Toughness, Limited Switches & Length: Inside how Frank Vogel wants Lakers to play defense

There are defensive-minded coaches, and then there is whatever the hell Frank Vogel is. And because nearly every coach in the history of professional sports preaches the importance of defense with cliches, to hit Vogel with the “defensive-minded” moniker he’s so frequently been tagged with since accepting the job of Los Angeles Lakers head coach really does feel like a disservice to a man so maniacally committed to keeping his opponent from scoring that he’ll stop a scrimmage in training camp to give his players a lecture on how to defend a free-throw shooter.

Yes, you read that right. Not how to keep a player off the free-throw line. Not how to distract them from the bench. Vogel paused a scrimmage on the third day of training camp to explain to Avery Bradley — who was on the team that had just fouled JaVale McGee and currently standing to the seven-footer’s left at the free throw line — that he should get his arm up while McGee was attempting his ensuing free-throw.

”Without stepping into the lane, I want you to try to block his shot,” Vogel implored Bradley, waving his arm for emphasis before gesturing to the rest of the defensive team to raise and move their arms as well. “Try to change his shot. Try to guard the free-throw, without coming into the lane.”

Do the Lakers actually intend to try to do that in games? Is that even legal? How often would it even work on NBA-level free-throw shooters, who already have to overcome raucous fans and the pressure of everyone they’ve ever met watching closely on T.V. when they step to the line? A couple times a year? Maybe?

We don’t know the answer to those questions, but the fact that Vogel even has us asking them shows the commitment to stopping buckets he’s brought to the Lakers, a team that is already feeling the imprint of its new head coach just a few weeks into the official start of his reign.

It’s not clear how good the Lakers can actually be on defense, but if they’re bad, it won’t be for lack of planning, strategizing and philosophizing not to be.