Can Darvin Ham save the Lakers?

After taking on one of the most publicized and turbulent coaching gigs of all sport this offseason, it’s no coincidence that everyone wants to hear about Darvin Ham. All summer, Ham has been on a media tour, stopping by every high-profile podcast and prime-time sports talk show, ready to chat with the rookie head coach. With all eyes on Ham – who are set to lead the most prestigious basketball team in the world after wrapping up their most embarrassing season in franchise history – he has done everything possible to make himself available for comment.

As Ham lays out his goals and visions for how he plans to transform the Lakers, his well-known commanding presence has proven as captivating as advertised. From the day he was announced as the team’s new leader, Ham has been nothing but positive and determined to prove he has what it takes to do the impossible. Mainly, he preached an optimistic attitude regarding the idea of ​​being able to unleash the potential of his Big 3 – an unbalanced puzzle that has proven unsolvable to date.

“I’m made for this!” Ham claimed convincingly during his last public appearance, a stop on the “All The Smoke” podcast.

No one doubts whether or not Ham qualifies for what is arguably the hottest seat in the league. If there’s one person who can handle all the pressure and obstacles that come with hard work, it’s the man who isn’t intimidated by a single soul on earth. Ham, who was born and raised on the streets of Saginaw, Michigan, fought all kinds of pressures on and off the basketball court and earned his money climbing the league ranks. hierarchy – the same mentality he wants each of his players to embody, top to bottom.

But for Ham to be so inspiring and compelling all summer, there’s a reason the task ahead – turning the Lakers into contenders – is widely seen as futile. The Lakers still employ Russell Westbrook, arguably the most inefficient volume shooter in the league. With a managerial change, can the Lakers still hope to salvage what is currently considered the worst trade in franchise history?

And on top of their awkward adjustment on the court, there’s the elephant in the room that is the tension between LeBron James and Westbrook, who no longer seem thrilled to share the court together.

So the question for Ham moving forward is whether he can really practice what he preaches given that the Lakers’ problems are largely out of his control?

If this Lakers roster remains as is, the biggest challenge Ham has ahead of him is getting Westbrook to buy his system and the team. Ham has mentioned several times that he wants the nine-time All-Star to commit defensively and be a two-way contributor “like a pit bull,” which we frankly haven’t seen from Westbrook throughout his career. How does Ham get a leopard to change its spots?

Additionally, the current lack of depth on the roster, particularly in terms of shooting and wing defense, desperately needs to be addressed. How can Ham enforce their entrenched philosophies and 4-out-1-in offensive system if the team still lacks two of modern basketball’s most important ingredients? As currently constituted, this team has many fresh legs and defensive athletes, but it remains to be seen if Ham can make his supporting cast perform at a high level against a higher pedigree opponents when it matters most.

And finally, how will Ham himself fare in the most pressing moments? What if he’s in the middle of an adjustment battle in a Game 7 do-or-die against a Western Conference rival? Can the defensive-minded coach hold his own or even beat the best head coaches in the league today? Ham’s 11-year experience as an assistant coach in the NBA will certainly come in handy, but the demands of a head coach go beyond those of his support team.

Luckily for the Lakers, Ham seems more than prepared for all of these challenges. Even if the mission to return to contention is impossible, Ham has demonstrated that he will do everything in his power to succeed anyway.

We’ll find out in a few months whether Ham can deliver on his lofty promises, but for now we’ll have to take his word for it – at least the new Lakers head coach believes he is indeed built for pressure. which comes with the the brightest of lights.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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