The Los Angeles Lakers are among three teams in the NBA who are still searching for their first win of the season. The other two winless teams are the Orlando Magic and the Sacramento Kings.
Imagine that. We expected a race between the Lakers and Kings this season, two teams with expectations entering the gate, but not towards the bottom of the Pacific Division.
Darvin Ham was tasked as head coach with preventing the very thing he saw in LA as an assistant from 2011-13, the downfall of a dynasty. The last time LeBron James was 0-4 to start the season, he was a rookie 20 years ago, tasked with bringing newfound glory to a city that was desperately lacking at the time.
As of now, the Lakers have LeBron James, who even in year 20, is the Sun where our world revolves around. Even as he is trending towards his worst outside shooting season and committing the most turnovers of his career, he still averages 25 points per game and still has superstars from across the league referring to him as the best player on the planet.
Then there’s Anthony Davis, who is as good of an inside force as anyone in the league when healthy. But that’s the problem, the last two years have shown that he is a risk of being injured and taking the Lakers’ playoff chances with him to the trainers table.
Even on Wednesday at Denver, he leads the Lakers with 22 points and 14 rebounds and three steals but the talk about him is his lower back.
“He’s fine. He’s fine,” Ham said after the Lakers’ 110-99 loss to the Nuggets. “He wouldn’t have been able to finish the game — getting that shot in the back, we were all a little nervous at that point in time but he was able to get through the game and give us a lot of good production. But he’s fine.”
The Patrick Beverly addition made the Lakers older and less offensively inclined, but his value has always been backcourt defense and a veteran presence in the locker room. While Beverly is 10th in the NBA in defensive win shares and tied for 10th in steals, he has also made only one basket per game in 19 total attempts.
“The offense he’s generated by talking to guys, like keeping us all organized, generating turnovers,” Ham said. “I think he’s generated a ton of baskets for us. But him scoring, I mean, it’s a plus when he gets the double-figures or whatnot but he’s here to be for his leadership, his competitiveness, his impact, what he brings, the presence he brings, his ability to speak truth to anybody up and down our roster regardless of experience. And he’s been a blessing to have.”
A player like Beverly is good to have for a rookie head coach like Ham who is trying to establish a culture on a team with veterans and young role players who would otherwise make up a tanking roster.
“It’s the early stages of laying the foundation of what this culture is going to be, what this environment is going to be like,” Ham said. “I’m up for the challenge. I’m taking on head first. I’m looking forward to it. it’s going to be fun when we finally do hit that consistent stride and we’re turning this thing around and you’re looking back at these days. We need these days.”
Establishing the culture on a team dominated by two aging stars signed through 2025 while trying to keep the Lakers among the top 10 in Western Conference may be as difficult or more difficult than Mike Brown trying to steer the young Kings to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years.