The Los Angeles Lakers are narrowing their list of candidates but Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham has emerged as the favorite to be L.A.’s next head coach, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick. The NBA insiders also reported that former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson join Ham as the three head coaching finalists the Lakers are exploring.
“But as the final round of interviews is set, sources tell The Athletic that Ham appears to have made the strongest impression yet,” Charania and Amick wrote on May 20, 2022. “…In terms of the Lakers’ preferences, sources say team officials have prioritized a coach who can command respect and authority from the locker room and who has a strong enough presence and voice to manage the varying roles and relationships across the roster. Those characteristics bode well for Ham’s candidacy. Throughout assistant coaching stops with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, Ham has been known for his no-nonsense style and ability to resonate with his players — attributes that have stood out in his communication with the Lakers thus far as well, sources said.”
The news means that the Lakers are not hiring former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, a candidate who LeBron James was “enthused by the prospect” of playing under. Whoever the Lakers ultimately hire, it will be worth monitoring how James responds given he is eligible to sign a contract extension this summer. As things stand now, James is slated to become a free agent in 2023 but signing an extension would go a long way in quieting the rumors about his future in L.A.
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The Lakers Are Passing on LeBron’s HC Choice of Mark Jackson: Report
The early indications are that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is the main person responsible for choosing the team’s next coach. Not only does it appear James has not been involved in the process, but the three finalists have yet to meet with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
“Pelinka is heading the committee that will ultimately make the decision,” Charania and Amick added. “Jeanie Buss, who has yet to be involved in the process, is not part of the committee and plans on deferring to its recommendation. Phil Jackson and Johnson aren’t part of the committee, either.
“It’s only Lakers officials — none of whom are named LeBron James. While it’s known that James would have been enthused by the prospect of Mark Jackson getting the nod here, that obviously won’t be the case.”
Pelinka: ‘It’s Important That We Are Seen as the Ultimate Decision Makers’
The Lakers are attempting to walk a delicate balance of involving James in decisions but attempting to take the blame for the results. The Los Angeles superstar has been widely criticized for pushing to trade for Russell Westbrook last offseason. It is a move that backfired for all parties and Pelinka has tried to make it clear that all team decisions “rest on my shoulders” despite involving James and Anthony Davis.
“Again, I think the important thing is that, at the end of the day, the roster decisions ultimately rest on my shoulders, and I will take input from LeBron and Anthony [Davis] as our two captains,” Pelinka explained during an April 11 press conference. “I have done that during my entire tenure, but at the end of the day, I think I’m the one who leads the basketball operations department and will take ultimate accountability for the roster decisions [that] are made. Our dialogue with our captains is open and has been very productive, but it’s important that we are seen as the ultimate decision makers and that’s the way it will go and has gone.”
Ham may not have been James’ top choice, but it is hard to imagine the expected decision not being well received by the Lakers stars. The Bucks assistant is widely regarded around the league and brings with him eight seasons as an NBA player. The Lakers selecting a head coach is just one of several critical decisions the franchise faces this offseason, and it will be worth watching to see how involved James will be in attempting to once again transform the team’s roster in the coming months.