Kobe to take a bigger role on defense

Kobe to take a bigger role on defense

Published Jan. 15, 2013 7:42 a.m. ET

Coach Mike D'Antoni will continue to have Kobe Bryant defend opposing point guards.
The Lakers have struggled throughout the season defensively. On Sunday, D'Antoni put Bryant on Cleveland Cavaliers star point guard Kyrie Irving, helping the Lakers break a six-game losing streak with a 113-93 win.

Irving finished with 15 points in the game, well below his season average. As a team, the Cavaliers struggled to score against the Lakers' improved defense.

"Kobe starting on Kyrie and some of the other matchups they had, they came out much more aggressive," said Byron Scott, coach of the Cavaliers. "They didn't just sit back. They were the initiator, and I thought that was the biggest difference."

Throughout his career, the Lakers have asked Bryant to play different roles defensively. He's almost always been better guarding the ball handler than chasing players around screens.

"He disrupts the whole offense, on the ball," said D'Antoni.

Coach Phil Jackson would put Bryant on Rajon Rondo against the Boston Celtics in the postseason. Derek Fisher would be asked to keep track of shooter Ray Allen.

D'Antoni didn't want to call his star out for wandering defensively when not actively engaged. He tried to describe Bryant's off-ball defense this season, but quickly thought better of it.

"Uh, he's good," said D'Antoni, trying to choose his words carefully. "I think sometimes he just, you know, uh ... yeah, he's good."

The Lakers will try to hide Steve Nash against opposing shooting guards or small forwards, whichever is the least significant threat offensively. That's a tactic D'Antoni used against the Lakers when he coached in Phoenix, putting Nash (6-foot-3) on then-Lakers forward Luke Walton (6-foot-8).

The difficulty for Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks will be defending the guard combination of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Bryant probably will pick up Jennings, according to D'Antoni.

Metta World Peace may make sense on Ellis — certainly more than Nash, who could end up guarding 6-foot-8 forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

-Eric Pincus