The ink is dry on the deal, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Darvin Ham are a match. Yesterday marked their introductory press conference for the former NBA veteran turned head coach. He was flanked by president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and a host of the Ham family members. Some of the players on-hand included Wenyen Gabriel, Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson, and one Russell Westbrook.
As expected, Coach Ham was grilled on a multitude of questions about the embattled point guard, along with the expectations of leading Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Here is a list of some of the standout thoughts from him, as well as my thoughts on what they will mean for the Lakers.
“Pressure doesn’t come from hoops..”
Los Angeles Laker reporter Mike Trudell Tweeted the following quote from Darvin Ham regarding a question from the L.A. Times’ Brad Turner on the heightened pressure of being a coach for the Lakers, a first time head coach at that. Ham immediately brushed it off with a harrowing story from his childhood:
Asked a question about feeling pressure as the new Lakers coach, Darvin Ham cited when he was shot by a stray bullet as a kid, and said that either makes you fearfull or fearless. He’s fearless. Pressure doesn’t come from hoops. It’s a challenge he’s excited about.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 6, 2022
"I was shot in the face by accident April 5th 1988, you go through something like that it's going to do one of two things. It's going to make you fearful or fearless.. It made me fearless. I don't feel no pressure." Darvin Ham on feeling the pressure of coaching the #Lakers. pic.twitter.com/MjfXHr2vDt
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) June 6, 2022
Hands-down, this was the best moment from today’s festivities. Ham hails from Saginaw, Michigan, a place where the likes of he and Draymond Green have beat the odds to be big names. The NBA life is simple to them in the grand scale of things. Ham is a man of resolve. He’s a survivor that will do what he has to do to be successful. He’s a true grinder that we should see continue to rub off on the Lakers’ veterans and young players.
Ham specifically cited developing Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson as something he’s looking forward to doing
Los Angeles Lakers reporter Michael Corvo delivered some surprising thoughts from Darvin Ham, as he spoke on two of the newest faces with the franchise.
Ham specifically cited developing Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson as something he's looking forward to doing
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) June 6, 2022
It’s great nod of confidence to give the Lakers young duo. So much talk is about the three big dogs, but role players are going to be one of the differences in next season being a success or not. The Lakers will be strapped for cash and will need creativity to round out their roster. The one thing outside of that which they can count on is the internal improvement from two players that could slot into their starting lineup. Reaves and Johnson bring skills that the Lakers could absolutely use. Both players started plenty of games for the team last season, and had some great moments. It’s awesome that they have an advocate in a coach that hasn’t even graced the bench yet.
Darvin Ham said he had several productive discussions with Russell Westbrook, and he initial operative word is “Sacrifice.”
That extends to LeBron, AD and the rest of the roster as well, and starts defensively.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) June 6, 2022
We couldn’t get through this press conference without some Russell Westbrook thoughts. Ham appears to be head-on in trying to make sure he’s a useful player for him. This all comes with the assumption that he isn’t traded, which would not be something that Ham’s expected to speak on at the moment. Westbrook’s first season with the Lakers was supposedly going to be full of sacrifice. The ill-fit and misuse outweighed any opportunity for Westbrook to pivot to a role that the team could turn into a threat. Ham has his work cut out for himself, but he seems to be up for the challenge.
“It starts out on the defensive end and builds out there.”
Darvin Ham says of the future of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook: It starts out on the defensive end and builds out there. He thinks all three will benefit from increased spacing. Says he sees Westbrook as "absolutely" a key part of the future.
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) June 6, 2022
The Lakers will go as far as LeBron, AD, and Russ can take them on defense.
YES! Even Russell Westbrook is going to have to play championship level defense to get the Lakers back to contention. From there, the team has to do a 180 on the offensive end as well. Last season was full of so many moment of clunky, aged out basketball. This particular part of the equation will take free agency to help solve. To hear Ham consider these factors is a nod into the right direction.
“Facts over feelings”
Darvin Ham says that he wants to run a four-out, one-in offense, and that the success of the LeBron/AD/Russ trio will start on the defensive end first.
He said one of his sayings is “facts over feelings” and that he plans on holding the stars as accountable as the role players.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) June 6, 2022
The Athletic’s Jovan Buha reported the above regarding Ham’s coaching mindset. Last season, the Lakers played a more matchup-focused brand of basketball on offense. There was a lot of leveraging the size and versatility of LeBron and AD. This is a sound strategy in theory, but when there isn’t the appropriate balance around the team, that can go up in smoke – as evidenced in their 33-49 record last season. Some of that is injury, but a good bit of it was certainly poor game-planning. Ham seems focused on getting his guys with shooters and then allowing Davis, James, or whomever is in the frontcourt, to attack the opposition.
The next part that Ham discussed is just as important. The idea of accountability is always a hot topic. It’s a lot different when you have to put it in practice. Westbrook and LeBron may be the two names that pop in mind when fans think about leadership by example. Like many players, the two future hall of famers may not constantly keep their feet on the gas. Ham is entering a partnership where he wants to make sure they take no days off so that it creates a contagious attitude on whatever roster they field.
By the standard of first impressions, Ham won the press conference. Now that the tables are folded and microphones are lowered – the real work starts. The NBA Draft is in a few weeks and the Lakers are reportedly looking to buy into the draft. After that, NBA Free Agency commences and teams can woo prospective players both on and outside of the roster. The Lakers are hoping that the great rapport that landed Ham this job could be used to recruit players to the LakeShow. There’s a lot of off-season left, but the Lakers’ hiring of Ham gives them one leg up in a long journey back to prominence.