Lakers coach Darvin Ham sets defensive tone in first practice
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Darvin Ham gathered his players in the movie theater ahead of his first official practice as coach in hopes of establishing an identity for his team — and for himself.
“I wasn’t going to dare show clips of the Milwaukee Bucks,” Ham said Tuesday after the Los Angeles Lakers’ opener in training camp. “I’m a Laker. A Laker through and through.”
Ham plans to coach a Lakers team that is stringing together stoppage after stoppage, his top priority to turn around a group that ranked 21st in defensive standings last season.
“We want to contain, challenge and control,” Ham said, explaining the defensive vision he presented before training.
With no video of the 2022-23 Lakers training to illustrate his point – and his probably smart decision not to use Giannis Antetokounmpo highlights to instruct LeBron James and Anthony Davis – Ham relied on the chief video coordinator Dru Anthrop and the analysis department to illuminate last year’s incompetence.
“I just showed the numbers,” Ham said.
The approach seemed to resonate.
“Laid down some house rules in the movie theater,” said Kendrick Nunn, one of six returning players from last year’s squad. “It’s definitely a different vibe once you walk in. … It’s a different vibe with the new coaching staff, Coach Ham coming in and implementing the things he wants to do. And the guys adhere.”
With the Lakers experiencing significant roster turnover and vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka admitting on media day that there could still be further moves to come, the uncertainty could be unsettling for a first-time coach.
Ham, however, thinks the fact that his starting lineup is indefinite and the final roster spot is vacant should step up everyone’s game – whether it’s Russell Westbrook and another guard vying for a role with the first unit or camp guests Matt Ryan and Dwayne Bacon trying to make the team.
“I think it adds a bit of spice to the camp, and LeBron and AD, they are who they are, as well as Russ, those guys are going to come after them,” Ham said. “It’s only going to make everyone better. It’s a controlled competitive environment. It’s not something wild, out of control. They talk about their little smack here and there, but for the most part they try to see who can execute what we throw at them the best and that’s how they engage in this competition and we don’t leave anyone behind.”
James and Davis are locks to start, of course, but Ham wanted to clarify that Westbrook could “absolutely” be a starter as well.
“He was there front and center today and did well, brought a ton of energy to the gym,” Ham said of Westbrook.
As for the rest of the entries?
“Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]James Worthy, Byron Scott,” Ham deadpanned.
He may not be a Laker through and through yet, but he at least has a working knowledge of the team’s history.