Darvin Ham

Central Notes: Bird, Pacers, Pistons, Portis

Six players who participated in a pre-draft workout for the Pacers on Wednesday were surprised when a Hall of Famer showed up to watch them, writes Zion Brown of The Indianapolis Star. Larry Bird, who was hired as a consultant last June, walked into the gym to observe the prospects, who noticed his presence immediately.

“It’s exciting,” Oakland’s Jack Gohlke said. “Obviously (he’s) an NBA legend, and a guy who has been with the Pacers organization for forever and a legend with the Celtics, too. So I think it’s just really cool. … I would say it’s almost easier to play in front of a sold-out arena than to have these guys sitting courtside, but it’s still a really cool experience.”

Bird has worked for the Pacers in several capacities over the years, starting as head coach in 1997. Tyrese Haliburton and Isaiah Jackson also made an appearance on Wednesday, but the focus was on Bird, even though the players at the workout were all born well after his playing career ended.

“Once he walked in I was like, ‘I recognize him,’” UC-Santa Barbara’ Ajay Mitchell said. “It’s amazing to see him here. Working in front of him, it’s a great opportunity and it’s a blessing to have him around.”

Also participating in the workout were Yongxi Cui of China, Thijs de Ridder of Belgium, TCU’s Emanuel Miller and Michigan State’s Tyson Walker. Indiana owns picks 36, 49 and 50.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers have another workout set for Thursday featuring Baylor’s Jalen Bridges, North Carolina State’s D.J. Burns Jr., West Virginia’s Jesse Edwards, Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves and Morehead State’s Kalil Thomas, the team announced (via Twitter). Indiana’s Xavier Johnson was a late replacement for USC’s Boogie Ellis (Twitter link).
  • New Pistons head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon has a challenge to try to fix an organization that has been sputtering for years, observes Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News. Wojnowski blames owner Tom Gores, whom he accuses of meddling too often, as well as the people he has entrusted to run the franchise. He criticizes former general manager Troy Weaver for his roster construction, particularly his willingness to take on big men who failed elsewhere, and coach Monty Williams for his insistence on playing Killian Hayes and his misuse of Jaden Ivey early in the season.
  • Bobby Portis should be thrilled by the return of Darvin Ham to the Bucks‘ coaching staff, notes Christopher Kuhagen of The Journal-Sentinel. Kuhagen recalls that after Milwaukee was eliminated from the playoffs in 2023, Portis sent out a social media message that read, “Only thing hurt us was D ham leaving. That ain’t talked about enough.”

Central Notes: Pistons, Cavaliers, Borrego, Atkinson, Ham

Gary Trent Jr. could fit next to Cade Cunningham as a three-point threat and floor spacer. Naji Marshall could fit in as a three-and-D wing. Goga Bitadze could provide much needed rim protector. They are among a dozen under-the-radar free agents that might make sense for the Pistons, Omari Sankofa II writes for the Detroit Free Press. Detroit could have as much as $64MM in cap space as the team looks to rise from the bottom of the league.

We  have more from the Central Division:

  • Adem Bona (UCLA), Ta’Lon Cooper (South Carolina), Tyler Thomas (Hofstra) and Kel’el Ware (Indiana) visited the Cavaliers on Monday in a pre-draft workout, Adam Zagoria tweets. Big men Ware and Bona are considered potential first-rounders. Ware is currently rated No. 24 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list while Bona is ranked at No. 37. The Cavaliers currently hold the No. 20 pick.
  • Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego, still a candidate for the Lakers’ head coaching job, is expected to interview for the Cavaliers head coaching position early this week, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson is also scheduled for a visit.
  • Speaking of the Cavaliers, they could have a very intriguing offseason if they decide to break up their backcourt duo of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell or their frontcourt pairing of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Keith Smith delves into those topics, among others, in his offseason preview for Spotrac.
  • Darvin Ham’s return to the Bucks as an assistant makes a lot of sense, according to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm. He’s well-respected by the team’s veterans and maintained his relationships with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. It’s also a good spot for him to restore his reputation with an eye on getting another head coaching job.

Central Notes: Pistons, Ham, Bucks, Cavaliers

Reports that the Bulls, Trail Blazers and Grizzlies are all interested in moving up in the draft could create some trade options for the Pistons with the No. 5 pick, writes James L. Edwards of The Athletic. He explores potential deals with all three teams that would still leave Detroit with a first-round selection.

Edwards’ proposed trade with Chicago is a swap for No. 11 in this year’s draft, plus a top-four protected pick in 2027. That would allow the Pistons to pick up some future draft capital and still wind up with a prospect such as Colorado’s Cody Williams, G League wing Ron Holland or French forward Tidjane Salaun.

Edwards suggests helping Portland clear cap space by taking Jerami Grant, the No. 14 pick and possibly Matisse Thybulle in exchange for No. 5. That could speed up the Blazers’ rebuilding process by giving them two selections in this year’s top seven while saving them about $40MM next season.

With Memphis, Edwards proposes parting with the fifth pick in exchange for the ninth choice in this year’s draft and a top-four protected pick in 2025. That gives Detroit an extra selection in what’s projected to be a stronger draft next near, while Memphis has a better shot to land a center such as UConn’s Donovan Clingan.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Darvin Ham, who was fired by the Lakers last month after their first-round playoff loss, will rejoin the Bucks as the top assistant to Doc Rivers, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Before being hired by L.A., Ham spent four years in Milwaukee, where he built a reputation as one of the league’s top assistant coaches.
  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic kicks off a series of Bucks draft previews by looking at guards who could still be on the board at No. 23 and 33. Nehm profiles Pitt’s Carlton Carrington, Marquette’s Tyler Kolek, A.J. Johnson, who played in Australia this season, UC Santa Barbara’s Ajay Mitchell, Creighton’s Trey Alexander, Houston’s Jamal Shead, UConn’s Cam Spencer and Colorado’s KJ Simpson.
  • Speaking on the Wine and Gold podcast, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com said he doesn’t expect Dan Hurley‘s decision on the Lakers‘ coaching job to impact the Cavaliers‘ search. Fedor considers James Borrego to be the current front-runner in Cleveland, and he speculates L.A. will turn to J.J. Redick if Hurley declines the team’s offer.

Stein’s Latest: Thibodeau, Williams, Ham, Van Gundy

Following four seasons of relative success with the Knicks, head coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to sign a long-term contract extension to stay with the club “at the market rate,” sources inform veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein (Substack link).

Stein pegs that tally at $10MM per year. The Kings reportedly re-signed Mike Brown to a contract extension that can be worth up to that annual sum with incentives.

Thibodeau has brought New York to the playoffs in three of his four years with the franchise, posting a cumulative regular season record of 175-143 and a 14-15 playoff mark in that time. New York has twice advanced to the second round of the postseason during Thibodeau’s tenure.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Just one season removed from signing a six-year contract worth nearly $80MM, Pistons head coach Monty Williams already could be skating on thin ice. He led the team to a 14-68 run in 2023/24, low-lighted by a single-season NBA record of 28 straight defeats. The team has already moved on from the GM who hired him, Troy Weaver, as new team president Trajan Langdon looks to right the ship.
  • According to Stein, former Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was offered a job as an assistant under freshly hired Suns head coach Mike Budenholzer, under whom Ham served with both the Bucks and Hawks, but he passed on that opportunity. A previously report indicated that the Warriors may have gauged Ham’s interest in a similar role. Ham, who still has two years remaining on his Los Angeles deal, led the club to a 90-74 regular season record and consecutive playoff appearances, peaking during his debut season as a head coach in 2022/23. Following a midseason turnaround, Ham guided the Lakers to a Western Conference Finals appearance as a No. 7 seed last spring.
  • Jeff Van Gundy, currently a senior consultant to the Celtics, could join head coach Joe Mazzulla‘s staff as his lead assistant now that Charles Lee is departing for the Hornets in 2024/25. Stein says there has been “curiosity circulating in coaching circles” about that possibility. Prior to his decades-long career as an ESPN and ABC broadcaster, Van Gundy served as a head coach in New York and Houston. He coached the Knicks from 1996-2001, and led the Rockets from 2003-07, boasting an overall record of 430-318 in the regular season and 44-44 in the playoffs.

Warriors Rumors: Thompson, Ham, Ingram, Butler, Paul, Ighodaro

With Klay Thompson about to enter the final month of his current contract with the Warriors, there has been “no notable movement from either side” toward a resolution, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Most teams have to wait until after the NBA Finals to discuss new contracts with their pending free agents, but the Warriors and Thompson are allowed to talk now because the veteran sharpshooter is extension-eligible up until June 30. However, Slater suggests that even though Golden State has interest in retaining Thompson, the team hasn’t exactly been “beating down his door” to get a new deal done.

Thompson appears prepared to test the free agent market in July, but he still wants to win, so he’s unlikely to join a retooling team like the Pistons or Hornets, Slater writes. The cap-room teams who are closer to contention – including the Sixers, Thunder, and Magic – are the bigger threats to the Warriors, in Slater’s view, since those clubs are in position to potentially outbid Golden State for the next year or two without tying up their long-term cap space by offering Thompson a lucrative shorter-term contract (similar to the ones signed by Fred VanVleet and Bruce Brown last summer).

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Whether or not Kenny Atkinson ends up leaving the Warriors for a head coaching job (he’s reportedly a leading candidate in Cleveland’s search), the club is expected to seriously consider adding at least one new assistant to Steve Kerr‘s staff this offseason. League sources tell Slater that Golden State has talked to Darvin Ham since his dismissal from the Lakers. While Ham isn’t considered likely to join Kerr’s staff, that conversation signals the Warriors’ interest in adding a “big-name” assistant, according to Slater, who says it appears the team is seeking a former head coach or a former player to fill that role.
  • Slater doesn’t expect the Warriors to have any real interest in Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram if he’s on the trade block this summer, but views the club as more likely to “enter the conversation to at least some degree” on Heat forward Jimmy Butler if he becomes available.
  • Chris Paul has been “extremely flexible” and seems willing to work with the Warriors through all the possible scenarios involving his $30MM non-guaranteed contract for 2024/25, Slater writes. It’s very unlikely that Golden State will simply guarantee that $30MM and bring Paul back, but there are multiple viable paths the team could take, including guaranteeing a portion of that cap hit for trade purposes. Resolution is due by June 28 if the two sides don’t agree to push back Paul’s salary guarantee date.
  • It doesn’t look like the Warriors will be formally announcing the prospects who visit them for pre-draft workouts, but Ben Steele of The Journal Sentinel tweets that Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro was among the players who auditioned for the club on Thursday. Golden State controls the No. 52 pick in next month’s draft, while Ighodaro is the No. 54 player on ESPN’s big board.

L.A. Notes: Ham, LeBron, Pelinka, Harden, Ballmer, George

There were signs throughout the season that head coach Darvin Ham was going to take the fall if the Lakers couldn’t make another long playoff run, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Ham was officially fired on Friday after L.A. was dispatched by Denver in five games, but it had been clear that move was coming for a long time, Shelburne adds.

Sources tell Shelburne that LeBron James was resistant to Ham’s idea to limit his minutes early in the season. James’ wishes prevailed and that plan was discarded after a few games. Players also openly questioned Ham’s strategies throughout the season, culminating with Anthony Davis saying after the Game 2 loss to Denver, “We have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

Shelburne notes that the Lakers have cycled through head coaches ever since Phil Jackson‘s retirement in 2011, with none lasting more than three seasons. That list includes Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, who both went on to win Coach of the Year honors with other teams after leaving L.A. To avoid another short-term hire, Shelburne advises Lakers management to approach this coaching search with a clear idea of its vision for the team.

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Ham was undermined internally, which made it impossible for him to succeed, contends Jim Alexander of The Orange County Register. Alexander speculates that anonymous complaints were leaked by general manager Rob Pelinka to deflect blame from his questionable personnel moves, along with James and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. The danger, according to Alexander, is that the front office may have fired Ham without having an obvious candidate in mind to replace him.
  • James Harden declined to speculate on his future after the Clippers were eliminated Friday night in Dallas, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Harden demanded a trade out of Philadelphia after president of basketball operations Daryl Morey refused to give him the long-term contract he was expecting, but it’s uncertain if the Clippers will be willing to meet his demands this summer. “I don’t even know,” Harden responded when reporters asked about his upcoming free agency. “You’re asking me a question that I don’t have the answer to. I haven’t even thought about it.”
  • Coach Tyronn Lue is working out his own future with the Clippers, but he was gratified that owner Steve Ballmer addressed the team after Friday’s loss, Turner adds. “You have the seventh-, eighth-richest man in the world and he’s a real fan. Like, he’s a real fan. Like, he treats us like family,” Lue said. “He actually genuinely cares about each individual and we’ve seen that time and time again. So, when you have an owner that really respects who you are, not as a basketball player, but a person and who you are, that means a lot. Not just putting you on a basketball court and saying, ‘OK, you work for me.’ Like, he really genuinely cares about each individual. He cares about the wins. He’s fired up. He’s passionate about it. And, so, that’s what I love the most about Mr. Ballmer. He treats everyone as equals.”
  • The Clippers‘ reluctance to guarantee a fourth year has held up extension talks with Paul George, sources tell Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. George is eligible for up to $221MM over four seasons, but Azarly’s sources say the team’s latest offer falls short of that figure.

Lakers Fire Darvin Ham

1:17pm: Ham has officially been dismissed, the Lakers confirmed in a press release (Twitter link via Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group).

1:09pm: The Lakers are firing head coach Darvin Ham, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

According to Wojnarowski, general manager Rob Pelinka recently broke the news to Ham over the phone.

Sources tell Shams Charania and Jovan Buha of The Athletic that L.A. will soon begin an “extensive search” for a new head coach, with former Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and former NBA player and current ESPN analyst J.J. Redick among the candidates.

Tyronn Lue is another name to watch, per Charania and Buha, though he is currently the Clippers‘ head coach. Lue has one year left on his contract, according to The Athletic.

Multiple reporters, including Marc Stein and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, recently cited Redick as a candidate if Ham were to be fired. Redick co-hosts a podcast with Lakers superstar LeBron James. He’s also said to be a “serious candidate” for Charlotte’s head coaching position.

An eight-year NBA veteran as a player, Ham was a longtime assistant before getting his first head coaching job with the Lakers a couple years ago. He compiled a 90-74 regular season record (.549 win%) and a 9-12 playoff record (.429) in his two seasons at the helm. The team also won a play-in game in each of the past two seasons to advance as the No. 7 seed.

That postseason record is a little misleading, since L.A. made the Western Conference Finals last year before being swept by the Nuggets, who went on to win the championship. The Lakers lost to the Nuggets again in ’23/24, dropping their first-round series in five games.

It’s been a hell of a two years … I’ll tell you that,” Ham said Monday after L.A. was eliminated, per McMenamin. “Sitting in this seat, it’s been a hell of a two years. A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize.”

Wojnarowski first reported that Ham would be on the hot seat if the Lakers were quickly dispatched by the Nuggets, with multiple subsequent reports indicating that the 50-year-old’s job was in “serious peril.” On Thursday, Buha stated on The Athletic’s NBA Show podcast that Ham would likely be fired by the end of the week and perhaps sooner (hat tip to RealGM).

Ham had two years remaining on his contract, which reportedly paid him $5MM annually. He has “a lot of supporters throughout the NBA,” tweets Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com.

A two-time Coach of the Year with Atlanta and Milwaukee, Budenholzer won a championship with the Bucks in 2021. He was dismissed last summer following a first-round playoff exit.

Atkinson is another former head coach, having previously worked for Brooklyn. He backed out of Charlotte’s coaching vacancy a couple years ago after being offered the job.

Darvin Ham’s Position With Lakers In ‘Serious Peril’

Darvin Ham‘s position with the Lakers is in “serious peril” following the team’s elimination from the playoffs on Monday, according to Shams Charania, Jovan Buha, and Sam Amick of The Athletic. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin agrees, citing league sources who say that Ham’s head coaching job is “very much in jeopardy.”

The Athletic’s reporters and McMenamin both say that the Lakers will take a few days to review the situation and assess what went wrong this season before making a decision on Ham’s future.

Although the Lakers finished with more regular season wins (47) than they did a year ago when they made the conference finals (43), there was a sense that this year’s team lacked an “effective direction” from the coaching staff at times, per The Athletic, and there were people within the organization confused by the way that Ham used his starting lineup and rotation over the course of the season.

As both The Athletic and McMenamin detail, Ham used a series of starting groups earlier in 2023/24 that frequently featured players like Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish, often at the expense of players that the franchise viewed more as part of its core, such as Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell.

There was a sense that Prince and Reddish were given opportunities to play through their mistakes that Reaves, Hachimura, Russell, and others weren’t, per The Athletic, and some team sources suggested to ESPN that the Lakers would have finished with a better record – and a higher playoff seed – if they had stuck to a starting lineup of Reaves, Hachimura, and Russell alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis earlier in the season.

“The job of a coach is to make the best out of what you have,” a team source told McMenamin. “And he wasn’t doing that.”

Reporting from both The Athletic and ESPN also pointed to Ham’s response to a post-Game 2 comment from Davis (“We have stretches where we just don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor”) as troubling. Rather than downplay – or even agree with – Davis’ comment, Ham took exception, praising his coaching staff and telling reporters that he would “agree to disagree” with his star big man.

Team sources told The Athletic that Ham’s rebuttal unnecessarily amplified Davis’ initial comment and questioned whether engaging in a back-and-forth with one of the franchise’s cornerstones was a good idea. A club source who spoke to McMenamin, meanwhile, was “confounded” by Ham’s lack of accountability and questioned the wisdom of praising the preparedness of his staff after the Nuggets had run their winning streak vs. the Lakers to 10 games.

According to The Athletic, the contract Ham signed in 2022 was a four-year deal worth approximately $5MM per season, so there are still two seasons left on it. If they make a coaching change, the Lakers would eat the remainder of that contract.

Woj: Darvin Ham On Hot Seat If Lakers Lose In Five Games

Appearing on NBA Countdown prior to Saturday’s Game 4 between the Nuggets and Lakers, which Los Angeles won to stave off elimination and end an 11-game losing streak to the defending champions, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said head coach Darvin Ham will likely find himself on the hot seat if the Lakers lose the series in five games (YouTube link).

If you are a head coach of the Lakers and you get swept in the first round of the playoffs, or you lose in five, you’ve got job issues. You’ve got job security issues,” Wojnarowski said. “And Darvin Ham will have that.

As Wojnarowski noted, the Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2022/23, which was Ham’s first year on the job. And they actually won more regular season games this season (47) than last season (43) despite missing Jarred Vanderbilt (heel) and Gabe Vincent (knee) for most of the ’23/24 campaign.

There’s also a question of who would replace Ham if the Lakers let him go. Former Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is “the most accomplished” name on the open market, but he’s also rumored to be looking for a salary that the Lakers might not be willing to pay, Wojnarowski added.

While Wojnarowski questioned how “fair” it would be for Ham to be fired if the Lakers lose to the Nuggets in five games, he said “it is part of the conversation the Lakers are going to have.”

Game 5 of the first-round series between the West’s No. 2 and 7 seeds will be played on Monday in Denver.

Lakers Notes: Game 3 Loss, LeBron, Davis, Russell, Ham

The Lakers lost their 11th consecutive game to Denver on Thursday night and are now one game away from being swept out of the postseason by the Nuggets for a second straight season. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, it’s hard to blame Los Angeles’ two stars for the Game 3 loss — LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 59 points on 26-of-43 (60.5%) shooting to go along with 21 rebounds and 12 assists.

“We’ve been — me and this guy [Davis] have been playing together for six years,” James said. “We’ve been to the mountaintop. We’ve been close to the mountaintop. We’ve played a lot of games. We know what it takes to win. We know what it takes to win a championship and how damn near perfect you got to be. That’s not like something that’s so crazy to obtain.”

While James expressed that he and Davis are confident in their ability to deliver big games when it matters most, he didn’t say the same about the rest of the Lakers, McMenamin observes. Austin Reaves had a solid night (22 points on 8-of-17 shooting), but the rest of the Lakers besides LeBron and AD combined for just 24 points and shot 10-of-30 (33.3%) from the floor, including 2-of-16 (12.5%) on three-pointers.

Asked if the Lakers’ were overwhelmed by the Nuggets’ execution, James replied, “You’d have to ask the individuals that question and see how they feel. It’s hard for me just to be like, ‘This is what I think that guy feels.’ … I can’t do that. I’m not a mind reader. I don’t know.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • A disastrous performance against the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals last spring hurt D’Angelo Russell‘s stock a little as he prepared to enter free agency. The same thing may be happening this year. Russell went scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting on Thursday and declined to speak to reporters after the game, according to McMenamin. Russell, who is now averaging 12.0 PPG on 32.6% in the first round, holds a player option worth $18.7MM for the 2024/25 season.
  • Davis told reporters after Game 2’s loss earlier this week that the Lakers “have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.” Those comments were interpreted as a shot at the coaching staff and didn’t sit well with some people in the organization, according to Jared Greenberg of TNT Sports. “I can tell you from speaking to people within the Lakers’ organization, they were upset – and disappointed, quite frankly – by AD’s comments,” Greenberg said during an NBA TV appearance on Thursday (Twitter video link). As Sam Amick of The Athletic notes, when asked about Davis’ comments on Wednesday, head coach Darvin Ham told reporters he chalked them up to frustration and that he would “agree to disagree.”
  • With the Lakers on the brink of elimination, Ham is on the hot seat in Los Angeles, according to Bill Plaschke of The L.A. Times, who notes that some home fans began a “fire Darvin” chant during the fourth quarter on Thursday. Plaschke adds that Ham has been out-coached by Michael Malone during the first round so far, which has been evident by the way the teams have adjusted at halftimes. The Nuggets have outscored the Lakers by a total of 31 points in the third quarters of games, per McMenamin; L.A. has outscored Denver by 11 in the other nine quarters.