Darvin Ham

L.A. Notes: Leonard, George, Wall, Ham, LeBron

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sat out another game Saturday, but the Clippers are optimistic that they’ll both return soon, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard and George were both able to practice Friday, and they will join the team for its four-game road trip that begins Monday at Charlotte.

“They felt good,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “It felt good and so, hopefully, we get them back very soon and they’re going on the trip. So that’s positive.”

Leonard, who has only played five games this season, is dealing with a sprained ankle that has sidelined him for the past six games. George has missed seven straight contests with a strained right hamstring. The Clippers, who were considered among the pre-season favorites in the West, are off to a 13-11 start as they wait to get back to full strength.

“I mean they definitely want to play,” Lue said. “We just gotta be smart about it. You hate to see this happen. Kawhi, who has missed 15 months of basketball, you think he don’t want to play? He wants to play. PG wants to play, and it’s just not the right time. They’re still rehabbing, still progressing and doing the right things, trying to get to that point. Hopefully we can get it done on this trip. Being optimistic about it.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • John Wall‘s minutes restriction is preventing Lue from considering him for a starting role, Youngmisuk adds. Clippers starting point guard Reggie Jackson has been less than 100% since a hard fall on Tuesday, but Wall is limited to about 26 minutes per night and hasn’t played in back-to-back games.
  • The Lakers were determined to get a victory Friday in Milwaukee for Darvin Ham, who spent four years as an assistant with the Bucks before becoming the head coach in L.A., per Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “It’s like a player going back to his previous team for the first time,” Anthony Davis said. “As a head coach, it’s that first win and then going back to your former team. And I think this one, without it being said before the game, we wanted to win it for him, obviously.”
  • Lakers star LeBron James is questionable for Sunday’s game at Washington due to left ankle soreness, Marc Stein tweets. James returned to action eight days ago after missing two weeks with an adductor strain.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Beverley, LeBron, Ham

With LeBron James sidelined, Anthony Davis has put up huge numbers in two straight Lakers wins, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Davis scored 38 points, snagged 16 rebounds and blocked four shots in Friday’s victory over the Pistons, following up a 37-point, 18-rebound effort Sunday against the Nets. Davis is living up to a promise he made to new head coach Darvin Ham before the season began to take on a larger role in the offense.

“I think it’s extremely important,” Ham said. “AD has to be the leading force, the leading charge just in terms of how we want to play inside and outside basketball. … He can carry us through certain segments of the game and, obviously, we see what he does down the stretch.”

Davis scored 16 points in the fourth quarter against Detroit to break open a close game. He also got the Pistons in foul trouble and made 18-of-21 shots from the line — both of those numbers are season highs.

“AD was great in the half-roll tonight out of pick-and-roll,” Ham said. “They doubled teamed him a ton whenever he would isolate in the post or whatever, fronting him and doing different double schemes at him. But he stayed the course and stayed aggressive and 21 free throws. I think that’s wonderful. For him to knock 18 of them down … Just his presence, man. He’s been a big force for us all year and tonight was no different.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Davis’ lack of involvement in the offense was among the issues addressed at a film session last Saturday, Buha adds. Team leaders also discussed cutting down on turnovers and fouls, protecting the defensive glass and improving transition defense. Although it was intended as a no-holds-barred meeting, some players still weren’t prepared for Patrick Beverley‘s abrasive style. “The main guy who a lot of us had to get used to for that was Pat,” Davis said. “But he gives good messages. And he said this thing one time, he was like, ‘If I yell, ‘I love you,’ you not gonna get mad, you know what I’m saying?’ So listen to the message and not the tone.”
  • James is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. He has missed the past three games with a left adductor strain, but the Lakers’ schedule worked to his advantage as the team had four straight off days this week.
  • Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register talked to Ham’s peers in the coaching profession to see why he’s so highly regarded.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Ham, Mikan, Beverley

The Lakers picked up their first victory of the season on Sunday night, and Russell Westbrook may have finally won over the L.A. fans, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. In his second game coming off the bench, Westbrook seemed to fully embrace the role, posting 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and displaying more energy and confidence than he has in a long time.

Westbrook also looked like an effective complement to LeBron James, who scored 26 points, and Anthony Davis, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds, giving the Lakers the Big Three they envisioned when they traded for Westbrook in the summer of 2021.

The performance was enough to get the fans on Westbrook’s side, helping to change an atmosphere that has gotten so bad that at one point he asked his family to stop coming to home games. There was plenty of support for Westbrook Sunday night, and the crowd responded when he urged them to stand up and cheer while Davis was at the free throw line.

“I love seeing my teammates flourish, honestly,” Westbrook said. “I get a joy by seeing others do great. My whole career, what lifts me up is to see others do well. And tonight was that night to see guys making shots, competing and that’s all you can ask for.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • When Darvin Ham was hired as head coach during the summer, he promised to unlock the best version of Westbrook, Goon adds, and Sunday’s game suggests that moving him to a reserve role was the right call. “One of the biggest things about me getting this job was for him to get that respect that he deserved because a lot of what went on last year was not his fault, and everything, all of the blame, was placed on him,” Ham said. “And so I told him, ‘Man, just listen to me. Believe in me, bro. I’m gonna put you in a position to succeed with the group. But you have to put the group first. It can’t be about me or I or mine. It’s gotta be us, ours, we.’ And he’s done that.”
  • The Lakers retired number 99 on Sunday in honor of George Mikan, the NBA’s first star center, Goon states in a separate story. Mikan never played in Los Angeles, but he led the franchise to five championships in Minneapolis.
  • The NBA has issued a warning to Patrick Beverley for violating its anti-flopping rule (Twitter link). The league’s announcement included a video of the play in question, which happened Friday against the Timberwolves.

Lakers Notes: Davis, James, Westbrook, Brown, Ryan

With Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook sitting out at least two games apiece so far this preseason, the Lakers have yet to get an extended look at their three stars together. The trio was available in the first preseason contest last Monday, but Davis missed the next two before returning on Sunday, while James and Westbrook have rested for the last two games.

Injuries often prevented Davis, James, and Westbrook from sharing the court last season, but head coach Darvin Ham isn’t worried about his stars not getting enough time together before opening night. As Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times writes, Ham said that the team is sticking to its plan and that the rotations in the final two games of the preseason will look more like what we should expect in the regular season.

Davis, who was dealing with some lower back tightness last week, looked good in his return on Sunday vs. Golden State, pouring in 28 points in 21 minutes en route to a 124-121 win. As Woike observes, it was the Lakers’ first preseason victory since 2020.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Within the same story, Woike notes that Troy Brown, signed as a free agent in July, is unlikely to be available for the start of the regular season due to a back injury. “He’s right on schedule with what he’s supposed to be doing,” Ham said. “When we do get him back…we’re excited about him. He was having a great summer before he hurt his back.”
  • Camp invitee Matt Ryan had a big game for the Lakers on Sunday, knocking down six three-pointers and scoring 20 points. He may have gotten himself a job today,” Ham said after the game (Twitter link via Woike).
  • As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets, the Lakers have 12 players on standard guaranteed contracts, and Austin Reaves and Wenyen Gabriel look like safe bets to make the team on non-guaranteed deals. That would leave the 15th regular season roster spot available for Ryan, assuming L.A. is willing to increase its projected tax bill by carrying a 15th man to start the regular season.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Ham, Davis, Ryan

Hours after the release of a story revealing how close he came to being traded to the Pacers, Russell Westbrook was in the Lakers‘ starting lineup Monday night for their preseason opener, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Woike confirms that the team has been considering trades for the embattled guard all summer, but it’s not willing to part with unprotected first-round picks in both 2027 and 2029.

Speaking after Monday’s game, Westbrook sounded ready to accept his future, whether it’s with the Lakers or another team.

“I’m super blessed and thankful for what I have and what I’ve been given,” he said. “I’ve got an unbelievable support system, family, leaning on my faith. Everything else will take care of itself. So, all summer, my whole life, I’ve been hearing the stories about myself. That’s not going to change today. So, nothing new for me. I’m going to continue to keep my head down, focus on competing. And everything else will take care of itself.”

Amid the offseason trade talks, the Lakers have been publicly supportive of Westbrook as he enters his second season with the organization. New head coach Darvin Ham said Westbrook has been doing everything he’s asked to in practice, including finding ways to contribute without the ball in his hands.

“Any outside noise, that’s par for the course,” Ham said. “I mean, it comes with the business. But he’s a Los Angeles Laker, the last time I checked. And I’m really not mad at that. And he showed tonight, like, he’s gonna thrive in this system.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Ham made his head coaching debut Monday, and it came against one of his mentors, who was also coaching his new team for the first time, notes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Kings coach Mike Brown gave Ham his first coaching opportunity, hiring him as an assistant on his staff with the Lakers in 2011. “Throw the coaching out and the other stuff, a fantastic human being that deserves a chance and I’m glad he got a chance,” Brown said. “The Lakers gave him an opportunity and knowing him, he’s going to fight, claw, do whatever he needs to do to make this thing right for him, his family, the organization and the city.”
  • Ham sees a healthy season from Anthony Davis as vital to making the Lakers a playoff team again, tweets Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. Injuries have limited Davis to 36 and 40 games the past two seasons. “None of this works if he’s not available and he’s not hitting on all cylinders,” Ham said. “He’s a big piece. The biggest piece of our success.”
  • In a separate story, Lakers camp invitee Matt Ryan talks to Woike about the unusual preparations he had to take to get ready for the NBA after COVID-19 interrupted his final season in college.

Lakers Came Close To Trading Russell Westbrook To Pacers

Russell Westbrook remains on the Lakers‘ roster, but only after the front office gave strong consideration to a blockbuster deal with the Pacers, according to Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

L.A.’s top decision-makers, including vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis, had in-depth talks about dealing Westbrook and the team’s unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to Indiana in exchange for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, sources tell the authors.

Although rumors about the potential deal were leaked throughout the summer, The Athletic report offers insights into how close it came to actually happening.

The views of new head coach Darvin Ham, along with executives Joey Buss and Jesse Buss were given plenty of weight as the Lakers considered how to proceed, according to Charania, Amick and Buha. A scheduled news conference involving Pelinka and Ham was delayed as the team considered whether to move forward with the Pacers deal.

As general manager, Pelinka has been given the final authority on trades, the authors add, but it appears the Buss brothers are more involved than ever in personnel decisions. It was agreed that everyone in the room should be committed to gambling on Turner and Hield before the Lakers pulled the trigger, and when that didn’t happen, Pelinka opted to take a cautious approach, holding onto Westbrook to see if his fit with the team improves under a new coach or if a better deal arises before the February trade deadline.

Westbrook has been doing what the Lakers have asked so far, sources tell Charania, Amick and Buha. He has met individually with Pelinka, Jeanie Buss and Ham and said he’s willing to accept an off-the-ball role this season. He has also shown a willingness to adapt to Ham’s system throughout training camp, focusing more on setting screens, pushing the ball in transition and trying to set up teammates rather than looking for his own shot.

The Indiana deal was one of several trades the Lakers considered this summer, according to the authors’ sources. They also sought to acquire Kyrie Irving from the Nets and both Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson from the Jazz. Irving will be a free agent in July, but he’s not currently in the Lakers’ plans, the authors add.

In addition, several versions of the Pacers trade were discussed. One involved Westbrook and one of the first-rounders for Turner, while others focused on Hield. Formal talks between the teams began after Summer League, the authors’ sources said, and the Lakers’ initial offer was Westbrook, one first-round pick, and a second-rounder for Turner and Hield. There were also discussions about including a third team, possibly the Grizzlies, but the Pacers were firm in their stance that they wouldn’t agree to a deal unless they got both Lakers’ first-round picks in return.

The contract status of Turner and Hield might have pushed the Lakers to their final decision, the authors add. Turner is headed for free agency next summer and may be able to command $25MM per year in his next contract. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis already on the roster, L.A. was reluctant to have its three highest-paid players in the frontcourt when the league is becoming more perimeter-oriented, according to The Athletic sources. Hield is under contract for $21.7MM this season and $19.2MM in 2023/24 and is reportedly open to being traded.

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.