After failing to reach the postseason, the Lakers fired Frank Vogel and quickly found a replacement in the former Milwaukee Bucks assistant.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
Earning his first assistant coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011, Darvin Ham will return to the 17-time champions to become head coach.
A month after firing Frank Vogel, the Lakers have found a replacement in the Milwaukee Bucks assistant who also started his assistant coaching career in Los Angeles. Passing up on veteran coaches Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson, the Lakers chose the candidate known for his strong voice behind the scenes, giving Ham a four-year contract to begin his tenure.
Moving early to fill Vogel’s spot, the champions-turned-lottery-team has many questions to answer in the offseason as they attempt to right the ship.
Ham played for six NBA teams from 1996 to 2005 and was an assistant coach for three teams since 2011, giving him experience with a plethora of organizations. Vogel could not keep the Lakers on the right path after their championship in 2020, but signing a former champion and Lakers assistant coach gives the team a fresh start.
LeBron James voiced his approval on Twitter, and expressed support for his new coach.
“So damn excited!” tweeted the four-time champion. “Congrats and welcome Coach DHam.”
James has dictated much of what has gone on with the Lakers since being signed by the team in 2018. His disagreements with the young talent Los Angeles drafted before he came over resulted in the Anthony Davis trade, and the underwhelming postseason finish last year led him to push the front office to trade for Russell Westbrook.
Becoming the oldest team in the league after bringing in Westbrook and signing Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and others while letting players like Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder walk, the Lakers doomed themselves to another lost season.
Bringing in Ham early allows the Lakers to adapt to their new coach and gives the front office time to figure out who to bring back and who to target in the offseason.
With no draft picks this year, Los Angeles can focus all its efforts on trades and free agency.
Multiple contracts are coming off the books, such as Anthony, Howard and Malik Monk, while James, Davis and Westbrook will make close to $130 million alone next season — about $7 under the luxury tax. This gives the struggling team little flexibility when it comes to their next set of one-year rentals — unless they trade Westbrook.
The former most valuable player will be on the last year of his deal, making it a possibility that rebuilding teams looking to clear salary cap will take him on for a season.
The Lakers can either look to trade Westbrook to a team looking to free up cap space or flip him for two or three solid role players to a team looking to consolidate — in other words, the reverse of the trade that landed them the nine-time all star.
Whichever direction the 17-time champions decide to go, making headway early with a new head coach gives them time to think about these things and find players who will gel best with the veterans and Ham.