So far this season, the Los Angeles Lakers’ defense hasn’t been quite at the level it was when they made their run last year. One major reason for that is that the team has been without its top perimeter defender, and one of the best in the entire league, Jarred Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt has yet to suit up for the Lakers as he deals with left heel bursitis. The team recently announced he would be re-evaluated in two weeks and head coach Darvin Ham provided a bit of an update.
“Yeah, day by day he’s getting stronger and stronger,” Ham said. “The discomfort is dissipating but as of right now, he’s only doing stationary work.”
While Vanderbilt is making progress he is clearly still a ways away from suiting up for the Lakers. He was the player the Lakers put on the opposition’s best player and is capable of guarding nearly every position on the court. His ability on that end of the court at the point of attack is something Ham admits the Lakers miss.
“Obviously Vando, his ability to bring energy to that side of the ball, his ability to guard multiple positions, to rebound, to get steals, blocks definitely [is missed],” the Lakers coach added. “Those are big shoes to fill in terms of the team’s point of attack.”
But Ham also noted that improving transition defense is the Lakers’ focus at the moment. “We’ve been saying it all year, just want to be great at transition defense to start,” Ham said. “Our in between defense, we’re gonna continue to work at it and get better, but I’m not as much concerned about our pick-and-roll defense, our off-ball defense, help defense.
“It’s just to me, the two main nuggets are our transition defense and continuing to fine-tune that, and that’s just being aware and sprinting back early and getting in position, and as one of my coaches likes to call ‘buddy running’ like OK, I’m next to a man so I got someone covered but the ball is continuing to go all over the place. So continuing to get better at that and continuing to get better at closing out possessions with a defensive rebound.”
Any form of defense is an area where Vanderbilt can help and that includes rebounding which is an area the Lakers have struggled in this year. The top priority is always player health so the Lakers will continue to take their time in getting Vanderbilt healthy so that he can return and bring that energy and defense to the team.
Lakers’ Jarred Vanderbilt talks what he worked on this offseason
It is extremely unfortunate that Vanderbilt hasn’t been able to play this season as of yet as the forward worked hard on improving his game this offseason. His perimeter shooting is what many know he needs to improve, but he also worked on other parts as well.
“Being able to shoot the ball, I worked a lot on shooting,” Vanderbilt said. “Finishing, ball handling, just pretty much touching up everything. As well as defensively, getting stronger, getting faster, getting more agile. I feel like each and every summer I try to just get better in every aspect of the game.”
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