Lakers coach Darwin Ham’s status in question amid locker room disconnect: Sources

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LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers have hit a new low in their season following their ninth loss in 12 games, raising concerns about the direction of the season from both inside and outside the organization.

Six sources with direct knowledge of the situation say there is currently a deep relationship between Darwin Ham and the Lakers locker room, raising questions about the head coach’s position. talked to people athletic On condition of anonymity so that they can talk openly on this matter. Those sources described that the disagreement between the coach and the team stemmed from excessive rotation and Hamm’s recent initiation of lineup adjustments, causing fluctuations in the rhythm of several players on the roster.

The Miami Heat, playing without superstar Jimmy Butler, defeated the Lakers 110-96 at Arena on Wednesday. The loss dropped Los Angeles to 17-18 — the first time they’ve been below .500 since Nov. 11 — and put them just .001 percentage points above the Golden State Warriors for No. 10 in the Western Conference. The Lakers are 3-9 since winning the in-season tournament in Las Vegas on Dec. 9. They have lost three games in a row, and Wednesday night’s defeat added to the unrest.

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In the latest effort to reverse L.A.’s skid, Hamm used his 10th starting lineup of the season and his third in three games: Austin Reaves at point guard, Taurean Prince at shooting guard, Cam Reddish at small forward, LeBron James at power forward and Anthony Davis at center. The Lakers were minus-3 in 13 minutes the group played on Wednesday against Miami.

The latest lineup change continues a troubling trend as the Lakers have struggled to determine their best lineup or establish continuity this season, no matter how healthy the team is. Concern has increased in recent weeks.

Hamm’s decision to keep D’Angelo Russell on the bench and start James, Prince, Reddish, Jared Vanderbilt and Davis in a lineup without a second guard ballhandler starting on December 23 at Oklahoma City was criticized by multiple parties internally. Was supposed to be a head-scratcher, according to sources. For this story.

The Lakers supported their continuity throughout the summer, including bringing back their top five scorers from the Western Conference Finals (James, Davis, Reaves, Russell, and Hachimura, in that order). But more than a third of the way through the season, three of those players – and the team’s third, fourth and fifth highest-paid players in Russell, Hachimura and Reeves, respectively – were coming off the bench. Despite being touted as a future All-Star by Hamm over the summer and finishing third on the team in scoring, Reaves has been coming off the bench for most of the season, with Russell’s role reduced since Las Vegas. , and Hachimura’s playing time has become unstable on a nightly basis.

After Wednesday’s loss, the locker room opened up before Hamm addressed the media, which is rare. Davis spoke, at first, in a soft-spoken, somber manner, refusing to use the injuries as an excuse.

“It’s a little bit of everything right now,” Davis said. “We are not executing. That team played harder than us tonight, played better than us tonight, played more physical than us tonight. We had to work very hard tonight. So right now it’s a little bit of everything. If we continue like this, it will not be good for us. So it is clear that we have to find out as soon as possible.

“Guys, being out is no excuse. There is no excuse for us. Like coach said (before the game), we have a lot in this locker room to win but we just have to go out and compete.
During Davis’ availability, James, whose locker is right next to Davis’, dressed and left the locker room without speaking to reporters.

Hamm finally spoke to the media 30 minutes after the buzzer sounded. He continued to say that despite being there for all but eight games with the Lakers, James, Davis, Reaves and Russell would “not get any consistency” until they were fully healthy. . The three players currently injured are Hachimura (left calf strain), Russell (tailbone injury) and Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery).

“We have to get healthy,” Hamm said. “…And once you get healthy, guys have to get back into rhythm and we have to find a cohesive unit, a total cohesive rotation that we can go with. When you’re working with different people in and out of the lineup over and over again, it’s almost impossible to find a rhythm. It just has to be real. This is no small matter for anyone.”

Hamm then suggested that it is easier to play without a star – like the Heat have been without Butler – for a team than to have multiple rotation players in and out of the lineup, as the Lakers have for most of the season. .

“I think multiple (rotation players) are more impactful than that… if you lose one of your big dogs, you’re going to have to figure out how to try and manage without them,” Hamm said. ” “…And when you have your key role players, your key rotation players – this guy misses three or four. This guy misses by three or four. And they’re happening one after another, that’s what makes it difficult. … We have to figure it out. I am disappointed, but if I get disappointed, I will suffer a lot.

Asked if he would consider returning to the team’s original starting lineup of Russell, Reeves, Vanderbilt, James and Davis, Hamm said the team was considering every possibility.

“I think everything is on the table that makes sense,” Hamm said. “No stone will be left unturned. We’re here to find out whatever we can to right the ship.

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Meanwhile, Reeves, speaking after Hamm, echoed the same sentiment as Davis, saying the team can’t use the fluctuating lineup as an excuse.

“No matter what the lineup is, no matter what the changes are, no matter what it is, we’ve got to get better as a team and win games,” Reeves said. “We are talented enough to win games. We have enough depth. We have enough skills. We’ve got to figure it out.”

Davis and Reeves’ perspective compared to Ham’s is how the locker room feels about the team’s current issues and Ham has cited injuries, schedule and lineup changes among the team’s inconsistency, especially since IST. Highlights the discrepancy between.

Ham confirmed after the game that the team had a team meeting afterward, which is why it took so long for the locker room to open. By the time Davis spoke to the media, the rest of the players in the Lakers locker room had left. Reeves said the atmosphere in the locker room is “sh-y”.

“We’re losing,” Reeves said. “Whenever you lose, the excitement has to go away, you know? If I go out there and the atmosphere doesn’t turn off after the tough stretch we had, I’ll be worried.”

He later clarified that the atmosphere was not a matter of players disliking each other, which was a notable difference considering the state of the locker room at this time last season.

“When I say the atmosphere is over, it doesn’t mean we don’t like each other,” Reeves said. “This is what we are losing. We should be angry. After the game we should not be happy with the way we are playing. But I don’t want to make it sound like we don’t like each other. “Everyone gets along in the locker room.”

These Lakers have endured adversity during Hamm’s nearly two years as head coach, including a 2-10 start a season ago that ended with a Western Conference Finals berth. So Hamm has shown an ability to reach out to his players in the second year of a four-year coaching contract. But timing is of the essence for the 39-year-old James and Davis, and as Hamm has tinkered with lineups and adjustments over the past few weeks, patience is beginning to wear thin.

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(Photo of Darwin Ham: Harry How/Getty Images)

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