Darvin Ham not-so-subtly blames D'Angelo Russell for shortcomings as Lakers HC

The Lakers' coach gave some further explanation for some of the team's struggles this season.
D'Angelo Russell, Darvin Ham, Los Angeles Lakers
D'Angelo Russell, Darvin Ham, Los Angeles Lakers / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-24 season is officially over for the Los Angeles Lakers, and what a polarizing, up-and-down campaign it was. LA rose to heights of winning the inaugural In-Season Tournament and securing victories over some of the best teams in the association like Boston and Oklahoma City. But they also sank to lows of nearly missing the playoffs entirely, and having their season ended by Denver for a second year in a row.

Coming into the season, not many saw the Lakers' season panning out like it did. The Lake Show made some notable additions last summer and got back nearly all of their top players that helped them reach the Western Conference Finals in May 2023. By seemingly all accounts, LA was set to be a top contender for an NBA championship yet again.

But as it turns out, this team was simply not ready to live up to the expectations placed on them. Various problems and inconsistencies led to this team's performance fluctuating, and that proved to be cause for disaster in such a tight and competitive Western Conference. Of course, the Lakers' failure is a collective one that no one can truly be absolved of blame for.

Even so, one of the most consistent criticisms of their shortcomings has been of Head Coach Darvin Ham. According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, the fallout from Darvin shuffling LA's lineup "hurt Ham's reputation both inside and outside the organization." Of course, the Lakers' coach has his own view on the situation.

Darvin Ham cited player performance as one reason for Lakers' failures

Ham expressed his frustration with the criticisms of his lineup decisions, especially in the midst of injury troubles. "It's been extremely challenging," he said. "Everyone that's been in and out of the lineup. Being criticized for not having a consistent rotation when I don't have consistent healthy bodies. The thing that frustrates me ... common sense tends to go out the window when you talk about my job in particular."

It is certainly true that Ham was forced to adjust his lineups due to injuries multiple times this season, and that absolutely contributed to the up-and-down nature of the year. But Darvin also noted that sometimes, it can be difficult to make adjustments when one or more of your players are simply not playing up to their standard. "If you're coaching a team," he said, "and one of your starters is like 10 games in a row, just s---ting the bed, what are you going to do?"

This would seem to be a direct reference to D'Angelo Russell, seeing as he was benched following a particularly poor stretch in December. In the nine games leading up to his benching, D'Lo averaged just 10.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 38.6 FG%, 28.9 3PT%, and 2.2 turnovers per game.

From Ham's perspective, it must have been difficult to feel that you could not rely on theoretically one of the better players on your roster. Sending Russell to the bench may have made sense from a basketball standpoint, but it is easy to see why this may have induced a rift in the Lakers' locker room.

Having a top-three scorer on your roster not always play to the level they are capable of was definitely a compounding issue in Los Angeles this season. As more conflicting viewpoints on the reasons for this team's struggles emerge, it seems more likely changes could be on the way for the Lakers.