The atmosphere at Las Vegas Summer League always has a way of making one feel good about themselves. Being surrounded by other basketball junkies in the desert when everyone has just made big additions to their teams and they’re all undefeated in next season’s standings has a way of bringing out the swagger in anyone, and Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is no exception.
Not only was Ham feeling good enough to call out the 10 teams who interviewed him and decided not to hire him as head coach — “they f---ed up royally” — he also made it clear in multiple ways that he’s not worried about anyone, on or off the court.
One example of this came when Ham, wearing one of the Dodgers hats he’s rocked in many a public appearance since being hired by the Lakers for his interview on the “#thisleague UNCUT” podcast, was asked by host Marc Stein if he has to throw a Tigers hat on when he goes back to his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan.
“This is Darvin Ham, so they’re gonna be satisfied,” Ham replied in part one of the two-part pod. “They ain’t gonna say s--- about nothing I’m doing. You been around me before? You ever seen me move through a room? No problems. I promise. The security is here to save the people (who would mess with me). That’s just how it is... I ain’t worried about nothing.”
Perhaps that level of swagger is unsurprising from a former undersized power forward who very much appears to still be in good shape decades after an NBA career in which he was listed as 6’7, 220 pounds of muscle after shattering a backboard in college due to his powerful dunks, or from a man who opened up his introductory press conference with the Lakers by explaining that being shot in the face as a child could have made him fearful, or fearless, and he chose the latter.
But still, it was obvious throughout the whole Las Vegas live show that Ham is feeling good about himself, confident in his team, and ready to bounce back after a season that saw the Lakers come up short of raising banner No. 18, which he says is the only goal for the franchise.
“You ever look into Jeanie’s window?” Ham told Stein’s co-host Chris Haynes, referencing the championship trophies that sit on the Lakers owner’s office windowsill in the practice facility when the topic of division-winner banners were brought up. “We know what we’re in this for.”
To help the team get there, they’ll not only need all their new additions to help improve the team and for Anthony Davis and LeBron James to remain healthy, but they’ll also need another leap forward in development from Austin Reaves. And if there is one person Ham is as confident in as himself, it just might be the undrafted guard entering his third season, as he made clear to Stein and Haynes in part two of the podcast:
“I’m putting it on record right now, Austin Reaves will be an All-Star at some point soon. I think what you saw with him being invited to be a part of the World Cup team is the first step in that direction. Everything you saw him do last year, the kid is a flat-out competitor, one of the greatest human beings you could ever be around, always fun, keeps things simple, but yet works at his craft. Is fearless in the biggest of moments. And my plan is to continue to feature him. He’s our starting 2 guard, and I think there’s a lot more levels (he’s) going to get to before it’s all said and done. He’ll be an All-Star and a world champion, with me in the room with him.”
To reach the second one of those goals — and put another trophy in Jeanie Buss’ office — the Lakers will likely have to go through the Nuggets once again.
“Did they lose Jamal Murray? Did they lose Joker?” Ham quipped when the topic of the Lakers’ Conference Finals opponent losing Bruce Brown and Jeff Green was broached. “If they didn’t lose those two, then they really didn’t lose a damn thing.”
But just because Ham has a healthy respect for the team that just swept the Lakers doesn’t mean he is staying out of the simmering beef between the two teams who have met in two of the last four Western Conference Finals. As the podcast was wrapping up, Mike Malone’s raucous championship parade performance that irked LeBron James was brought up by Haynes, and it’s fair to say that Ham didn’t take kindly to it, either:
Haynes: “Mike Malone did a lot of celebrating...”
Ham: “Oh, wow. You’re gonna bring up Money Mike, man? The Lakers’ Daddy? That’s what they call him now? The Lakers’ Daddy?”
Haynes: “I guess you can talk when you win a championship.”
Ham: “God bless his soul. This shit ain’t over. God bless his soul.”
Ham and the Lakers will have to make another run and meet Denver in another rematch if they really want to prove Ham’s assertion that it “ain’t over” prescient, but if a team can be powered entirely by their head coach’s swag to get there, then Los Angeles is in good shape.