Can Darvin Ham lead the Lakers back to success?

Darvin Ham (© David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News/TNS)

The Los Angeles Lakers have announced that they have hired first-time head coach, Darvin Ham, as their new head coach. There were all sorts of names floating around such as Doc Rivers, Quin Snyder, and Juwan Howard. In the end, the Lakers ended up on Darvin Ham, who has been on the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant coach since 2018. He’s been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2011.

Ham is thought of highly in the league, but he is a rookie head coach for a team that wants to win right now. And this is a team that believes they can win when everyone is healthy and playing to their potential.

Darvin Ham is reportedly bringing on former Pistons teammate, Rasheed Wallace, as an assistant coach. Rasheed has been assisting Penny Hardaway at Memphis this past season. Funny enough, Wallace was an assistant alongside his old Pistons head coach, Larry Brown.

Rasheed Wallace (Photo: Visual China Group (Getty Images))

If Ham and Wallace bring that grit and toughness that Larry Brown taught the 2004 Detroit Pistons, then this Lakers team might surprise a few people. The game has changed a lot since 2004. A majority of the games the Pistons played in never even got to a hundred points. Now, it’s almost a given.

Larry Brown never let his teams give up on defense or take any type of plays off. All I saw this season when the Lakers play was give up on plays or take plays off. They were such an undisciplined team and they gave games away which cost them a playoff birth.

I’m sure a part of that can be blamed on LeBron James. When you have a player as big as LeBron is, players are bound to follow that player’s lead rather than the coach’s lead. LeBron has a lot of miles on him and has started to give up on defense. Either that, or he’s busy complaining to a referee about a call he thought he should’ve gotten on the other side of the court. But I digress.

Darvin Ham was never a great player, but he was a really good role player and someone you could rely on to give you 100% effort off the bench. Rasheed Wallace on the other hand was a star in more ways than one. He was the key piece that came to the Pistons in a trade in 2004 that helped put them over the top for the championship.

Darvin Ham and Rasheed Wallace in the 2004 NBA Finals

Wallace was a four-time all-star. He also was a technical foul collector before Draymond Green. Rasheed would get fired up and let his mouth get him into trouble when he didn’t agree with the refs. But, that type of energy is what helps motivate a team. Which is similar to what Draymond does for the Warriors.

Darvin Ham mentioned defense a lot in his opening press conference. For the Lakers to succeed and surprise some people, the defense will be a very high priority. Just look at this year’s Boston Celtics. Sure, they got stars in Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown. But the defense is what has gotten them to the NBA Finals. Defense is there to bail you out when the star player has an off night. It happens to everyone, so it’s a nice ace up your sleeve.

The other interesting point in Ham’s press conference was his comments about the rollercoaster of a player that is Russell Westbrook. Ham mentioned that there needs to be sacrifices for this team to work. He then said that everyone needs to make them, but I honestly believe he just said that to not throw Westbrook under the bus.

The Lakers know that it is extremely unlikely that Russell Westbrook gets traded. He will be making over $40 million next season. Even if it’s a team on the rebuild who has the cap space to spare, what would the Lakers be able to attach to Russ to make a team want to do it? Truth is — they’re stuck with him.

Russell Westbrook (© Image: Getty Images)

That brings it on Darvin Ham to be able to bring out the best in him. Ham mentioned sacrificing because Russ never wanted to change the way he played. He’s used to doing things his way and that’s that. Frank Vogel couldn’t get Russ to change, but perhaps Darvin Ham and Rasheed Wallace can come up with a new way for Russ to be effective on offense.

The biggest letdown probably wasn’t even Russell Westbrook for the Lakers. It had to be Anthony Davis. When he wasn’t injured, the guy just looked like he didn’t want to be there. He showed up to Lakers camp out of shape and he just never seemed to take it seriously. It’s always a tough thing to question someone’s effort, but boy, it sure looked like Anthony Davis wasn’t giving much effort out there for most of the season.

It won’t be easy, but I do believe if there’s someone who can succeed in this spot, it’s Darvin Ham. I think he’ll set the tone of what he expects right out the gate. Ham has had great mentors throughout his playing and coaching career. He’s going to take all of that knowledge and give it his all with this Lakers squad.

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