No stone has been left unturned in the Lakers’ search for their next head honcho, with the front office casting a wide net to secure the best person possible to help put the Lakers back in contention for an NBA championship.
According to The Atheltic’s Shams Charania, Los Angeles has identified Darvin Ham of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kenny Atkinson of the Golden State Warriors, and former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts as their favored candidates and will now hold a final round of in-person interviews.
With just three candidates remaining, it’s safe to assume we will be getting news of the Lakers’ final decision in the coming weeks, as they look to move quickly so they can begin to switch their focus onto the off-season and make the necessary moves to add fresh blood to an aging rotation.
Who Would Fit Best?
Each of the remaining coaching candidates brings something different to the table, all of which could benefit the Lakers in the immediate future. Furthermore, we will get a clear indication of what direction the team is moving in based on the coach the front office eventually hires.
Kenny Atkinson’s last role as a head coach was with the Brooklyn Nets, where he helped develop and young an exciting team despite having little-to-no assets available and limited cap space. Throughout his four seasons in Brooklyn, Atkinson amassed a 118-190 record. Still, his work set the foundations for the Nets to become an attractive destination, allowing them to pursue, and land elite stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Terry Stotts is arguably the most suited coach for the Lakers, considering his experience in working with superstar talent and remaining competitive in the dog-eat-dog world of the Western Conference. Stotts also has a winning record as a coach, with 517 wins and 486 losses to his name.
Finally, Darvin Ham is the wildcard out of the trio, and the Lakers front office will likely hope he brings a similar impact to that of what Ime Udoka has provided the Boston Celtics. Ham has been with the Bucks since 2018 but has never been a head coach, although he did play a role in Milwaukee’s championship last season and is often credited for his work in developing Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Overall, each candidate has its pros and cons, but given the Lakers’ struggles this season, they’re likely to appoint the coach who they feel can get the roster to buy into their methods and coax the best out of the bench rotation.
Russell Westbrook’s Future is Next on The Agenda
Since Vogel’s firing at the end of the season, Russell Westbrook has found himself in limbo regarding his future with the franchise. From the outside, the All-Star guard’s current position looks untenable, as he consistently clashed with Lakers fans towards the end of the season, and doesn’t fit the current roster due to his limited shooting ability.
“While the Lakers have indeed asked coaches they’ve interviewed in recent weeks how they would manage a roster that still features Westbrook, that’s not to say L.A. has already decided to bring the former All-Star guard back for the final season remaining (at a tidy $47 million) on his current contract.
The Lakers won’t rule that out, because they would naturally prefer to avoid trades that require them to inject a future first-round pick to push the deal through, but they also know that the fresh-start atmosphere they hope to create when training camp begins in September will be extremely difficult to foster if Westbrook is still on the roster. I, for one, still struggle to imagine a scenario where Westbrook starts next season as a Laker — even if that means releasing him or trying to hash out some sort of buyout,” Marc Stein wrote in a recent newsletter.
With so many questions still needing answers, there’s a very real chance Westbrook remains in Tinseltown for the final year of his contract, assuming the incoming coach wants the chance to work with him. Otherwise, Westbrook may be the first domino to fall in the team’s rebuilding efforts, although we already knew this was a possibility.
So, while the Lakers continue to deliberate over their next head coach, Westbrook is sitting at home, waiting to find out where his future lies, and that type of uncertainty could yet be the final twist in the saga between Los Angeles and the veteran guard.