There was a lot of excitement and anticipation around the Los Angeles Lakers entering the 2023-24 season. After making the Western Conference Finals last season, the Lakers ran it back this season with a roster that was even better and the expectations were through the roof.
Unfortunately, the team’s performance has not matched the expectations early on in the season. Los Angeles is 3-5 through its first eight games of the season and it has caused Lakers fans to do some self-reflection about what is really going wrong with this team.
After an embarrassing 128-94 loss on Wednesday to the Houston Rockets, many fans are starting to direct the blame toward head coach Darvin Ham. Ham has definitely made some bad decisions this season and was already in the fanbase’s crosshairs for not playing Max Christie more to start the season.
While Ham has been far from perfect as a coach this season, outwardly blaming him for this team’s issues is an example of trying to have a simple solution for what is a complex problem.
Lakers fans need to stop blaming Darvin Ham for the team’s struggles
There are several factors that have led to the Lakers’ struggles thus far this season. Ham is one of those reasons, but he is far from being the only reason (or even the main reason). Fans entered this season thinking this was one of the deepest rosters in team history and the fact of the matter is that it isn’t. Some fans are still coping with that not being the case, and are blaming Ham as a result.
First of all, injury luck has not been on the team’s side and that is certainly a factor. Anthony Davis didn’t play on Wednesday against Houston and his presence was sorely missed. Jarred Vanderbilt has not played at all this season and his perimeter defense is massive in masking some of the defensive flaws of this team.
Rui Hachimura, Taurean Prince, and Jaxson Hayes have all missed time already. Gabe Vincent has missed several games and continues to be out of action. All of those injuries add up.
But then you look at the players who are playing and you see guys who were probably overrated by the fanbase. Most notably is D’Angelo Russell and Christian Wood. Both players have had great moments thus far this season, sure, but they are both defensive eye sores and having them on the court together is a defensive nightmare.
Both guys are classic “good stats, bad team” players. They will wow you with some of the things they do offensively but they do not play a winning style of basketball. There is a reason why D’Lo didn’t have much of a market and why Wood didn’t sign until September and only got the league minimum.
Austin Reaves is part of that problem as well. Reaves had a great summer but he simply has not been good this season. That does not mean he is a bad player, but if anyone deserves most of the blame for how this season started it is him.
Los Angeles needs Reaves to be the third-best scorer on the team and they need him to take over the offense while LeBron is not on the court. Not only has he not done that thus far this season but he has also turned in terrible defensive outings. The defensive pairing of Reaves and Russell in the backcourt is awful, and that is why Vando’s presence is so important to mask some of those issues.
The proof is in the pudding with Reaves. The Lakers’ net rating is 17.7 points worse when he is on the floor versus when he is off the floor. Reaves has been borderline unplayable this season.
But Ham has to stick with him, and he has to continue to experiment with lineups. It is still early in the season and that is what October and November is for. Ham has every right to iron out the kinks and see what doesn’t work now that way he doesn’t do it when the season really matters.
Simply put: this Lakers team is not as talented as fans thought and it has dealt with awful injury luck thus far this season. Inflated expectations is causing fans to turn on Ham, not Ham himself.