EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Darvin Ham gathered his players in the film room before his first official practice as a coach in hopes of establishing an identity for his team — and for himself.
Ham plans to be the coach of a Lakers team that strings together stop after stop, his top priority in turning around a group that ranked 21st in defensive rating last season.
“We want to contain, contest and control,” Ham said, explaining the defensive vision he presented before practice.
Without any video of the 2022-23 Lakers practicing to illustrate his points — and his likely smart decision to not use Giannis Antetokounmpo highlights to instruct the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis — Ham leaned on head video coordinator Dru Anthrop and the analytics department to illuminate last year’s ineptitude.
“I just showed the numbers,” Ham said.
The approach seemed to resonate.
“Laid down some house rules in the film room,” said Kendrick Nunn, one of six returning players from last year’s team. “It’s definitely a different vibe once you walk in. … It’s a different vibe with the new coaching staff, Coach Ham coming in and implementing things that he wants done. And guys are buying in.”
With the Lakers experiencing significant roster turnover and vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka admitting on media day that there still could be subsequent moves to come, the uncertainty could be unsettling for a first-time coach.
Ham, however, believes the fact that his starting lineup is undetermined and the final roster spot is vacant should heighten everyone’s play — whether it’s Russell Westbrook and another guard vying for a role with the first unit or camp invitees Matt Ryan and Dwayne Bacon trying to make the team.
“I think it adds a little spice to camp, and LeBron and AD, they are who they are, as well as Russ, those guys are going to go at them,” Ham said. “That’s only going to make everybody better. It’s a controlled competitive environment. It’s not anything wild, out of control. They talk their little smack here and there, but for the most part, they are out there trying to see who can execute what we’re throwing at them the best and that’s the way they engage each other within that competition and we don’t cut anybody any slack.”
James and Davis are locks to start, of course, but Ham wanted to clarify that Westbrook could “absolutely” be a starter as well.
“He was there front and center today and did well, brought a ton of great energy to the gym,” Ham said of Westbrook.
As for the rest of the starters?
“Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], James Worthy, Byron Scott,” Ham deadpanned.
He might not be a Laker through and through quite yet, but he has a working knowledge of the team history, at least.