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Darvin Ham and Russell Westbrook are looking forward to working with each other

Following a catastrophic season, there is really only one place for the Lakers’ new coach to go, but it now seems he intends to do so with the help of a player who has essentially been the ‘fall guy.’

Paul Rudder
Darvin Ham and Russell Westbrook are looking forward to working with each other
Jay L. ClendeninGetty

Though the Lakers have finally found themselves a new coach, questions continue to be raised as to how he will manage the team. If there is one major situation that needs addressing, it’s that of Russell Westbrook and how he will be used - or not - going forward.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham backs Russell Westbrook

After months of searching the market and several interviews, Darvin Ham is the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Needless to say Ham has his work cut out for him, having taken over one of if not the most famous NBA franchises, which has just come from a disastrous season. At the center of the hunt for why it all happened is point guard Russell Westbrook. The former Washington Wizards point guard has without doubt become the fall guy for what was a season to forget, yet On Monday during his first press conference as Lakers coach, Darvin Ham made it clear that he’s prepared to back the under fire Westbrook.

“Don’t get it messed up: Russell Westbrook is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there’s still a ton left in the tank,” Ham said when questioned about Westbrook’s first season in LA. “I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off.” It should be said that Westbrook himself was quick to give words of praise for Ham before the new coach offered up his words of admiration. The former league MVP was traded to the Lakers from the Washington Wizards during the 2021 NBA Draft, but things quickly turned sour with the 2021-22 season being one of the worst seasons in the history of the franchise. Not only did the Lakers finish 11th but they actually managed to miss the playoffs altogether with a record of 33-49.

Russell Westbrook has Dravin Ham’s support

With an average of 34.3 minutes per game and a 27.2% usage rate, which - it must be said - is scratching the bottom of the barrel compared to the rest of his career, Westbrook was always going to have a tough time proving himself in a team that was full of stars but lacking results. True it is that he had an credible average of 17.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, but this is a player who was the league’s MVP at one point. This of course brings us to one clear truth: no matter how you cut it, Ham is clearly prepared to back Westbrook.

“Russ and I had some really, really great one-on-one convos, man, and the biggest word I think came out of that, those discussions, was ‘sacrifice,” said Ham. “I’m going to expect him to be the same tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been all his entire career.” Interestingly, despite the intense critique that Westbrook has received, it would appear the the franchise itself continues to keep the faith in their out of favor point guard. Lakers’ Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka has made it clear that he has Ham’s back. “This is an incredibly bright and promising day in Lakers history,” said Pelinka. “I’m just incredibly proud to be able to sit next to him, for what he stands for, as a man, as a coach, as a dad and a husband.”

Darvin Ham has to start over with the Lakers

After almost 4 months of searching, the Los Angeles Lakers hired Ham as the new head coach back on May 27th. The 48-year-old Ham is the 28th coach to take control of the team in their history, first appearing with the Lakers as an assistant on Mike Brown’s staff during the 2012-3 season. For the moment all we can do is wait to see whether or not the proposed union between the coach and his potentially star player actually comes to fruition.