The Los Angeles Lakers might have fallen to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, but it was a momentous day for Darvin Ham, as he officially debuted as the Purple and Gold’s head coach.
Ham took over in June, becoming an NBA head coach after an 11-year run as an assistant on the Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, and Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers picked the 2004 NBA champion over candidates with way more experience, including Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson.
L.A. liked Ham’s no-nonsense style, which emphasizes accountability and defensive effort. Lakers governor Jeanie Buss said the hire earned her plenty of praise in the NBA circles, proving the Michigan native is a respected figure in the league.
Ham is facing a daunting task in restoring the Lakers franchise, but that didn’t matter on Tuesday when the time to take charge of his first NBA game finally arrived. The Lakers head coach told Andscape’s Marc Spears he nearly shed a tear with tip-off looming large:
“I was just unbelievably thankful as I was walking through the tunnel at the beginning of the game. Just unbelievably thankful,” said Ham, following the Lakers’ 123-109 season-opening loss to the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. “I am walking out, I am looking up and I see everyone out there. I see Draymond [Green] before the game. I’m looking at the crowd. Looking at the arena. Looking at my team. Looking at LeBron [James] getting ready to go.
“I came this close to getting emotional. Just thankfulness. There are no other words I can use other than I am completely thankful to God. It was real.”
A few difficult weeks are ahead of Ham and his Lakers as they are yet to come together as a team after a huge roster reshuffle in the offseason. Nevertheless, the Purple and Gold showed some good defense against the Warriors.
However, Golden State exposed their offensive shortcomings on Tuesday, daring them to shoot for three while cramming the paint. The Lakers went 10-for-40 (25%) on the night and trailed by as many as 27 points.
Ham explains why he started Russell Westbrook in loss to Warriors
One of Ham’s big decisions for the matchup with the Warriors was re-inserting Russell Westbrook into the starting lineup. Westbrook came off the bench in the preseason finale against the Sacramento Kings, which was cut short by a hamstring injury.
After the Tuesday loss, Ham said he decided to start the 2017 NBA MVP against the Warriors because he thought the starting unit needed the playmaker’s athleticism and energy.