L.A. Notes: Harden, Clippers, Diabate, Lakers, Ham

After losing their first six games following the acquisition of James Harden, the Clippers have since won 18 of 23, including the last four in a row, to improve their record to 21-12. With the team firing on all cylinders, it hasn’t been lost on Harden that the critics who were decrying his fit in early November have been quiet as of late.

“Fit is great, I knew that from the beginning and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be a part of this,” Harden said, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “Obviously it didn’t start off well. It gave people so much to talk about in a negative way, and now those people that were talking are nowhere to be found. Like, literally nowhere to be found. Which, we knew that was going to happen.”

Viewed as a title threat when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up in Los Angeles in 2019, the Clippers have won just three playoff series in the past four seasons as Leonard and George  both dealt with injuries. But with the two forwards healthy this season and Harden bringing a new element to the roster, they’re looking like a legitimate contender again.

Asked by Melissa Rohlin of FOX Sports what winning a championship would mean for his legacy, Harden said it would be “very important.”

“It’s been like that. I always want to give myself a chance to win. I know how very difficult that is,” Harden said. “There’s only one team standing at the end of the year. So, I’ll continue to keep trying to do that.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • Clippers two-way center Moussa Diabate, who was hampered in December by a hip issue, appeared in his first NBA game in over a month on Monday, logging three garbage-time minutes in a victory over Miami. However, it sounds like he won’t play again for a while — the team announced that Diabate, who had six blocks in a G League game on Tuesday, is out due to a metacarpal fracture in his right hand, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The club has yet to provide a recovery timeline.
  • With the Lakers slumping, Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group wonders why the team hasn’t turned to the lineups that were successful last season, including either Jarred Vanderbilt or Rui Hachimura alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Austin Reaves, and D’Angelo Russell. Injuries have been a problem, but the club hasn’t used either of those lineups even when everyone has been available — those two groups have played just three total minutes together in 2023/24, says Swanson.
  • While head coach Darvin Ham is clearly facing pressure to turn the Lakers‘ season around, a “high-ranking” team source disputed the idea that he’s on the verge of being fired, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Amick adds that assistant Phil Handy is frequently brought up as the possible next man up if the Lakers do eventually decide to make an in-season coaching change.
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