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A disappointing season for the Lakers was followed by a quiet offseason filled with trade rumors that didn’t pan out. But they still have plenty to be excited about.
Expectations were sky-high after the addition of Russell Westbrook but nothing really worked out the way the 2021-22 Lakers were hoping. Westbrook struggled and never seemed to be on the same page with his teammates or head coach Frank Vogel. Injuries were a constant issue and the team finished below .500 and missed the playoffs entirely.
After a chaotic offseason for the league as a whole, Westbrook is still on the roster and potential trades for Myles Turner, Buddy Hield and Kyrie Irving never materialized. It may seem the Lakers are rolling into next season facing the same problems they couldn’t solve last season but there are plenty of reasons for optimism and they will still be one of the most fascinating teams to watch this season.
3. Darvin Ham is a new voice on the Lakers’ sideline
Ham may not have been the sexiest option to replace head coach Frank Vogel but he checks a lot of different boxes. He’s relatively young (just 49). He’s a former player and has won a ring as both a player (appearing in 54 games for the 2004 Pistons) and as an assistant coach (with the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks. He has plenty of assistant coaching experience — working under Mike Budenholzer for nine years with the Hawks and Bucks and two years with the Lakers, under Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni.
It’s not always clear what areas will be strengths and weaknesses for a first-year coach but Ham has been in the Lakers’ machine before, has worked with strong and creative offensive and defensive systems and hopefully has the experience as a coach and player to command some respect from this veteran team.
Ham wasted no time in meeting with Westbrook, trying to rebuild whatever bridges had been burned last year and building him up in the press:
“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.”
Until the games start, it’s just talk. But Ham looks good on paper and he’s certainly saying all the right things.