Darvin Ham: Westbrook Has “Ton Left In The Tank”

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham believes Russell Westbrook has a “ton left in the tank” but will have to make sacrifices to help the franchise return to a championship level, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.

Ham made those comments on Monday during his introductory press conference, which Westbrook attended.

“Don’t get it messed up, Russell Westbrook is one of the best players our league has ever seen and there’s still a ton left in the tank,” Ham said. “I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off.”

Westbrook took the brunt of criticism, along with former coach Frank Vogel, for the Lakers’ wayward season. He has a $47.5MM option on the last year of his contract and is expected to exercise it.

The Lakers reportedly asked head coaching candidates how they could maximize Westbrook’s talents in L.A. Ham believes Westbrook will have to do more without the ball and step up his defensive effort.

Russ and I had some really, really great one-on-one convos, man, and the biggest word I think that came out of that, those discussions, was sacrifice,” Ham said. “I’m going to expect him to be the same tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been all his entire career. A lot of now may have him without the ball in his hand. Most of it now may have it on the defensive end. But, again, we have to sacrifice. There’s no achieving anything without all parties sharing the load, sacrificing instead of one-on-one.”

Here’s more from Ham’s presser, as relayed by McMenamin and the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike:

  • Ham’s top priority is to make the Lakers a much tighter defensive unit. “Defensively is where you’re going to see our biggest leaps and bounds,” Ham said. “We have to commit to the defensive side of the ball, or we don’t have a chance.”
  • Ham said he’ll be just as tough on Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the team’s role players: “We have a saying, ‘Facts over feelings.’ And once you see the film, that’s a fact. You missed your assignment, then that has to be pointed out. Because if I can’t point it out to one of our Big Three, then the last man or someone in the rotation, they’re not going to take what we’re doing seriously.”
  • VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said Ham was a “unanimous” choice among the team’s decision-makers. “It’s easy to be grateful when you find a candidate that you feel is the ideal fit for what the franchise is looking for. And that’s what coach Ham represents to us,” Pelinka said.
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