Lakers’ Darvin Ham Gets Warning From NBA Exec: ‘Coach’s Nightmare’

Darvin Ham, Lakers coach (left) and GM Rob Pelinka

Getty Darvin Ham, Lakers coach (left) and GM Rob Pelinka

It has, by any measure, been an outstanding offseason in Lakerland, an impressive extension of last year’s NBA trade deadline makeover, when the L.A. spun worn threads like Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn and Patrick Beverley into gold, acquiring, among others, Jarred Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura, all of whom played key roles in the team’s run to the West finals and are expected to play key roles going forward.

The Lakers have since added potential starting point guard Gabe Vincent, pilfered from the Miami Heat in free agency, plus young center Jaxson Hayes and veteran forward Taurean Prince. Cam Reddish, whom the Lakers have long had an interest in acquiring, finally lands in L.A., too.

To top it off is Christian Wood, the productive but flighty and defensively challenged big man who struggled to get a decent deal in free agency this summer and wound up taking a minimum payout from the Lakers this week.

It’s an impressive depth chart. But one veteran front-office executive told Heavy Sports this week that Lakers coach Darvin Ham figures to have his hands full up and down his rotation this season.

“They’re deep,” the exec said. “They’re 12 deep. That’s great when you look at it on paper. But when happens when the ball goes up and you’re playing nine guys, and one of those guys is playing eight minutes? That gets sticky for a coach. Darvin is as good as anyone at relating to players, but a depth chart like that can be a coach’s nightmare.”

What if Every Lakers Thinks He Should Play?

Now, any coach would rather have too much rotation-worthy talent than not enough. But the problem is that if players feel like they’ve been assured a role, and that role does not materialize as the season goes on, there can be resentments. There can be locker-room sniping. That will be up to Ham to negotiate.

Wood, in a statement to ESPN’s Andscape after he signed with the Lakers, said he was certain he would have a role with the team. How did he know? Because Ham (a former Bucks assistant) told him so.

“I’ve always wanted to be a Laker. I know we can win a championship,” Wood said. “Communication with a coach is a big key. Coach Ham and I go back to our Milwaukee days, and we’ve had great conversations everyday about this opportunity. He believes in me and told me I’ll be playing a big role and knows what I can do.”

A big role, eh?

Wood can play either the center or forward spot, but so can star big man Anthony Davis. James plays a lot of power forward, too. Hayes was brought on to be the backup center, and Vanderbilt’s defensive presence was a key part of the Lakers’ turnaround.

Oh, and Prince and Hachimura get minutes at power forward, too. The Lakers can’t play all of them.

‘Who’s Cool With Not Playing Here?’: Exec

That’s where the executive, who has been in the coaching ranks before, said Ham and the Lakers could be playing with fire.

“The teams I was an assistant for, the ones that got along best, they always had two or three veterans who could sit and not be bothered by not playing,” he said. “They’d be ready if you needed them but they’d be cool with not playing.”

The Lakers, the exec pointed out, don’t have an established hierarchy after their Top 2 of James and Davis.

“The big thing is, if everyone thinks they should be playing ahead of someone else,” he said. “Everyone is OK with not starting ahead of LeBron or (Davis). But what about everyone else? I am looking at this Lakers team and asking, ‘Who’s cool with not playing here?’ They want to play Gabe Vincent a lot and they want Austin Reaves at the point more, OK, what about Russell? They want to play Russell at the 2 more, what about Max Christie, they want to give him minutes. Prince is a vet but he is 29, he wants to play. Cam Reddish has something to prove he wants to play.”

The Lakers have depth. Again, it is a good problem to have. But it is no doubt, potentially is a problem for Ham.

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