HomeBasketball TodayInside the Lakers' Coach's Playbook: Darvin Ham's Secrets to Bonding with D'Angelo...

Inside the Lakers’ Coach’s Playbook: Darvin Ham’s Secrets to Bonding with D’Angelo Russell

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Darvin Ham and D’Angelo Russell have come a long way in their working relationship, which has only benefited the Lakers.

Darvin Ham and D’Angelo Russell have come a long way since beginning their working relationship as members of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Once at odds, their progress as collaborators since last season’s playoffs has helped unlock Russell in 2024 — and keyed the Lakers’ recent uptick in play. Since rejoining the Lakers’ lineup on Jan. 13, Russell is averaging 22.5 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 45.7% from 3. The Lakers (36-30) are 17-9 in that span and entered Wednesday’s pivotal road matchup vs. the Sacramento Kings six games over .500 for the first time since 2021.

Russell played well down the stretch last season after being acquired by the Lakers at the trade deadline, and he made vital contributions during the first two rounds. After struggling through three games of the conference finals vs. the Denver Nuggets, though, Ham benched Russell for Dennis Schroder — with whom the Lakers coach shares a longstanding relationship.

“His relationship with Darvin is the reason I couldn’t have a relationship with Darvin,” Russell told ESPN, in reference to Schroder. “When I was struggling, I would’ve been able to come to the coach and say, ‘Bro, this is what we should do. Like, I can help you.’ Instead, there was no dialogue. … I just accepted it.”

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Russell struggled in December, and trade rumors ramped up until Feb. 8. At some point before his return to the lineup, Russell and Ham altered the tenor of their conversations, as each learned to embrace an open dialogue.

“We played tennis with that,” Russell said about working through their frequent disagreements. “I hit the ball back, he hit it to me. … That’s the season. That’s what you use 82 games to develop, and we developed it.”

Before things got underway in Sacramento on Wednesday, Ham was asked about the state of their relationship today.

“I think it’s in a great place. We have great conversations … It’s tough. That’s why the phrase is called ‘building a relationship. It doesn’t hit the ground running all the time smooth. Trying to figure things out on the fly. … Dennis is someone I love and care about. Dennis is a hell of a player.

” … The beautiful thing about it is, that caused the difference in where we were then and where we are now is our ability to talk and be honest with one another. And our ability to take accountability with one another.”

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About the Author

Michael has been the Lakers beat reporter for ClutchPoints since 2021. He also covers golf and movies. One day, he hopes to see the New York Jets win another playoff game. Inspirations: Paul Giamatti, Shane Falco, Phife Dawg. NYC raised. USC grad.


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