Lakers embrace the ‘Avery Challenge’ to punch up their defense

first_img Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs “ I mean, that’s why I made sure I’ve been on the bench every single game — myself and DeMarcus (Cousins) — so we can help our team in every way possible,” he said. “Talking to guys throughout the entire game, motivating guys, correcting — helping make corrections for guys. Because guys are walking up to us during timeouts asking what they can do better. And that’s what it’s all about. We’re a team and we all want the best for one another and always want to help each other whenever we can.”Vogel, Saunders share connectionAt 33 years old, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders is the youngest head coach in the NBA — and somehow even looks a little younger than that. It’s a position Frank Vogel can appreciate: He first became an interim head coach in Indiana at 37, and as a fellow coach who never played in the NBA, he knows the challenges that Saunders faces.Related Articles AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe Lakers were the No. 1 defense in the league when Bradley, the team’s best on-ball defender and defensive tone-setter, was laid up with injury. Since, they’ve fallen back to No. 3 in defensive rating (102.3) entering Sunday night. The “Avery Challenge” is Vogel’s way of pushing them to get back on top.There was a series of games when the Lakers weren’t particularly sharp on that end. During a film session, Vogel decided to name the challenge after the player who had been arguably the most essential to their hot start.“I put a challenge on our team, said, ‘Hey, you know, we’re going to be without Avery for a while,’” Vogel said. “‘And, you know, if that just means our defense is gonna go to hell. We’re in trouble. So we need to learn to get it done without him out there.’”The message was received: The Avery Challenge has helped re-engage the Lakers. They met the feat in back-to-back wins over Denver and Utah, and fell just short in a third straight win over Portland. Anthony Davis name-checked the challenge right after the Trail Blazers game.Bradley is making progress: After being cleared Saturday for contact practice, he participated in three-on-three and four-on-four work before Sunday’s game in a closed team session at Staples Center. But he’s also cognizant that while he’s out, the Lakers still need him to achieve the challenge that carries his name. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions LOS ANGELES — It’s the question every Laker wants to know as they file back into the locker room after the last few games.Did they do it? Did they beat the Avery Challenge?Avery Bradley, who has missed 14 games now with a hairline fracture in his right leg, feels put on the spot. But ever since Frank Vogel came up with the concept a few weeks ago — for the Lakers to try to beat the league’s top defensive rating every game — he’s started to buy in, too.“I was a little embarrassed when he said it,” Bradley said. “But, no, it’s cool, man. I think it challenges us every single day. Every single game. We have the personnel to be able to be the No. 1 rated defensive team and so I think Coach is just trying to motivate us and make it fun at the same time.” But in Minnesota’s 10-11 start entering Sunday night, Vogel said he was impressed by the son of respected coach Flip Saunders and how he’s stamped his team in his first full season.“He’s just got a confidence about him that I think carries over to his team,” Vogel said. “Obviously, he’s a very, very smart coach. When you’re starting that young and youdidn’t play in the NBA, it just comes down to, do you know what you’re doing? How well do you know your stuff? You know, and if you’re thorough and you work as hard as he does, you put yourself in position to have success. He’s doing that so far.”That admiration flows both ways. Saunders said he first got to know Vogel well over the offseason, when Vogel accepted the Lakers job and shortly after he was named the full-time coach.“We still share some texts after games when he has big wins or we have big wins,” he said. “(Vogel) is just a good person. As a coach, when you find that, and you find a colleague in that sense who values those relationships within the game … that’s something I take a lot from Frank.”center_img How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img