Darvin Ham

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Beverley, Nunn, Brown, Walker, Schröder

New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham isn’t committing to having Russell Westbrook in his starting lineup to open the 2022/23 season, telling reporters on Monday that the team has a “variety of options to fill in our backcourt,” as Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group tweets.

It might have made a bad situation in Los Angeles worse if Westbrook had been pulled from the team’s starting lineup last season, but the former MVP appears to be keeping an open mind as he prepares for the coming year. Prior to his Media Day session, Westbrook told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that it doesn’t matter whether or not he feels “wanted” by the Lakers and that he’s “all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” even if that means coming off the bench.

Westbrook – who told Wojnarowski that he thinks he, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James can be “unstoppable” – said to reporters on Monday that he has talked to Davis and James at length this summer about what worked and didn’t work last season, and has found those conversations “very beneficial” (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).

While there’s no guarantee that Westbrook – long considered a trade candidate – will spend the entire season in Los Angeles, Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said today that the point guard is still one of the NBA’s great players, and expressed confidence that Ham will bring out “another level” in him this season (Twitter link via Goon).

Even Westbrook’s longtime nemesis Patrick Beverley had nothing but praise for his new teammate, suggesting that the rumored animus between the two guards has been overblown and telling Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link) that Westbrook has been his “best friend” on the team since he was traded to L.A. last month.

As we wait to see whether this season goes any smoother for Westbrook than his first season in Los Angeles did, here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Now that James has signed an extension with the team this offseason, the Lakers are willing to trade future draft assets to upgrade the roster, Pelinka confirmed today. However, Pelinka stressed that the team will only get one chance to trade those 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and said that any deal involving those draft assets must clearly improve the club’s title chances (Twitter links via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).
  • Kendrick Nunn has been cleared for all contact work after missing the entire 2021/22 season with a knee injury, but new additions Troy Brown (back) and Lonnie Walker (ankle) are limited for the time being, Pelinka said today. Walker downplayed his ankle issue, telling reporters that he has been running, jumping, and cutting on it, and is pretty close to being fully healthy (Twitter links via Goon).
  • Dennis Schröder isn’t at training camp yet because he’s working through a visa issue, per Pelinka, but it shouldn’t be too long before he joins the team (Twitter link via Goon).
  • Neither Pelinka nor Ham is worried about the Lakers’ wing defense, tweets Buha. “We should be one of the elite defensive teams in the league,” Ham said. “… We have the personnel for it.”
  • In a full story for The Athletic, Buha poses 10 key questions facing the Lakers, starting with Westbrook’s role and future. Buha also considers the team’s starting lineup battles, where the shooting will come from, and what to realistically expect from LeBron in his 20th NBA season.

Lakers’ Ham: Beverley, Westbrook Could Be Paired Together

Longtime heated rivals Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook could share the Lakers backcourt at times.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he’s willing to pair them together, with one caveat.

“If they play defense,” Ham told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and other media members. “We’ve got awhile. That’s still a ways off, but definitely. People get caught up in the starting lineups a lot, but you look at who is finishing games. Those starters, they’re out there to set that tone for the entire team throughout the game. But, I’m not scared of that. It’s definitely a bullet in the chamber. We’re looking forward to it man, those guys in the backcourt together.”

The introductory press conference for Beverley, who was acquired from the Jazz late last month, included a twist: It was attended by Westbrook, who even threw a towel to Beverley as he wiped away sweat after a workout.

Their rivalry goes back to the 2013 playoffs, when Beverley dove for a steal as Westbrook tried to call a timeout, resulting in Westbrook tearing his meniscus. They were talking trash to each other as recently as last season but now appear willing to coexist, the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike relays.

“A player with that competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit, to have a running mate like that, I have never had that,” Beverley said of Westbrook. “So I am super excited to see where it goes. Obviously like any relationship or any marriage, things, we are going to have tough conversations. That is what comes with winning but I am excited about those conversations, I am excited about the practices.”

Both guards will be free agents next summer — Westbrook has an expiring $47MM deal, while Beverley is making $13MM during the upcoming season.

Beverley said he’s not going to change the culture of a team but he wants to play a role in its turnaround after it failed to make the playoffs last season.

“You can see all the banners, but you know, it’s what have you done for me lately?” he said. “And lately, haven’t been a good team.”

Lakers Rumors: LeBron, Ham, Davis, Westbrook

When LeBron James and agent Rich Paul met last week with Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and coach Darvin Ham, a possible contract extension for James was only one of many topics of conversation, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

As Haynes details, most of the hour-long meeting was spent discussing strategies and expressing opinions about how to ensure that the 2022/23 season won’t be a repeat of the Lakers’ disappointing ’21/22 campaign.

Sources tell Yahoo Sports that LeBron “drilled home the importance of consistent competitiveness and cohesion.” James wants to be sure that this season’s team competes and gives itself a chance to win every night, which wasn’t the case last year.

According to Haynes, Ham agreed with James’ assessment and vowed to hold players accountable and “foster an atmosphere of selflessness.” The Lakers’ new head coach wants to see the team recommit to playing strong defense and suggested that any players who are hesitant to play the roles asked of them will run the risk of being removed from the game, sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Here’s more on the Lakers from Haynes:

  • Ham wants to run Los Angeles’ offense through Anthony Davis, and James is on board with that plan. The club likes what it has seen from Davis this summer and believes he’s well positioned to take on a significant workload and stay healthy in 2022/23, Haynes notes.
  • Pelinka plans to exercise patience when it comes to roster moves, preferring to assess how the current group performs before doing anything drastic, Haynes says. Of course, I suspect the club would still be willing to move Russell Westbrook before the season if a favorable deal arises.
  • Speaking of Westbrook, Haynes indicates the Lakers are hopeful that he’ll be able to increase his three-point percentage from the corners in 2022/23.
  • In an effort to build rapport with his teammates, James will decide on a destination to hold the Lakers’ annual mini-camp prior to training camp, with San Diego emerging as the most likely landing spot, according to Haynes.
  • During last week’s meeting, Pelinka made it clear he wants to see LeBron retire as a Laker and vowed he’ll provide the resources necessary for James to compete for titles for as long as the future Hall of Famer remains in L.A., per Haynes.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Closing Lineup, Nunn, LeBron

While former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel benched Russell Westbrook late in games a small handful of times last season, new coach Darvin Ham will have more power to do so this season, assuming Westbrook remains on the roster and Ham decides there are better fits in crunch time, says Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Buha expects Westbrook to get opportunities to close out games, but notes that it will depend on his shooting, decision-making, and defense.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are, of course, locks to be part of the Lakers’ “closing” five, and Buha views Austin Reaves as the next-best bet to join that group because he can be a secondary ball-handler. Buha predicts that Juan Toscano-Anderson and Troy Brown will fill out the closing five in instances when Westbrook is on the bench.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Although Kendrick Nunn recently said he feels 100% healthy after missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a knee injury, he has yet to resume playing five-on-five, which will be the “next big hurdle” in his recovery process, Buha writes. The expectation for now is that Nunn will be ready to go for training camp.
  • Buha believes that the Lakers are done adding veteran free agents this offseason, and that any additional roster changes would come via trade. He notes that the team could also be active on the buyout market after the 2023 trade deadline.
  • LeBron James will become eligible on Thursday to sign a contract extension with the Lakers, but Chris Mannix of SI.com doesn’t believe James will be in any rush to sign that deal, since he can maintain leverage and keep pressure on the team by taking his time. He could sign that extension at any time up until June 30, 2023.

Pacific Notes: Ham, Monk, Lakers, Kings

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is confident he can lead the team back to contention, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes. As Washburn notes, Celtics coach Ime Udoka recently guided Boston to the NBA Finals in his first season with the team, which is something Ham hopes to do.

“Coming from Milwaukee, I’ve seen alignment between ownership, front office, and head coach and coaching staff, and the one thing (Lakers VP of basketball operations) Rob (Pelinka) and I decided is we needed a team that was more athletic and we need more shooting,” Ham said about the team’s offseason additions.

“So far, so good, in my opinion. We still have a long way to go. Every team, not just us, are always looking for ways to improve their roster. We’re definitely trying to get our resources together to put the best possible team on the court for 2022/23.”

To this point, the Lakers have added Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, Troy Brown Jr. and Juan Toscano-Anderson this offseason. The team also drafted Max Christie at No. 35 overall. Los Angeles still has one open spot on its 15-man roster.

Here are some other notes from around the Pacific:

Lakers Notes: Ham, James, Westbrook, Pippen Jr., Pacers, Davis

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham declared his “love’ for the current roster during halftime of the team’s 104-84 summer league loss to the Suns, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Rumors persist that Kyrie Irving‘s most likely destination if he’s traded is Los Angeles.

“We love everyone on our roster,” Ham said. “And until you’re not on our roster, you’re ours and we’re going to try to get better with the group that we have. That’s just the bottom line of it. I don’t know a player that’s come through this league in my 26 years that hasn’t had their name part of a trade rumor a time or two.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Russell Westbrook offered some ball-handling advice to rookie Scotty Pippen Jr., who signed a two-way contract . Pippen had a team-high 19 points but also five turnovers. “He gave me some pointers and I ended up using them,” Pippen said.
  • Westbrook and LeBron James didn’t exactly act like bosom buddies while watching the game, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. They sat in opposite corners of the Thomas & Mack Center and made no public acknowledgment of one another before Westbrook left the exhibition at halftime.
  • GM Rob Pelinka foreshadowed at least one big move to come while speaking on the NBA TV broadcast, Goon relays. “We’re not done,” Pelinka said. “We still have more work to do.” The Lakers have an open roster spot.
  • The Lakers tried in vain to engineer a multi-player trade with the Pacers, McMenamin said on ESPN (video link). McMenamin said “those talks basically went nowhere” because the Lakers’ offer wasn’t strong enough. McMenamin didn’t elaborate on what players were discussed, though it’s fair to speculate they might have either been targeting Myles Turner or Buddy Hield, who nearly got dealt to the Lakers last offseason.
  • In a wide ranging interview with Andscape’s Marc J. Spears, Ham hinted that Anthony Davis is the key to the team’s success. “With AD, I would say he’s the biggest factor,” Ham said. “I’m looking forward to him having a huge year this year. I know the way we’re going to play is going to benefit him. The way I’m going to take care of him, make sure we take care of him, it’s going to benefit him.”

Lakers Notes: Davis, Wallace, Ham, Draft, Westbrook

Speaking to the media on Monday for the first time since being named the Lakers‘ head coach, Darvin Ham didn’t undersell Anthony Davis‘ importance to the franchise moving forward, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic relays.

“I think he’s the key,” Ham said of Davis. “We’ve all seen what can happen when he’s healthy and playing at a high level and in rhythm. We saw it in the bubble. His skill set, his size, his versatility, his defensive acumen, his relentlessness, his ability to give multiple efforts defensively is key. It’s going to be the foundation of the type of standard we set in the ‘Darvin Ham era.’ It’s going to be built on that defense and he’s going to be the main piece, the centerpiece of it.

LeBron (James) is always going to be great; LeBron is going to be LeBron. Russ (Westbrook) is going to be Russ. But we need consistency out of Anthony Davis. We need him to be healthy, we need him to be in a good mental space. And we need him to be as consistent as possible, like we’re playing that championship-type level of basketball. And we’re going to do everything in our power to support him.”

Davis has been limited to just 76 games across the last two seasons due to injuries, but has played at his usual All-Star level when healthy, averaging 22.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 2.0 BPG in those 76 appearances.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Addressing the rumor that his former Pistons teammate Rasheed Wallace will join the Lakers’ staff as an assistant, Ham referred to is a “fluid” situation, according to Buha. “He’s definitely a candidate that we’ll take a look at, but we’re working through that,” Ham said, confirming that no formal agreement is in place yet.
  • In a column for The Los Angeles Times, Dylan Hernandez argues that the Lakers’ leaders – including Ham and VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka – are lowering expectations for the offseason moves they can make and shifting the responsibility for next season’s success from the front office to the players.
  • Pelinka has interest in buying a second-round pick in this month’s draft, he told Mike Bresnahan during a Spectrum SportsNet interview (Twitter link via Marc Stein). The Lakers still have about $4.44MM available to send out in trades before the 2022/23 league year begins, as our cash tracker shows.
  • Although Ham said all the right things about Russell Westbrook during his introductory press conference on Monday, it remains to be seen whether he’ll have more luck than Frank Vogel did getting the former MVP to fully buy in to his message, Bill Oram writes for The Athletic.
  • In case you missed it, at least three Lakers assistant coaches – including David Fizdale – won’t be retained for 2022/23, but Phil Handy will be back. Here’s our full story.

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.

Lakers Notes: Ham, Westbrook, Prospect Workouts

At least three people involved in the NBA Finals believe Darvin Ham was the correct coaching choice for the Lakers, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times.

Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown, who will take over as head coach of the Kings once the season concludes, has known Ham since 1996, when Ham was a rookie for the Nuggets and Brown was a first-year staffer, Woike writes. Brown later gave Ham his first NBA coaching job as an assistant on his staff with the Lakers in 2011.

Everyone is like, ‘He’s a rookie head coach, going in there to work for the Lakers with all those veterans,’ but don’t get it twisted,” Brown said. “I would like to see who would be the first to challenge Darvin or roll his eyes because he will stand his ground. And he will make sure his point gets across and gets across within an authority a situation like that may need.”

Like Ham, Draymond Green is a native of Saginaw, Michigan, and he said Ham was an inspiration to him growing up, per Woike. Green also said Ham will bring much-needed toughness to Los Angeles.

I think he’s going to bring a toughness, a blue-collar mentality just because that’s how he’s built. That’s how he’s raised. You have to be that way from Saginaw,” Green told The Times. “I think it’ll be a different toughness that they haven’t seen. And he’s going to command and require a different respect level that they haven’t really have had. … And I think that will bode well for that team.”

Celtics big man Al Horford also praised Ham, who was on the Hawks’ coaching staff when Horford played in Atlanta, as Woike relays.

We really got after it,” Horford said of Ham. “He really challenged me to be better on the defensive end. Really challenged me to just be a better player in general. Darvin is about as good a guy as you’re going to see, a big competitor. Extreme competitor. The Lakers are really lucky to have a guy like him. He’s the kind of guy that you want.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Ham’s greatest challenge as head coach will be figuring out the best way to utilize Russell Westbrook, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. With that in mind, Buha explores three ways the new coach can optimize Westbrook’s minutes, assuming he’s still on the roster in 2022/23. Buha also notes that Ham isn’t expected to address the media until early next week.
  • L.A. is holding a workout with six draft prospects on Friday, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. The six are Lucas Williamson (Loyola Chicago), Hyunjung Lee (Davidson), Paul Atkinson Jr. (Notre Dame), Scotty Pippen Jr. (Vanderbilt), Jamal Cain (Oakland), and Gaige Prim (Missouri State). According to ESPN’s big board, Pippen is the highest-rated among the group at No. 69, which makes sense, since the Lakers don’t currently hold any draft picks.
  • In case you missed it, Ham was officially hired as head coach earlier today.

Lakers Hire Darvin Ham As Head Coach

JUNE 3: The Lakers have officially hired Ham as their head coach, the team announced today in a press release.

“When someone begins his NBA coaching career at the G League level and goes all the way through playing an integral role on the front bench of an NBA Championship team, it really speaks to a certain strength of character,” Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said in a statement. “Our players and fans will immediately identify with Darvin’s no-nonsense and hard-working approach, which we feel will bring toughness and a competitive edge to all we do.

“When you add that to Darvin’s sophisticated grasp of in-game strategy and deep knowledge of the game of basketball, we have the ideal coach for this next chapter in Lakers history. We could not be more honored and proud to name Darvin Ham as our new head coach.”

MAY 27: The Lakers are hiring Bucks assistant Darvin Ham to be their new head coach, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

The first-time head coach will receive a four-year contract, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

According to Wojnarowski, Ham interviewed for the vacancy on Thursday and was offered the job on Friday. He impressed the Lakers’ brass with his “commanding presence, history of coaching stars and toughness.” Ham’s coaching staff is likely to include assistants with prior head coaching experience, Woj adds (Twitter links).

Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported a week ago that Ham was considered the leading candidate for the position. He’ll replace Frank Vogel, who was fired at the end of the team’s disappointing season.

Ham started his NBA career as a player, appearing in 417 games from 1996-2005 and winning a championship as a bit player for the Pistons in 2004.

The 48-year-old has ties to the Lakers organization, as his first role as an NBA assistant coach came with L.A. from 2011-13. Ham has spent the last nine seasons working under head coach Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee, winning a title with the Bucks last season.

Ham has received consideration from multiple teams with head coaching openings in recent years and interviewed with the Kings before they hired Mike Brown earlier this month. He was also said to be a “serious candidate” for the Hornets’ vacancy.

Lakers star LeBron James sent out a tweet expressing excitement and congratulating Ham on receiving the job.

Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts were the other finalists for L.A.’s vacancy. Both have reportedly interviewed for Charlotte’s lead job as well.

Although the Lakers won a title just two seasons ago, they’ve struggled since, having been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2020/21 and finishing with a 33-49 record this past season, which was 11th in the West and outside of the play-in tournament. Injuries to James and Anthony Davis have certainly played a factor in the downturn, but Ham will have his hands full working with a top-heavy roster that includes Russell Westbrook, who struggled mightily in his first season in Los Angeles.