Rather quickly over the last week, things snowballed for the Lakers and Darvin Ham. A string of increasingly frustrating and demoralizing losses caused the pressure on the team and coach to increase rapidly.
Perhaps a bit too rapidly.
While the pressure outside the franchise was increasing tenfold, it wasn’t increasing at the same rate within the organization. Ultimately, it’s a moot point as the win over the Clippers served a pressure release and calmed things down.
In the aftermath of that win, reporting on Monday from various places has shown that Ham’s job is safe.
Let’s take a look at the latest rumors around the league.
Player frustration isn’t that high
On Monday, Brian Windhorst set the record straight as to where things stood with Ham, the players and agents and how that might have been a bit overblown on the latest episode of Brian Windhorst & the Hoop Collective podcast.
“By the way, there were some people who believed that if Darvin Ham lost this game, Darvin Ham was getting fired. Darvin Ham is not getting fired...There’s been a number of stories in the last few days that have emerged about player or agent frustration at the head coach and I agree that there is many examples in the history of the NBA where player frustration with the head coach has led to the head coach getting replaced. But in this case, the organization — at least for now — fully supports Darvin Ham and of the players who might be frustrated at Darvin Ham, I don’t think that the players who have the power with their frustration are in that space yet.”
The initial report putting Ham under fire involved a “deepening disconnect” with the locker room. An additional report noted that agents were calling the front office upset about Ham.
Both of those reports could be true, but they might not be the entire read on the situation, which appears to be the case. As Windhorst alludes to, the Lakers’ opinions that really matter — presumably LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the least — aren’t upset enough for eyebrows to be raised.
It’s not a vote of confidence, necessarily, but it’s a far cry from any irreconcilable differences.
Important vote of confidence
The degree to which players still are in Darvin’s corner and how much they are can be up for debate, but one that isn’t up to date is a very important voice.
The Lakers owner has been a backer of Darvin privately through the last week as pressure increased externally, including sending a text to him after Thursday’s report, as detailed by Sam Amick of The Athletic.
But as he shared in a conversation with The Athletic, there’s a significant factor in play here that should not be forgotten: While Ham has issues to resolve both in his locker room and elsewhere within Laker Land, he has the continued support of owner Jeanie Buss.
“I told you, man, I’m just thankful that I’ve got that support from Jeanie, with her always encouraging me, asking me ‘What do I need? Is everything great?’” said Ham, whose Lakers entered play against the Clippers having lost 10 of 14 games since winning the inaugural In-Season Tournament on Dec. 9.
Unlike the Vogel situation, where Buss was known to believe the former coach was largely to blame for the failed integration of Russell Westbrook and ultimately greenlighted his April 2022 firing as a result, all signs point to the Lakers’ most important decision-maker standing by the coach who is in the second year of a four-year deal. There’s a mutual respect in that relationship, one that resulted in Buss sending a lengthy text message of support to Ham in the wake of Thursday’s report in The Athletic that chronicled the rising pressure that surrounds him. Buss could certainly change her stance, of course, but the current state of affairs suggests Ham still has time to turn this around.
We’re just going to ignore her thoughts on the Vogel situation as that is a whole other can of worms for a whole other article, but having Darvin’s back right now is notable, obviously.
It also shows why Darvin had a level of confidence in recent games when discussing the reports, repeating multiple times that he knew he had the support of the front office. Now, we know why!
Very far from firing
The last of the reports to come out on Monday was from longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein in his Substack in which he offered yet another strongly-worded backing Darvin.
The current signals in circulation suggest that things would have to worsen signicantly — signicantly — for the 18-19 Lakers to truly put Darvin Ham’s job under immediate threat. That was the messaging in circulation even before Sunday night’s stirring 106-103 victory over the Clippers despite some crunch- time shakiness against their co-tenants at Crypto.com Arena.
League sources say Ham continues to enjoy very strong support from Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka ... especially after the leadership Ham provided in his rst season as the frequent voice and face for the franchise as it spent months in sub-.500 purgatory before nally surging into the playoffs with a 9-2 closing kick.
Considering three different people from three different outlets wholly disconnected from one another have offered effectively the same sort of reporting — Darvin is not particularly close to being fired — then it’s pretty clear the focus should probably be less on whether he will keep his job and more on the team itself and what they can do to get out of this spiral.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, though, it certainly feels like we aren’t close to any kind of coaching change.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.