July 14, 2024

The date is 31 January, less than two months removed from the Los Angeles Lakers’ inaugural NBA Cup championship, and the Lakers are nosediving precipitously, racking up loss after loss in late December and into January.

In a competitive Western Conference, being sub-.500, even by a game or two, simply will not get the job done for a championship hopeful. And the team does have a right to be among those hopefuls, buoyed by a shockingly healthy tandem of a freshly-39-year-old LeBron James and injury-prone big man Anthony Davis, who, to this point, have missed a combined eight games and are playing at an All-NBA level.

But something clearly isn’t working, and time is of the essence. No one knows this better than foe of father time himself, LeBron: that night, after yet another demoralizing loss, he tweets out, simply, an hourglass. A single emoji has never loomed larger.

At the time, there is frantic speculation in regards to what, or to whom, the primitive timepiece is referring. Is it James’ underperforming supporting cast, with the trade deadline hovering in the immediate future? Is it the Lakers’ front office, who are no doubt aware of his player option looming in the coming offseason? Is it his own NBA mortality, to which he has admitted he will likely succumb sooner rather than later, despite no significant drop-off in production?

All of those factors probably came into play when James took to his keyboard in frustration. The Lakers’ early playoff exit on Monday, yet again at the hands of Nikola Jokić’s Denver Nuggets, does understandably call into question if the hourglass has, indeed, run out on James’ championship window – or on his time with the Lakers franchise at large. But hindsight being 20/20, it is likely that one other factor elicited the exasperated reaction more than any of the others: Lakers head coach Darvin Ham, who was fired on Friday despite having two years remaining on his contract.

As the Lakers’ offseason has gotten under way, the clouds of team-generated positive spin that humidify the NBA season began to part, and the behind-the-scenes drama they were shrouding quickly sharpened into view. James, as it turns out, was far from the only one who had become frustrated with Ham’s tenure at the helm. The fissures were deep and plentiful, beginning as far back as last season, and the writing, it seems, had been on the wall for months. So where did Darvin Ham’s time with the organization go wrong?The LA Lakers have a record number of all-stars | Marca

It’s been widely publicized that Ham, a baritone, even-keeled Michigan native and NBA veteran, was hired for his people skills more than his clipboard ones. He cultivated a reputation as a great locker-room type on Mike Budenholzer’s championship-winning Milwaukee Bucks staff, but was never known particularly as a master tactician. When the Lakers brought him on for the 2022-23 season for his first ever head coaching opportunity, the thinking was that perhaps a coach with veritable basketball genius LeBron James as his best player didn’t necessarily need to be an Xs-and-Os wizard. He did, however, need to be able to galvanize his troops and manage personalities well (especially as they had decided to give another season with polarizing guard Russell Westbrook a go, though they did abandon ship on that at the trade deadline in 2023).

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