‘Counted Out’: Lakers Coach Has Bold Plan For Russell Westbrook

Los Angeles Lakers, Russell Westbrook, NBA Trade Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

Darvin Ham has been one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA for the last few years. He has drawn some interest for head coaching jobs in recent offseasons and will finally be making the move down the bench, as he accepted an offer to become head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

This is a tough job for anyone, let alone a rookie head coach, as they are stepping into a high-pressure situation. It is championship or bust for the Lakers and it will be up to Ham to help get the team back on track on the court.

Los Angeles went 33-49 last season, falling woefully short of expectations. They didn’t even qualify for the NBA Play-In Tournament, which led to Frank Vogel being fired as head coach. He was given an impossible task with the roster he had to work with.

Ham will have some new faces to work with, but the biggest obstacle he will have to overcome will likely be Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s skill set did not mesh well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and that was a big reason for the team’s struggles.

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There are a lot of people that think Westbrook’s days of being an impactful player are now behind him. However, Ham does not fall into that group. He is confident that Westbrook has plenty left in the tank and Ham has a plan on making it work.

“Counted out prematurely,” he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears regarding Westbrook. “Counted out. Prematurely. I’ve had some great interactions with Russ, in person, over dinner, over the phone, over text messages. I love Russell Westbrook, man. Just his mentality, his approach. Just to see him, a guy of that magnitude and everything he’s done in the league to get hated on. But being me, I got a wholehearted plan, a clear plan on how I’m going to use him. I showed it to him, sat down, brought stuff up for him. I think he’s going to flourish. We ain’t going to try to curtail his energy. We’re just going to diversify it, redirect it.”

Finding a niche for Westbrook to succeed in will be important to the team’s success if he does remain on the roster. He was unable to find one last season and during his exit interview, he placed a lot of that blame on his teammates.

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Could a role change be on the horizon? Ham doesn’t see that being part of the plan, as Westbrook will be the starting point guard as long as he remains with the purple and gold.

“Yes, indeed,” he said when asked if he sees Westbrook as a starter. “It’s just the way we’re going to play and the type of people that’s going to be out there on the floor, that’s the biggest thing.”

Spacing will be important, as the Lakers need 3-point shooting around Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, three players who do most of their damage in the paint. A strong defender needs to pair with Westbrook in the backcourt as well, as he was a sieve at times on that end of the court last season.

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It is nice to hear that Ham has a plan in place should the Lakers be forced to run things back with their roster. The team needs a new look after how poorly last season went and he sounds like the guy capable of making that happen.