If this whole head coaching thing in the NBA doesn’t work out for Darvin Ham, he could have one hell of a career as a motivational speaker.
The Lakers are in a bad place right now, Monday’s blowout loss being their eighth in the first 10 games. After signs of optimism through the first seven games, the Lakers have been blown out in the last three contests, two of those at the hands of the Jazz. All of it comes in a small sample size, but it’s not an encouraging trend in the last week.
Ham, though, remains ardent in his belief that this is all necessary growing pains that will lead to brighter days.
“I’ll say this now and write it, quote it, whatever,” Ham said after Monday’s loss. “This may be happening now out the outset of what we’re trying to force to be a culture change in terms of getting us back to being highly competitive on a highly consistent basis but it’s not always going to be like this. We’re going to turn a corner. I didn’t come here to lose. They didn’t bring me here to lose. But there is a process involved where we have to go through tough times. I want to bottle this up. I want to embrace it. I want to have it in storage so when things are turned around and we get too comfortable and start complaining about problems winning teams go through, I want to be able to reflect on these times.
“I don’t want around me with a defeatist mentality. I don’t want anyone around me that’s not competitive. I don’t want anyone around me that’s selfish. We have to be on the same page at all times, through the good, bad, and indifferent…We’re going to push through this and we’re going to be better for it.”
You would anticipate and expect a head coach to have a positive, optimistic mindset about a team and Ham should be no different. There are some reasons he could feel optimistic, particularly when it comes to the schedule.
The Lakers have had a particularly rough schedule to open the season with eight of their 10 games coming against teams currently with records above .500. One of the two teams that are not currently above .500 is the defending champion Warriors. Put in a different light, every opponent the Lakers faced this year has had a .500 or better record at the time of the matchup.
According to Positive Residual, the Lakers have had the sixth-hardest schedule in the league. Only two other teams have played more than eight games against teams above .500 this season.
That, however, will change in the near future. While Wednesday’s game against the Clippers will continue that trend, they largely have resembled the Lakers this season, sporting a high-level defense and a bottom-of-the-league offense. They also have been without Kawhi Leonard since the third game of the season against the Suns as he’s only played twice this season and doesn’t appear close to returning.
After that, the Lakers play the Kings (3-6), Nets (4-7), Pistons (3-8), and Spurs (5-6) in a far more favorable stretch of games. In fact, the Lakers have a bizarre stretch starting with that Spurs game where they play San Antonio three times in four games across seven days with a trip to Phoenix mixed in.
They close the month playing Indiana (5-5) before another game against the surprising upstart Blazers. While there are a pair of tough games in that mix with the Suns and Portland, it’s a largely very favorable schedule for the Lakers and a prime stretch to turn that proverbial corner.
The Lakers have not had a schedule that has been all that forgiving for a team trying to find its way under a new head coach with a new roster. But this upcoming stretch is far more favorable and this talk of turning the corner is going to have to come good at some point.
This stretch will also take the Lakers up to the 20-game mark which is apparently a checkpoint before they consider making a trade. The aforementioned Blazers game to wrap up the month is the 20th game of the season.
It’s probably not an exaggeration to call this the most important 10-game stretch of the season for the Lakers. The Lakers aren’t going to completely turn their season around in these 10 games, but another stretch like the first 10 games and they can throw it away.
It’s a lot to ask of Ham and a new-look Lakers roster, but if the rest of the roster has the same strong sense of belief as the head coach, it could be a fruitful rest of November for the franchise. It’ll need to be to salvage something from this season.
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