The Los Angeles Lakers officially announced Darvin Ham as their next head coach at his introductory press conference on Monday. Ham talked about accountability, competitiveness and toughness. All the notes a new head coach hits in his initial press conference. When asked about the pressure of coaching the NBA’s glamour franchise, and arguably the greatest player of all time, Ham talked about a traumatic gunshot experience he suffered and how that experience shaped how he views pressure.
“I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. I was shot in the face by accident April 5, 1988,” said Ham. “You go through something like that, it’s going to do one of two things: make you fearful or fearless. It made me fearless. I don’t feel no pressure. it’s basketball.”
Darvin Ham asked about pressure: I grew up in Saginaw Michigan, I was shot in the face by accident April 5, 1988. You go through something like that it's going to do one of two things: make you fearful or fearless. It made me fearless, I don't feel no pressure it's basketball
— Mike Guardabascio (@Guardabascio) June 6, 2022
There is no doubt that suffering a gunshot to the face would be a catalyst in changing how you approach life. Going through something like that puts basketball in proper perspective. It’s highly unlikely that basketball situations make Ham nervous.
But coaching the Lakers comes with expectations. The franchise brass, regardless of how delusional, expect championships. Team governor Jeanie Buss expects more as she deals with luxury tax and the league’s fourth-highest payroll.
Again, Ham said all the right things. He talked about holding the team’s stars LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook accountable.
“Competitiveness. Togetherness and accountability,” said Ham. “That’s going to be our mantra. … When we set this standard, we watch film, I have to be able to get on LeBron, get on Russ, get on AD just like when I’m ready to get on Austin Reaves.”
Darvin Ham on his coaching philosophy of “Competitiveness. Togetherness and accountability.”
“That’s going to be our mantra…When we set this standard, we watch film, I have to be able to get on LeBron, get on Russ, get on AD just like when I’m ready to get on Austin Reaves.” pic.twitter.com/PuU5CgCLJ1
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) June 6, 2022
Ham’s presence may provide a little bolt of life into a team that finished below .500 and didn’t even make the play-in tournament. But the roster is what it is and has limitations.
James is entering year 20 and will be 38 years old. He might be the greatest player ever, but how long can he produce at an elite level and remain healthy? He’s missed part of every season due to injury since he got to Los Angeles.
Davis is 28 and in his prime. But he has never played a full 82 games in 10 seasons. He’s played more than 70 games twice. Not to mention when he’s healthy, his level of play hasn’t always been at an All-NBA level.
Then there’s Westbrook…
He’s nowhere near the MVP level player he was in Oklahoma City. He still can’t shoot, and without the ball in his hands he is not a threat offensively. He’s never been a good defender, and that’s only gotten worse. He was a career-worst -1.1 in EPM and had his third-worst season in terms of eFG% and TS%.
But Ham said the right things about Westbrook on Monday.
“Don’t get it messed up. Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen,” Ham said. “He still has a ton left in that tank. I don’t know why people tend to write him off. I’m going to approach him like every player I’ve ever encountered. We’re going to talk about our running habits with the ball, without the ball.”
You have to say all the right things about superstars when you’re a new coach and then you talk about what you want them to do. If Ham is able to unlock “off-ball” Westbrook that could be a great sign. Not only because it will help the team, but if Westbrook is playing well that might make his expiring contract more tradable.