Lakers’ new coach Darvin Ham expects Russell Westbrook to contribute

The Lakers officially introduced Darvin Ham as the 28th coach of the organization Monday.

“This is an incredibly bright and promising day in Lakers history,” said Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ general manager and vice president of basketball operations.

Ham, 48, previously served as an assistant to Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee and Atlanta for nine seasons before being hired by the Lakers more than a week ago.

“It’s like coming back home,” said Ham, whose first NBA coaching job was as an assistant with the Lakers from 2011-13.

Ham said he expects Russell Westbrook to be a part of the team. Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel were at Ham’s introductory news conference.

“Don’t get it messed up. Russ is one of the best players our league has ever seen,” Ham said.

He said he wanted Westbrook to become the tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been, though he might have to do it more off of the ball.

Ham previously worked with the Lakers under former coach Mike Brown as a player development coach. He won a title as an assistant with the Bucks in 2021 as an assistant with the Bucks and one as a player with the Detroit Pistons in 2004, beating the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

“Sometime you’ve got to walk that walk on your own,” Ham said when talking about Budenholzer. “I’m forever grateful for him. … I love him to death.”

Pelinka said Ham impressed him with how he spoke about “sacrifice” and “toughness.” While speaking mostly about defensive commitment, Ham did he say he wanted to use the “four out, one in” style of offense that the Bucks and Hawks have had success with under Budenholzer.

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