New Lakers Head Coach Darvin Ham Made Sure To Say ALL The Right Things About Russell Westbrook While Russ Gave Him A Grade A Death Stare From Across The Room
New Lakers Head Coach Darvin Ham does not have an easy job. This Lakers roster is old, it mostly stinks, they have no cap space or draft picks, and they are coming off a lottery season. He's going to have his work cut out for him, and while personally I hope it fails in epic fashion, I am happy that Ham finally got an opportunity. He was a guy who always seemed to make it to the final rounds of interviews but never actually got the gig. I know first hand that the right coach, no matter if it's his first year, can have a real tangible impact on a team's season.
Which is why that statement in his opening presser was so important. During these things, it's pander city. As a fan you're being told exactly what you want to hear and you eat up every word. I remember feeling that exact way when Ime got introduced last summer. Basically called Brad's offense dogshit right to his face. It was a pretty shocking moment, and it set the tone for the entire year really.
Everyone knows the Lakers have a Russell Westbrook issue, and how Ham handles that issue and Russ' psyche is going to go a long way in how the Lakers season goes. It didn't exactly feel like the old regime had the right approach there. It was like they didn't know how to handle Russ. You knew Ham was going to be asked about Russ' future and role with the team, and you can tell he was ready for that question. That was about as boilerplate a response as you can get, and it touched on all the main things Westbrook cares about. Respect. Pump him up. Remind people of what he's done in this league when all they want to talk about is how he can't hit a midrange jumper. To be able to execute that all while Russ is giving you a death stare from across the room, that shows the ability to perform under pressure. One misstep in that quote and who knows how Westbrook reacts.
Do I think Ham wants him on the roster? I think he wants whatever LeBron wants. That's how this thing works, we all know that. It doesn't matter who the coach or GM is, everything comes back to LeBron. If LeBron wants Russ on the roster, he'll be on the roster. If he wants him traded, he won't.
He is right though. Everything for that team needs to start on the defensive end. When they went on their run in the bubble, they actually defended. Last year it was a disaster, but that's not really surprising. They are loaded with old players who aren't exactly interested in giving full effort in December. Then you deal with AD's injury history and I'm not really sure how Ham fixes that. The guy he's replacing WAS a defensive minded coach. Unless he thinks he can force LeBron to play defense at all times, I'll be interested to see what he does differently.