During his playing days, new Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was as blue-collar of a player as it could get. And arguably no player in NBA history exemplifies that like former Detroit Pistons center and NBA Hall of Famer Ben Wallace.
Wallace went from undrafted all the way to the Hall of Fame because of that tough, hard-nosed mentality and it should come as no surprise that he is close friends with the Lakers coach. Wallace made an appearance at Lakers practice on Wednesday, as did Derek Fisher, prompting Ham to discuss how he and Wallace became so close.
“He just observed,” Ham said about Wallace’s involvement in practice. “He and Derek Fisher were here today and I appreciate those guys coming and observing, giving me a little bit of feedback. But Ben and I, we’ve been best of friends since we first played together in 1997 with the Washington Wizards. Both of our second years in the league. He’s just been a real trustworthy friend, an honest guy.
“He talked about the energy in the building, how contagious it was and Derek said the same thing and they’re both excited for me. But Ben and I have been through some wars together, won championships together, and again, we’re lifelong friends, lifelong brothers for that matter and just to have him come out and spend a few days with me has been great.”
You can have many friends and acquaintances, but there are very few who could be considered family and for Ham, Wallace is one of those. The two won a championship together in 2004 and Ham holds him in the highest regard.
As such, Ham would not even consider comparing any of his players to Wallace when it comes to that mentality.
“You ever watched Ben Wallace? I wouldn’t even try to hold anybody’s feet to that fire,” Ham added. “You’re talking about a guy undrafted, goes on to make the Hall of Fame, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, World Champion. Hopefully they get close, maybe in the same galaxy, but not on the same planet.
“But he’s one that’s gonna give you good words, good words of advice. I saw him and Bron and some other guys greeting each other early on when he first arrived. Just his competitiveness and that no-quit mentality is what I would love for my players to adopt first and foremost.”
Expecting anyone to live up to that would be foolish, but the Lakers certainly have someone who embraces that same mindset, especially being undrafted, in Patrick Beverley. When it comes to grittiness, toughness and never backing down, Beverley fits the mold and the veteran admitted that having people like Wallace and Fisher in the building adds some motivation.
“Awe man, that’s the ultimate respect, he paved the way for guys like me,” Beverley said after practice. “Hall of Fame, those blue-collar guys, they’re starting to let them in, Manu Ginobili. What he’s done, undrafted a lot of people haven’t done and I don’t know, still couldn’t do. One of the best rebounders to ever do it so obviously you see that type of pillar, not only him but Derek Fisher also, you see those types of pillars in here it gives you a little bit more.”
Ham trying out different lineups in Lakers training camp
Regardless of who is in the building, Ham has a lot of work to do in getting the Lakers on track ahead of the start of the season. With so many new players on the roster, Ham must figure out his best lineups and rotations and so far he is trying everything in practice.
“I’m just looking at everything,” Ham said after Wednesday’s session. “I see what fits with a small lineup, with Bron at the 4, AD at the 5, the traditional lineup.
“We haven’t paired Russ and Pat Bev together just yet, but we’ve been throwing out all types of lineups together out there. K-Nunn has been with some. Damian Jones and Wenyen Gabriel, Thomas Bryant — we’ve been rotating people all over the place just to see.”
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