One of the biggest tests with the Los Angeles Lakers hiring Darvin Ham was getting the approval of superstar LeBron James. It appears the Lakers passed this test with flying colors as James took to Twitter to express his excitement just minutes after news broke of Ham joining the Lakers. James described himself as “so damn excited” for Ham to be the new Lakers head coach.
“So damn EXCITED!!!!!!!!” James tweeted on May 27. “Congrats and welcome Coach DHam!! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 #LakeShow💜💛.”
James’ opinion of the hire has particular significance given the star is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason. Without a new deal, James will become a free agent in 2023.
The Lakers opted to hire Ham over other finalists including former Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson. Los Angeles had been linked to Juwan Howard, but the Michigan coach declined the Lakers’ pursuit, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Lakers were prepared to offer Howard the job, but the former NBA All-Star pulled his name out of consideration early in the process.
“The Lakers never made a formal offer to Howard, sources said, but it’s clear that if he had expressed an interest in the job, his candidacy would’ve moved quickly to that stage,” Wojnarowski wrote on May 22. “While Howard has a playing history with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and star LeBron James, he has consistently maintained he plans to remain in Ann Arbor, where his sons Jace and Jett will be a junior and freshman, respectively, next season.”
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LeBron Pushed for Rivers, Says NBA Exec
One Western Conference executive told Heavy.com’s NBA insider Sean Deveney that Rivers was James’ top choice. The challenge is the Sixers opted to retain Rivers despite the team’s disappointing second-round playoff exit. The Lakers would have had to engage in a complicated trade with the 76ers to land Rivers.
“If LeBron could pick, it’s pretty certain he’d pick Doc,” the exec told Heavy prior to the Lakers’ hiring Ham.
The new Lakers coach brings with him eight seasons of NBA experience, primarily as an energy player off the bench. Ham had stints with the Bucks, Hawks, Pistons, Wizards, Nuggets and Pacers averaging 2.7 points, 2.3 rebounds during his career.
LeBron Preferred Ham Over the Other Finalists: Report
The early indications are that Ham will be tasked with helping Russell Westbrook become a better fit for the team during his second year with the Lakers. A move likely indicating Westbrook’s limited trade market, meaning Los Angeles may keep the point guard for another season. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus reported on May 21 that James preferred Ham over the other candidates the Lakers were considering.
“The Lakers may be willing to take that leap of faith because Ham spent two years with the organization,” Pincus explained May 27. “His personality isn’t easily forgotten. Ham brings a lot of energy to a gym. He’s arguably the best fit for the locker room, with veterans like LeBron James, Anthony Davis and possibly Russell Westbrook in need of a coach they can relate to and respect.
“‘He’s the guy LeBron wants,’ a competing source said.”