Lakers rival tried (and failed) to hire Darvin Ham after firing

After parting ways with the Los Angeles Lakers, former head coach Darvin Ham nearly joined one of the franchise's most bitter rivals.
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets - Game Two
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets - Game Two / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns dates back to long before Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash brought it back to the postseason forefront during the 2000s. The Western Conference foes first met in the NBA Playoffs in 1970 and have battled in 13 different postseason series overall.

Fast forward to 2024 and it seems the Suns are trying—and in this regard, failing—to gain a bit of an edge over the Lakers.

Los Angeles recently parted ways with head coach Darvin Ham after two seasons at the helm. Ham amassed a record of 90-74 as the sideline leader, guiding the team to the 2023 Western Conference Finals before a first-round exit in 2024 led to his departure.

According to NBA insider Marc Stein, recently hired Suns head coach Mike Budeholzer responded to the news of Ham's firing by unsuccessfully attempting to bring him to Phoenix.

"League sources say Budenholzer made a run at trying to convince Darvin Ham to join his staff in Phoenix, but Ham — fired as Lakers coach on May 3 — is said to have understandably passed after two exacting seasons in Lakerland."

There's history between the two, but nothing is quite as powerful as a rivalry when it comes to generating a collective side-eye from one fanbase to another.

Ham was an assistant coach with Budenholzer during the entirety of the latter's tenures as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. They helped Atlanta win a franchise record 60 games in 2024-25 and delivered Milwaukee's first championship since 1971 in 2021.

Nine seasons of co-working experience certainly explains why Budenholzer would make the call to bring Ham, one of his most trusted assistant coaches, to Phoenix,

Nevertheless, one can't help but feel as though the flames are once again being stoked in this decades-long rivalry. Between career rivals Kevin Durant and LeBron James leading the respective sides, and a former Lakers head coach nearly jumping ship, the story writes itself.

That's fueled by the Lakers' lifetime record of 8-5 over the Suns in playoff series, as well as Phoenix owning a 3-2 edge since 2000.

It's possible that the two sides will meet once more in the 2025 NBA Playoffs, as both teams are looking to maximize championship windows for All-NBA players. While James is flanked by Anthony Davis and high-level starter Austin Reaves, Durant is supported by Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.

Both teams need an influx of depth this offseason, but that doesn't make this rivalry any less tense than it always seems to be.