The Los Angeles Lakers lost back-to-back games to open the 2022-23 season, but head coach Darvin Ham has reasons to stay positive regardless of the 0-2 record.
First and foremost, the Lakers bought into Ham’s philosophy and it showed against the L.A. Clippers on Thursday. The Purple and Gold lacked firepower again, but they made up for it by leaving everything on the floor on the defensive side of the ball.
That allowed L.A. to come back from a double-digit deficit twice before the Clippers snatched the win late in the fourth quarter. After the game, Ham said the Lakers still have some work to do in terms of their discipline, pointing out they bailed out their opponents by fouling them instead of letting them miss a shot from a tough spot.
But overall, the head coach appreciated the urgency with which L.A. played against the Clippers. “I’m super duper proud of our guys, they competed,” Ham said.
“I think we’ve seen improvement from Game One to Game Two, especially on the defensive end. I mean, that’s a monstrous ballclub in that locker room, and people are raving about them, and they come highly touted for reason. And the way we stepped up and scrapped, even when we did get down and be able to get back in the game, make it a game. That’s the definition of identity building, like, establishing what our culture and our environment is going to be like. So I’m definitely disappointed in the loss probably could have done things a little bit better. But again, we’re trending in the right direction.
“I’m happy. I’ll sleep well. I won’t be angry or depressed. And we still have 80 games left. Again, we’re trending in the right direction. I couldn’t be more happier than the way we did. We had a no-quit mentality.”
Ham did say he was disappointed by the Lakers’ shooting — particularly because of the wasted extra scoring chances in transition, generated by the defense. During the first days of the 2022-23 season, the Lakers average the second-highest number of possessions on the break (25.5) in the NBA.
However, they score just 1.0 points per transition possession, a bottom-10 rate. Overall, L.A. had the second-lowest field goal percentage (38.8%) and 3-point shooting percentage (22.4%) after the loss to the Clippers.
But Ham believes the Lakers will eventually start knocking down shots.
“We get a huge stop, running and balls coming around player to player. Guy shoots it and it doesn’t go down. Yeah, it stings a little bit, but nobody’s gonna feel sorry for you,” Ham said.
“You gotta move on to the next play. And that’s one of the things I talked about postgame. We talked about it in pregame, actually. Just having been highly competitive. Again, not feeling sorry for yourself. Not having those disappointment lags. Even not shooting the ball very well for three, we still were in a position to win the game.”
Both the Golden State Warriors on Opening Night and the Clippers two days later showed little respect for the Lakers shooters, often leaving them open on the perimeter and clogging the paint instead. Ham said all his players can do is to keep up the work so they can take advantage of the good looks they get.
“If they want to give us those shots, we will accept it wholeheartedly,” the Lakers head coach said. That’s the way we want to play. We want to play fast, physical and free.
“We see these guys making shots in practice and shoot-around. They got to do it on the game floor. It’s as simple as that. Whether the team was giving us shots or not, as you know, it is what it is, but we’d like the shots we’re getting. Once we start making them, we’ll see if those shots are still available due to our running habits and our screening habits.
“Definitely, you’d like to see the ball go in more. But again, you just have to trust the process and continue to work at it and get reps up. Eventually, the ball will go in the hole.”
Ham believes Kendrick Nunn, Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley’s shooting will improve
Kendrick Nunn, Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley collectively shot 1-for-25 (4%) from the field against the Clippers. They became only the ninth trio of guards in NBA history to each spend at least 10 minutes on the floor and shoot 14.3% or less on at least seven field goal attempts.
But Ham said he believes the Lakers guards will bounce back from their historically bad performance.
“My trust in those guys, Kendrick [Nunn], Russ and Pat Bev’s professionalism, good work ethic, their individual pride in themselves in terms of wanting to have the best performance possible night in and night out— so, you end up having nights like these sometimes during the course of an 82-game season, but I trust them.
“They’ll bounce back. They’ll play better next time around, and we’ll go back and look at the film and see how we can help them all.”
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