Former NBA player Darvin Ham has a ton of new responsibilities as a first-time head coach. Not only is he coaching a legendary franchise in the Los Angeles Lakers, but he’ll have to juggle the expectations of LA along with the egos and star power of several key players on his team.
There is LeBron Jam es, who is still a superstar at age 37. Anthony Davis, who is a superstar big man when healthy, is also there. Russell Westbrook, once one of the most dynamic and explosive players in the league, is listed on the depth chart as the starting point guard and he can still play at a high level when he is in rhythm. With that said, Westbrook has struggled to find that superstar-level rhythm and it has especially affected his perimeter shooting.
The problem for Ham is Westbrook’s expectations] of being treated like an elite player are still the same as if he is still the caliber of player who won MVP in 2017.
He’s just not the same player as before, though. Former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel knew it, which prompted him to sit Westbrook at the end of games at times last season. That naturally didn’t go over well with a player as prideful as Westbrook.
Ham is a first-time head coach but he has NBA experience as player and coach. He won a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 as a player and won another as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021. He was also an assistant coach for the Lakers from 2011-2013, so he is also familiar with coaching stars for the glamour franchise.
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka has given Ham the power to make lineup decisions about his team, and that includes adjusting Westbrook’s role in game situations and perhaps the starting lineup.
This, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic:
“Lakers head coach Darvin Ham will have more power to bench Westbrook down the stretch of games, according to league sources (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a few times last season),” Buha wrote in a mailbag feature. “That could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup as well.”
It’s important that as a new head coach, Ham is able establish the culture he desires and impring on this tam the way he chooses and not based on star power and former greatness. It remains to be seen how well Westbrook and Ham mesh but Ham reportedly wil be the one to decide how that goes on the floor.