Mike D’Antoni called Kurt Rambis several weeks ago to offer him a job as an assistant coach, generating an almost automatic answer: yes, of course.
Rambis loves the Lakers, having spent so much time in Los Angeles as both a player and a coach, amassing considerable experience – and championship rings – along the way. But this time around, his job description will have one area of particular focus: defense.
“My background is more at the defensive end, and the Lakers obviously had problems at the defensive end last year,” said Rambis on LakersTV. “So hopefully I can bring some ideas and some drills that can help them get on the same page and play a much more consistent game on that end of the floor.”
Rambis and D’Antoni will have to do it without defensive anchor Dwight Howard, of course, but even when Howard was playing better in the later part of the season, the cohesion on team defense in 2012-13 left much to be desired. They ranked only 18th in defensive efficiency in the NBA, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions. Rambis hopes having a full training camp that allows the coaching staff to put in a defensive system – notably absent from last season due to the coaching change in November – can make a real difference.
The three-time former Lakers assistant (1994-99, 2001-04 and 2005-09) acknowledged several “ifs” on the roster that mostly describe the health of the older players like Kobe Bryant (recovering from surgery on his Achilles), Pau Gasol (recovering from a knee procedure) and Steve Nash (getting up to 100 percent from various issues). Yet he sees reasons for optimism especially on offense.
“If you look at the offensive capabilities of this team, when you look at Nick Young coming in, Wesley Johnson, (Jordan) Farmar and (Chris) Kaman and how they can assimilate themselves with Kobe, Nash and Pau, there’s a lot of potential out there to be a very good offensive team.
“A lot of floor spacing, guys who can create their own shots, inside play, outside play. If everything works out right, offensively, it should be a good year for the Lakers.”
How does that translate to defense?
“Now it’s just getting offensive oriented-players to focus at the defensive end,” Rambis summarized. “If they can find ways to get stops on a consistent basis, the team will give themselves a chance to win.”