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Will Lakers fire Darvin Ham after another playoff exit?

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One of the key insights into Darvin Ham’s mentality came on the heels of an embarrassing Jan. 5 loss to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies. The loss dropped the Lakers to 15-17 in a season was quickly falling apart. A frustrated Ham stepped up to the podium, addressing the criticism against him head on. 

“This is the NBA, man. This is a marathon,” Ham said. “I’m tired of people living and dying with every single game we play. It’s ludicrous, actually.” 

Ham was right in a sense. One NBA game does not make an entire season. But the Lakers were doomed to lose the marathon because of their slow start — one whose roots could be traced back to his decisions. 

The Lakers eventually reaped what they sowed this year. They had to go full bore in the second half of the season simply to make the playoffs. Beating the defending champion Nuggets as the no. 7 seed, without home-court advantage, was way too high of a hurdle to clear. 

Now, Ham’s job is coming under fire even more than before from an angry fanbase. Shouts of “fire Darvin Ham” engulfed the team’s stadium after their Game 3 loss. 

Those within the organization have expressed doubts as well. His future is “in serious peril,” as multiple league and team sources have told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Should Lakers management acquiesce and fire the man in charge? Here’s the case for and against it. 

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Ham had his fair share of blunders in the playoffs. His timeout usage was bizarre in Games 1 and 3. He waited until the games got out of control in the second and third quarters before doing anything to stop it. In Game 2, he had no counter for the Nuggets switching up their assignments in the third quarter, causing the Lakers to blow yet another lead.

His team also looked disorganized, going away from a scorching-hot Anthony Davis in that second half of Game 2, earning criticism from the big man.

“We have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor,” Davis told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

That is far from the first time that Lakers players have seemingly called out their coach. A January report by The Athletic included six unnamed sources who spoke of a widening disconnect between the players and the coach. Later that month, big man Christian Wood tweeted out his displeasure at Ham’s rotations with a simple “Lol.” 

That displeasure was largely driven by Ham’s perplexing rotation decisions during the regular season. Players did not have clearly-defined roles. 

When Los Angeles won the championship back in 2020, they tried 12 different starting lineups. The players on Frank Vogel’s roster knew their role, and they performed it well. The same cannot be said for this Lakers team. 

Ham cycled through 19 different starting lineups, even when the answer for the correct one was staring him right in the face. The Lakers found the group that worked the best for them in going to the Western Conference Finals last season. Yet it took Ham 50 games in which the Lakers went 25-25 before he went back to that group.

Ham stuck with Cam Reddish and Taurean Prince far too long, ignoring the obvious — that the Lakers were way better with Rui Hachimura in the starting lineup. 

When Ham finally did make that change, Los Angeles finished strong, going 22-10 down the stretch. It was too little, too late, — they were stuck in the seventh seed without home court advantage by season’s end. Had they maintained that winning percentage for the whole year, they would have hit 56 wins and the top seed in the West. 

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Ham didn’t do a great job during long portions of the regular season, but this is still the same guy who led the Lakers from the play-in game to the Western Conference Finals as a first-year coach a year ago. 

Ham has had some great moments and terrific gameplans, including ones to help the Lakers take down the first ever In-Season Tournament back in December and a high-leverage Play-In game against the Pelicans to make the playoffs. 

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