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Darvin Ham ‘highly unlikely’ to return to Los Angeles Lakers

Shams Charania reveals head coach’s future with the franchise is in ‘serious peril’



Apr 12, 2024; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham watches during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2024; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham watches during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers‘ season came to an end in Game 5 of their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers lost in a 108-106 heartbreaker as Jamal Murray hit a game-winner for the second time in the series. After an up-and-down second season leading the franchise, Darvin Ham is unlikely to return as head coach. Shams Charania, Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic, wrote:

The Lakers’ unflattering finish leaves Ham’s future as head coach in serious peril, multiple league and team sources tell The Athletic, with some stakeholders indicating it’s highly unlikely he’ll return. The plan is to reassess everything that went wrong in the coming days before making a final decision. In 2022, Ham signed a four-year deal in the range of $5 million per season, so the team would be assuming the remainder of his deal if he is fired.

They noted that the Lakers’ front office believed the roster was built for a deeper run after retaining key pieces in the offseason before adding:

Throughout the series and most of the season, however, team officials and players believe Ham’s fluctuating rotations, game plans and lack of adjustments led to an underperforming group. It created discontent within the locker room, which became palpable across the franchise.

The Lakers’ blown 20-point lead in Game 2 of the Denver series served as a final straw of sorts. After a successful first year as coach in which he showed signs as a leader of players, the tide turned for Ham this season. There was tremendous respect for Ham as a person, and players had an appreciation for his pro career and time as an assistant coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee. But, as one player said recently, “We need to be coached, too.” [h/t The Athletic]

Ham’s decision to bench D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves during a stretch in which Los Angeles lost 10 of 13 games was viewed as a key turning point in his tenure. Many within the organization reportedly believed he failed to consistently play their best players around Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Furthermore, the two stars appeared to be frustrated with the head coach at various points – notably in the postseason. It remains to be seen how the Lakers will address the position, provided they do move on from Ham.

What’s next for the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a disappointing end to their season on Monday night. While they are expected to move on from Darvin Ham, the franchise will have plenty to address this offseason. LeBron James has the a player option, but he is expected to return to Los Angeles for a seventh season. There are reports, however, that the four-time NBA MVP could opt out in order to secure a no-trade clause. D’Angelo Russell also holds a player option for 2024-25, and his plans are less clear heading into the offseason.

Although the Lakers are unlikely to have a first-round pick – the New Orleans Pelicans will decide between their 2024 and 2025 first-round picks to complete the Anthony Davis trade – they do have three tradeable first-round picks. They are reportedly planning to be in the market for a third star this offseason – with Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young mentioned as potential targets.

Los Angeles appear to be headed for a busy offseason after falling short of goals for the fourth consecutive season. General manager Rob Pelinka’s hands will be full as he looks to build another championship roster around James and Davis.

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Caleb Gebrewold is the Editor for The Dunk Central. He is an experienced journalist who has covered the NBA, MLB, NFL, college sports, mixed martial arts and boxing. His work has been featured in publications such as Fansided, MSN, Yardbreaker, Sportskeeda and Gridiron Heroics. Caleb has a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications from Purdue University.