The Lakers are on their third coach of the LeBron James era — and they want him to stick.
On his first day as a head coach, longtime assistant Darvin Ham announced sweeping changes — he’s firing three assistant coaches, looking at former All-Star Rasheed Wallace for the staff, and wants to redeem Russell Westbrook.
After L.A. failed to make the playoffs with three superstars and a $164 million payroll, Ham’s appointment — in addition to being approved by King James — looks less of a rebuild than a restoration project.
- The Big Three aren’t going anywhere — James, Westbrook, and Anthony Davis account for $129.6M of next season’s current payroll ($146.6M).
- The trio only played 21 games together last season due to injuries.
- Ham propped up Westbrook in his introductory press conference, stating that there’s no reason to write him off despite his worst scoring season (18.5 PPG) since 2010.
- James quickly tweeted an effusive stamp of approval for the hire.
Ham could be the right guy to help right the ship. His last stop in 11 seasons as an assistant was with Mike Budenholzer’s Bucks, where he won the 2020-21 title.
But besides instilling confidence in Westbrook, Ham also has to capitalize on having James, an unrestricted free agent next year who, though 37, is miraculously still in his prime — the Lakers just wasted his second-highest scoring season (30.3 PPG).
So far, oddsmakers remain skeptical that the Lakers will instantly recover their 2020 swagger — they have the 12th-best odds (+2000) to win the 2022-23 title.