Lakers introduce Darvin Ham: Three takeaways from the head coach’s first press conference

Lakers introduce Darvin Ham: Three takeaways from the head coach’s first press conference

The Los Angeles Lakers are entering a new era under recently hired head coach Darvin Ham. On Monday, they officially introduced Ham with a press conference where he shared his thoughts on his plan for the team heading into next season. Ham spoke about how he envisions the Lakers finding their identity on the defensive end of the ball, how he sees Russell Westbrook’s place in the team next season and the expectations he has for Anthony Davis.

Here are some highlights from Ham’s press conference.

1. Ham’s commitment to defense

If you watched the Lakers last season, you know they struggled a lot defensively on the ball. A year after finishing with the league’s top-ranked defense, LA stumbled to 21st in the 2021-22 season, struggling to prevent anyone from scoring on them. Prior to this season, the Lakers ranked in the top five on defense for two straight years, so the complete downfall this season was shocking to see.

Part of that drop has to do with personnel, but that’s not reason enough for the defense to give up 138 points to a Houston Rockets offense that ranked 26th in the league this year. During Monday’s press conference, Ham made a point of constantly talking about how he plans to revamp the LA offense next season.

“Defensively, that’s where you’re going to see us take our biggest leaps and bounds,” Ham said. “We have to engage on the defensive side of the ball or we have no chance of doing anything. Attacking won’t even matter if we don’t get saves.”

Ham also spoke about the defensive side of the ball being responsible for everyone on the roster, from LeBron James down to the last guy in the rotation.

“My goal is to continue the development of our young players and put them at ease,” Ham said. “Everything has to be a team effort. If there are mistakes, I have to be able to coach [James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook] as I do the rest of the list. We have a saying, “facts over feelings”. Once you’ve seen the movie and it’s a fact that you missed your mission, report it. If I can’t report it to one of our Big 3, then the last man or someone in our rotation won’t take what we’re doing seriously. It has to be consistent across the board.”

2. Westbrook’s compatibility with the team

Westbrook’s first season with the Lakers was disappointing to say the least. He struggled to adjust to a new role alongside LeBron, and it brought a lot of criticism – some deserved, some not! — from almost everyone outside watching. This led to rumors about his status with the team ahead of next season, but as of now, he is still with the Lakers. Ham vouched for Westbrook – who was present at the press conference – and his illustrious career in the league, while mentioning a few small details about the conversations they had since he was hired.

“Make no mistake, Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there’s still a ton left in that tank,” Ham said. “I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off… Russ and I had some really, really good one-on-one conversations, and the biggest word that came out of those discussions was sacrifice. We “We’re going to sacrifice everything we have to do, and it’s not just Russ. There’s going to be sacrifices that LeBron has to make, AD has to make, all down the line from the rest of our roster.

Ham also spoke about the type of role he envisions for Westbrook next season. Despite being asked about the possibility of Westbrook coming off the bench, Ham did a good job of dodging that specific question.

“In terms of his role, I expect him to be the same tenacious, energetic player he has been his entire career,” Ham said. “A lot can happen now without the ball in the hands, most can happen now on the defensive side. But again we have to make sacrifices. There is nothing to be done without all parties sharing burden, sacrifice and depend on one another.”

3. Anthony Davis at the center of it all

It was a tough year for the Lakers, and Davis’ season was certainly one of them. It wasn’t that AD had a wrong season, he was still a force in scoring and rebounding, as well as having an impact defensively. However, he only played 40 games, having finished a season where he played only 36 games. Ever since the Lakers won a championship in 2020, Davis’ health has been a concern. Although Ham can’t control if Davis gets injured, he recognized the importance of his production to LA’s success.

“We’ve all seen what can happen when he’s healthy, when he’s playing at a high level, when he has good pace,” Ham said. “We saw him in the bubble. His skill, his size, his versatility, his defensive acumen, his relentlessness. His ability to put in multiple efforts defensively is key. That’s going to be the foundation of the kind of standard we have. established in the days of ‘Darvin Ham .’

“…LeBron is going to be LeBron, Russ is going to be Russ, but we need consistency from Anthony Davis. We need him to be healthy, we need him to be in good mental space, and we need him to be as consistent as possible, get back to playing this championship type basketball.”

When Davis is healthy, he has the ability to play like one of the best players in the league. The problem is that AD isn’t always healthy, and sometimes when he is, he tends to be ineffective on offense. There is also the dispute over which position he should play. Although Davis has primarily played as a power forward for most of his career, the last two seasons in Los Angeles have made it clear that he should be the team’s starting center. Not because he can’t play as a power forward, because he absolutely can and was an All-Star in that position, but because the Lakers don’t have a quality center to stay. alongside Davis to make sense of it.

Last season, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan lined up next to him in the starting lineup, two guys who are nowhere near the caliber of a starting center in this league. If LA found someone this summer who could be a usable starting center, then putting AD at the forefront makes sense. But otherwise, Davis is expected to be the team’s main center, and Ham has hinted that the system he plans to deploy will require Davis in the center.

“It starts on the defensive side, and from there we’re going to build up to the offense,” Ham said. “I think the type of spacing, a four-out, one-in style, that I’m going to implement is going to help all parties.”

Running this type of offense, which will feature four players on the perimeter and one post-up player in the paint, will give Davis the space to operate from midrange and make decisions out of the position. Sounds like a great plan, we’ll just have to see if Ham and the Lakers are able to execute it well next season.

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