It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers — one before the trade deadline and one after. Moves by general manager Rob Pelinka at the trade deadline transformed the Lakers into a playoff contender, creating a challenge for first-time head coach Darvin Ham.
Suddenly, Ham had to deal with figuring out rotations and personnel on a retooled roster while trying to make a deep playoff run. Ham and the Lakers look to be on their way, winning Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. It’s a long way from the rookie head coach’s first duty being how he can deal with Russell Westbrook.
Ham acknowledged that the Lakers’ biggest stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, have helped him throughout his first season, serving as his rock. LeBron acknowledged that the experience between himself and Davis allowed them to help Ham on the court.
“For us, we’ve been a part of this franchise the longest that’s on this franchise right now. We’ve had our battles together,” James said. “For us to be able to have that relationship with the coaching staff, have that relationship with Coach Ham, him to be able to trust us on the floor that we can be a extension of his, relay his commands, his messages, it just makes it a lot calming for him that he knows he has guys on the floor that has been in a fight, has been in a foxhole and has experience in tough games. Every game and every day is another learning experience for our coaching staff and for us. We just try to make it as seamless as possible when we step on the floor with the game plan they’re giving us.”
Having a player with a basketball IQ as high as LeBron’s can make any coach’s job easier, but Ham deserves credit for implementing a system that’s worked even before the roster changes. The Lakers still competed and had opportunities to jump in the standings. What held them back was their personnel, which stopped being a factor after the deadline.
If the Lakers were to win the NBA Championship this season, Ham would become the sixth rookie coach to win the title, two of which did it for the Lakers: Pat Riley and Paul Westhead. There’s a long way to go until that can happen though. L.A. still needs to get through the defending champion Warriors.
D’Angelo Russell believes Lakers were locked into game plan in Game 1
The Lakers Game 1 victory came off of three full days of rest, allowing huge minutes from Anthony Davis in a monster performance. It was a close victory, but D’Angelo Russell emphasized that the Lakers were locked into their game plan with everyone committed to it.
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