The Los Angeles Lakers made major changes at the trade deadline last season and were better off for it. But former Lakers guard Patrick Beverley, now of the Philadelphia 76ers, believes the team, and more specifically the coaching staff played a significant role in the pre-deadline turmoil.
“I want to be a coach when I’m done. I love the game that much,” Beverley said on “Gil’s Arena” on August 31. “And it’s ways that you have to operate your team without over-managing it or over-coaching it. Sometimes you just gotta put the dominoes out there.”
Beverley had noted Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham’s decision to open the season with Lonnie Walker IV in the starting lineup alongside himself (Beverley), Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook which lasted three games.
“They should have started me Austin, Russ, LeBron, AD,” Beverley said. “That should have been the starting lineup since we walked in the door.”
“I know we played Phoenix Suns in Vegas, we started that way, and we was up by 23 points,” Beverley said. “Talking about one of the teams that was just left in the Western Conference [playoffs], and all they guys played. But we didn’t go that way. Coach had different ideas. We started Lonnie Walker, and AD got hurt. One plus one is two.”
Beverley’s preferred starting group posted a plus-8.8 net rating last season, per Cleaning The Glass, which would have ranked in the 94th percentile had it met the minimum 100-possession threshold.
The Lakers had to use a lot of lineup combinations due to injuries to James and Davis. Their most often-used look featured Beverley, Brown, James, Schroder, and Thomas Bryant.
That group posted a plus-18.2 net rating across 250 possessions.
“I love Lonnie,” Beverley said. “But I like Lonnie, on that team when we had, [as] a sixth man. Come in and be exactly who you are. … And then all the beef about Russell, maybe none of that happens.”
Patrick Beverley Defends Russell Westbrook
Beverley said that he doesn’t think Westbrook gets an unfair amount of criticism because of his on-court feats such as averaging a triple-double for an entire season twice.
“I think that in this world, you get out what you put in,” Beverley said. “If he didn’t have triple-double Russ face they wouldn’t critique him as much they are. … If he had the demeanor of Ricky Rubio, would people critique him so much? Probably not. But would he be the same killer as he is? Probably yes. But it’ll come off a little different.”
“People fear him, and when people fear you … you’re gonna be broke down,” Beverley said. “They broke Bron down, man. That comes with the s***. Being great comes with the s***. Averaging a triple-double two times. You doing some s*** no one’s ever done. You’re in your own lane.”
Asked if sending Westbrook to the bench was a bad decision, Beverley was blunt.
“I thought it was,” he said. “I thought it was bad for Russ. He was the heartbeat of the team. … And I don’t think it was a decision that was made this year, I think it was a decision based on the year before. And I don’t think that’s fair.”
Patrick Beverley: Darvin Ham ‘Did a Hell of a Job’
Beverley’s criticism of Ham was not without caveats. He noted that he was not currently a coach while offering his preferred lineup and understood the breadth of the situation Ham found himself in last season, coming from the Milwaukee Bucks.
“It was hard on him, dog,” Beverley said. “It’s hard coming from Eastern Conference to Western Conference, first off. That’s way different. So obviously he has voices, he has things that he wants to do. As a head coach, it’s things that he wants to establish, and there’s … players who’s been in this before like, ‘No, Coach. We gonna do this or do this’.
“He did a hell of a job with the team, still. But do I think that team had a chance to be very successful? Yes, I do. Still do. it’s just things weren’t used right.”
Beverley said an earlier switch might have led to a bigger payday for Reaves than the four-year, $53.8 million contract he received in restricted free agency.
“If we would have started the team me, Russ, AR, Bron, AD – and again no disrespect for anybody on the team – I believe AR would have got more bread too,” Beverley asserted. “Because we would have been winning so many [games].”
Beverley was adamant, however, that Ham’s situation was not typical even for a first-year head coach given the makeup of the roster.
“It be hard for these coaches to come in, especially first year, and have these conversations with these – you talking about [a] star-studded team. You talking about three Hall of Famers, in the door. First ballot. Three of them.”
Ham’s second year at the helm will be one to watch.