Jackson said that the team also spent some time discussing how to get back to its defensive principles.
After consecutive road losses to Miami and Charlotte, Jackson addressed a team conversation in which Kobe Bryant, among other players, was vocal.
“We’re just working with some principles that right now have escaped us as far as what we consider good defense,” said Jackson. “We’re working with those principles, and (Bryant) interjected and brought up a notion of determination.”
Bryant declined to relay to the media his message to his teammates, but when pressed further by assembled media members, Jackson elaborated.
“(There is) a willfulness that you have to have in this game, and there is also flexibility,” explained the head coach. “Willfulness carries the day about 80 percent of the time. There’s strategy, and then there is getting the job done.
“I opened it up for how we’re going to solve some of the problems we have, basically penetration off screen roll, which has been a nemesis and is for most teams.”
Screen-roll defense will certainly be a factor against the Magic, who have multiple players capable of excelling in pick-and-roll sets, such as Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter and Dwight Howard. While Nelson missed last season’s Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland and wasn’t himself in the Finals, Carter was the key offseason addition, joining Orlando in place of Hedo Turkoglu.
“Vince can essentially do the same things as Hedo did in terms of creating for others,” said Bryant. “Obviously Hedo is 6-9*, but Vince has his strengths too.”
*Carter is 6-6.
With an added hope that Carter can handle some of the playmaking role particularly in fourth quarters, Orlando is not lacking for motivation to return to the Finals, no matter how hard it is to make it back.
“Not many teams come back again after they lose in the Finals,” said Jackson. “It’s very hard because the disappointment is so great. In all the years I coached with the Bulls there was only one that came back and that was Utah. But, you can use it as an impetus too. I think Orlando has made changes and they’ve looked really good at times. I think they’re still there, still one of the teams.”
The Lakers certainly expect nothing less than Orlando’s A game in their first trip back to Amway Arena, where a hungry team and its crowd surely await.
MAGIC RIGHT THERE WITH CLEVELAND
I asked Phil Jackson why Orlando, despite beating Cleveland – with whom they match up very well – in the Eastern Finals last year even without Jameer Nelson, hasn’t gotten anywhere near the 2010 Finals buzz as the Cavs, and if he has additional respect for the Magic. Here’s what Phil said:
It’s who comes into these playoffs (after) these last 20 games playing well and in good health, and have all their weapons available to them that’s going to make the difference. I think (Orlando) has the ability to beat Cleveland. They know that, and Cleveland’s been trying to find personnel to match that, and did so with the trades they made at the All-Star break. They’re trying to arm themselves for the possibility.