The Los Angeles Lakers are convinced that a new coaching change brings new opportunities after Darvin Ham was hired to replace Frank Vogel after the 2021-22 season.
Ham may not be a popular choice among Lakers fans, but the former Detroit Piston brings a defense-first approach that could work wonders and bring Los Angeles back to another deep playoff run.
Let’s break down what circumstances Ham needs to address and get through amid another colorful free agency and what his coaching approach should change the Lakers’ fortunes in the hopes of landing another championship.
HAM NO STRANGER TO PLAYING WITH STARS
Ham may have been a role player when he was part of a Pistons team that won the 2004 championship over the Lakers.
But the new coach knows what it takes to handle stars after he played with several of them in his career.
The Lakers, actually, are no stranger to Ham, who was an assistant coach under Mike Brown in 2011 where he coached Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, among others.
Ham has also experienced winning as part of a coaching staff after winning an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021 as part of head coach Mike Buldenhozer’s assistants.
WESTBROOK FUTURE CLOUDS HAM STINT
The current generation of the Lakers’ “Big Three” is composed of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook but it’s business as usual for Ham despite the uncertainty regarding Westbrook’s future.
While many signs lead to Westbrook getting traded, Ham is committed to make things work if his All-Star guard will stay in Los Angeles.
Ham insists that he has a “game plan on how to use him (Westbrook)” but whether the Lakers’ management listens to him is another story.
INJURY-FREE SEASONS FROM LEBRON, DAVIS CRUCIAL
For all of his defensive-focused schemes he wants to instill in Los Angeles, Ham will still need a full deck of players if he leads the Lakers back to the playoffs, at least.
This means Ham needs to have an almost injury-free regular season from James, Davis, and Westbrook (if he stays) for the Lakers to remove the “lottery team” image and make a deep playoff run this time.
Among the three, Ham cites the health of Davis as the “biggest factor” for LA. Davis was limited to just 36 games in the 2020-21 season and 40 games last season.
FILLING UP THE KEY PIECES ALSO NECESSARY
Should he keep the Lakers “Big Three” of James, Davis and Westbrook, Ham will still need to land a decent supporting cast to keep the Lakers cohesive in the regular season.
The signing of center Damian Jones on a two-year deal is just a start of changes under Ham’s tenure with the Lakers.
Ham is also high on Thomas Bryant after he was signed as a free agent. Lakers great Magic Johnson described Bryant as someone “who can shoot the three” and complement James and Davis on the court.
Only time can tell if the Lakers gain progress under a new coach this season.
But the signs call for Ham to make a difference in the Lakers’ culture, something LeBron, AD, and even Westbrook should buy in if they seek to help the team back to an elite level.