14 Jan

As Lakers continue to spiral, Darvin Ham is clearly feeling the heat under his seat

Since the end of the Phil Jackson era in 2011, no coach has lasted more than three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Just keep that in mind. This has been a revolving-door situation for more than a decade.

Now, you might think Darvin Ham built up more equity than a Luke Walton or Mike Brown or Mike D’Antoni or Byron Scott after rallying the Lakers into the Western Conference Finals last season, but Frank Vogel — who, you’ll recall, is the coach Ham replaced — won a championship for crying out loud, and he still got canned after Year 3.

Ham is in Year 2, and it’s not going very well. After falling to the Memphis Grizzlies, 127-113, on Friday, the Lakers have now lost four straight and 10 of their last 13 since winning the In-Season Tournament’s NBA Cup on Dec. 9. If the season were to end today, they wouldn’t even make the play-in.

“It is what it is. It’s the NBA, man. It’s a marathon,” Ham said following L.A.’s loss. “You have to look at the totality of the picture. I’m tired of people living and dying with every single game we play. It’s ludicrous, actually. … We hit a tough stretch. It’s the same team that, you know, we played some high-level games a little while ago, and we just got to get back to that. We got to keep the fight though. We cannot lose our fight.”

This is a man who is feeling the heat. You can hear the irritation in his voice.


— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 6, 2024
It’s understandable that Ham is feeling the squeeze. On Thursday, The Athletic reported a “deepening disconnect between Ham and the Lakers locker room,” citing “six sources close to the team.”

On a recent episode of No Cap Room podcast, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer called the chatter around Ham’s job status “the tip of the iceberg of this guy being legitimately on the hot seat right now.”

Ham tried to downplay the reports that he’s in danger of losing his job prior to Friday’s game, saying the following: “I’m solid. My governor, Jeanie Buss, the boss lady; our president, Robert Pelinka — we’re all aligned. As long as they’re not saying it, I guess I’m good. Which I know how they feel about me and the situation we’re currently in.”

Again, is Ham sure about that? Things turn quickly in the NBA. They turn especially quickly inside the Lakers’ fishbowl. Inside the LeBron James fishbowl. After the game on Friday, James wasn’t singing a “marathon” tune. He wasn’t talking about anyone being “solid.”

“We suck right now,” James said.

Listen to the man talking. You can hardly hear a word he’s saying.

LeBron James: “We suck right now.” He also framed LAL’s in-season tournament as “only two games,” suggesting that championship should be given the proper weight pic.twitter.com/a1IaENpWyh

— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 6, 2024
If you didn’t get all the way to the end of that clip, go back to the 2:35 mark. A reporter asks James about the retirement of Ricky Rubio, and the way James answers it, everything from his tone to his actual words, tells you everything you need to know about where James’ head and patience level is at.

“I’m not really in the mood to answer that question [about Rubio],” James said with a look on his face that said it was all he could do to not tell this reporter to get lost. “I respect Ricky. Congratulations on a hell of a career. And uh, if I don’t seem sincere when you see this video, it’s because we got our ass whooped again. So, I apologize. It’s actually bad timing on the interviewer asking me this question. It’s not me, Ricky. So, congratulations.”

Yeah, this man is steaming. And when you are dealing with an unhappy LeBron, and you are under .500 as the coach of the Lakers with two All-NBA level players at your disposal, you are not “solid.” Again, just look back through the coaching history post Phil Jackson.

Nobody lasts more than three years. Ham is in Year 2 — which, with LeBron is in Year 21, feels like about Year 7. The clock is ticking faster, and louder, the closer the Lakers move toward the end of the LeBron era. Ham can clearly feel that, no matter how he tries to downplay the realities of his perilous predicament.

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