LOS ANGELES – After their ninth loss in 12 games, the Los Angeles Lakers hit a new low point in their season, amplifying concerns about the season’s direction both inside and outside the organization.
There is currently a deep disconnect between Darvin Ham and the Lakers’ locker room, six sources with direct knowledge of the situation say, raising questions about the coach’s position. The people with have spoken Atletico on condition of anonymity so they could speak freely about the topic. Those sources described the disconnect between the coach and the team as stemming from Ham’s extreme rotation and starting lineup adjustments recently, leading to a fluctuating pace for several players on the roster.
The Miami Heat, playing without superstar Jimmy Butler, beat the Lakers 110-96 at Crypto.com Arena on Wednesday. The loss dropped Los Angeles to 17-18 — the first time they’ve fallen below .500 since Nov. 11 — and put them just 0.001 percentage points above the Golden State Warriors for No. 10 in the Western Conference. The Lakers are 3-9 since winning the In-Season Tournament in Las Vegas on Dec. 9. They have lost three games in a row, and Wednesday night’s loss led to growing turmoil.
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In a final attempt to reverse Los Angeles’ skid, Ham used his tenth starting lineup of the season and third in three games: Austin Reaves at point guard, Taurean Prince at shooting guard, Cam Reddish at small forward, LeBron James all power forward and Anthony Davis at center. The Lakers were down-3 in the 13 minutes the group played together Wednesday against Miami.
The latest lineup change continued a troubling trend as the Lakers have struggled to determine their best lineups or establish continuity this season, no matter how healthy the team has been. The concern has only grown in recent weeks.
Ham’s decision to bench D’Angelo Russell and start James, Prince, Reddish, Jarred Vanderbilt and Davis in a lineup without a second guard ballhandler starting Dec. 23 in Oklahoma City was considered a head-scratcher by multiple insiders , according to spoken sources. for this story.
The Lakers have sustained their consistency throughout the summer, even returning the top five scorers from the Western Conference Finals (James, Davis, Reaves, Russell and Hachimura, in that order). But more than a third of the way into the season, three of those players — and the team’s third, fourth and fifth highest-paid players, Russell, Hachimura and Reaves, respectively — were coming off the bench. Reaves came off the bench for much of the season despite being touted by Ham as a future All-Star over the summer and ranking third on the team in scoring, Russell’s role has been reduced since Las Vegas and time Hachimura’s game falters at night. basic.
After Wednesday’s loss, the locker room opened up before Ham addressed the media, which is rare. Davis spoke first, calmly and dejectedly, refusing to use injuries as an excuse.
“There’s a little bit of everything right now,” Davis said. “We are not executing. That team played harder than us tonight, performed better than us tonight, more physically than us tonight. We had a lot of work tonight. So it’s a little bit of everything right now. If we continue on this trend, it will not be good for us. So it’s pretty obvious that we have to figure this out sooner or later.
“Being out is no excuse. There are no excuses for us. Like coach said (pre-game), we have enough in this locker room to win, but we just have to go out and compete.”
During Davis’ availability, James, whose locker is right next to Davis’, got dressed and left the locker room without speaking to reporters.
Ham finally spoke to the media 30 minutes after the buzzer. He continued to assert that the Lakers, despite having James, Davis, Reaves and Russell for all but eight games, won’t “find any consistency” until they’re fully healthy. Hachimura (left calf strain), Russell (coccyx bruise) and Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery) are the three players currently injured.
“We have to get healthy,” Ham said. “…And once you get healthy, guys have to get back into rhythm and we have to find a cohesive unit, a total cohesive rotation that we can move forward with. When you’re dealing with different guys coming in and out of the lineup so frequently, it’s damn near impossible to find a rhythm. This is simply real. It’s not an affront to anyone.”
Ham then went so far as to suggest that it’s easier to play without a star — as the Heat have been without Butler — than for a team to have multiple players rotate in and out of the lineup, as the Lakers have had for the most part of the matches. season.
“I think multiple (rotating players) have a bigger impact than … if you lose one of your big dogs, you’ll figure out how to try to make it without them,” Ham said. “…And when you have your key players, your key rotation players – this guy is missing three or four of them. This guy misses three or four. And they are happening one after another, that’s what makes it difficult. …We have to understand this. “I’m disappointed, but I’ll be damned if I’m discouraged.”
When asked if he would consider returning to the team’s original starting lineup of Russell, Reaves, Vanderbilt, James and Davis, Ham said the team is considering every possibility.
“I think everything that makes sense is on the table,” Ham said. “No stone will remain unturned. “We are here to explore everything we can to right the ship.”
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Meanwhile, Reaves, who spoke after Ham, echoed a similar sentiment to Davis, saying the team can’t use fluctuating lineups as an excuse.
“No matter what the lineup is, what the change is, no matter what happens, we have to be better as a team and win games,” Reaves said. “We have more than enough talent to win games. We have enough depth. We have enough skill. “We have to figure this out.”
Davis and Reaves’ perspective versus Ham’s highlights the discrepancy between how the locker room feels about the team’s current issues versus how Ham cited injuries, schedule and lineup changes amid the team inconsistency, particularly after the IST.
Ham confirmed postgame that the team had a meeting afterward, which is partly why the locker room took so long to open. By the time Davis spoke to the media, the rest of the players in the Lakers’ locker room were gone. Reaves said the atmosphere in the locker room is “sh—y.”
“We’re losing,” Reaves said. “Every time you lose, the atmosphere should go out, you know? If I walked in there and the atmosphere wasn’t off after the difficult period we’ve had, then I’d be worried.
He later clarified that the atmosphere is not a matter of mutual dislike between the players, which was a notable distinction considering where the locker room was at this time last season.
“When I say the vibe is off, it’s not that we don’t like each other,” Reaves said. “We are losing. We should be pissed. We shouldn’t be happy after the games with how we’re playing. But I don’t want it to happen that we don’t like each other. “Everyone gets along in the locker room.”
These Lakers have been through their share of adversity during Ham’s nearly two years as head coach, including a 2-10 start a season ago that ended with a Western Conference Finals berth. So Ham, in the second year of a four-year coaching contract, has demonstrated an ability to connect with his players. But time is of the essence for the 39-year-old James and Davis, and while Ham has tinkered with lineups and adjustments in recent weeks, patience is starting to run short.
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(Photo by Darvin Ham: Harry How/Getty Images)