It’s 10 games into the Lakers’ season and their coach, Darvin Ham, is still looking at his team with a bigger picture.
With the support of ownership and management, and a general understanding of the Lakers’ predicament, Ham can – as he put it – continue “this excavation process of building” the team back into a winner.
But after 10 games into the season are we sure this should be a dig and not a burial?
For the second time in four days, the Utah Jazz dominated, beating the Lakers 139-116 in a game that wasn’t exactly close in the second half.
The Lakers are 2-8 — the same record the team had in 2015-16 with 17 wins in the top 10.
Next up are the Clippers, Kings and Brooklyn Nets.
“Obviously it sucks,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis. “…Two-and-eight is a hard pill for me to swallow.”
There was good reason to believe that Monday in Salt Lake City would not be the night the Lakers would actually start digging their way out of the hole they are in.
LeBron James’ sore left foot kept him off the court for the second night of a consecutive set. Patrick Beverley missed his second straight game due to illness and as if things weren’t difficult enough already, a third starter, Lonnie Walker IV, also fell ill with the non-COVID virus that was transmitted through the dressing room of the Lakers raced.
It was a lot to deal with; and it wasn’t even all.
“It won’t always be like that,” Ham said after the defeat. “We’ll turn the corner. I didn’t come here to lose. … But there is a process that you have to go through.”
The absence of James coupled with Davis’ dissatisfaction after his quiet second half against Cleveland on Sunday must have shifted Ham’s view of the bigger picture in part to more pressing and pressing matters.
Davis did not speak to the media after firing just two shots in the second half. In Friday’s loss to Utah, Davis attempted just four shots in the second half.
“If a guy says he wants more touches and he’s Anthony Davis caliber, then yeah, then my ears will lighten up and I’ll see how I can get him the ball more,” Ham said. “I will also be communicating with his teammates, the guys who have the ball, to look for him more.
“…It’s something again that I’m glad it was said. I don’t take that as a sign of disrespect. I just think he’s expressing his willingness and hunger to want to help the team more. And be a bigger threat on that side of the ball. I look forward to giving him a hefty dose of it tonight.”
It was easier to single out Davis when three starters were missing. On Monday, he scored 29 points on a team high of 18 shots. Russell Westbrook, coming off the bench again, scored 22 goals.
But minus 60% of their starting lineup, Ham had to rely on Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves and Wenyen Gabriel on the starting lineup – fresh from Ham, who challenged the Lakers’ roleplayers to improve and produce more consistently.
On Monday, virtually everyone who played was producing on offense—but defensively, the Lakers again faltered.
Without Beverley and Walker, the Lakers’ full-back certainly took a hit, the Jazz scoring easily, just like they did in Los Angeles on Friday.
Ham said James was hoping to play and Monday’s absence was not necessarily due to the team being back-to-back.
“The foot is structurally correct. It’s just, it gets irritated,” Ham said. “But he’s been stepping on people’s toes here and there in the last couple of games and trying to manage it as best he can. And we saw a good opportunity to just rest tonight.”
Plans for future back-to-back games remain in flux, Ham said.
It was part of James’ relatively rough start to the season.
“Well he hasn’t scored as many goals as he probably would like and neither have the rest of us. But he and I had a great one-on-one chat over breakfast this morning,” Ham said. “But I have faith in the child. For him to deal with his foot and viral infections and 20 years of miles in this league and still be at his best – that kind of form. He really wants to be out there.”
But whether he was out there or not, whether the Lakers are defending one night or scoring the next, they just don’t win. And all the talk about building, it’s going to be difficult to get everyone to share that vision.
“We must not be discouraged,” Ham said. “…It’s too early. We should fight until there’s no more time on the clock.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/story/2022-11-07/lebron-james-lakers-utah-jazz-nba-recap LeBron James sits as Lakers fall to 2-8 in blowout loss to Jazz