14 Jan

LeBron James appears to take shot at Lakers’ Darvin Ham by going out of his way to compliment Tyronn Lue

Lakers coach Darvin Ham continues to insist his job isn’t in jeopardy, and according to a report from Marc Stein, it isn’t. Not yet, at least.

“The current signals in circulation suggest that things would have to worsen significantly for the 18-19 Lakers to truly put Darvin Ham’s job under immediate threat,” Stein wrote. “That was the messaging in circulation even before Sunday night’s stirring 106-103 victory over the Clippers despite some crunch-time shakiness against their co-tenants at Crypto.com Arena.

“League sources say Ham continues to enjoy very strong support from Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka … especially after the leadership Ham provided in his first season as the frequent voice and face for the franchise as it spent months in sub-.500 purgatory before finally surging into the playoffs with a 9-2 closing kick.”

That said, less than a week ago, The Athletic cited six sources in its report that Ham’s standing was in question amid a “deepening disconnect” between Ham and the players.

At the very least, we can conclude that the heat on Ham is being turned up. After the Lakers’ win over the Clippers on Sunday, which ended a four-game skid (they have lost 10 of their last 14), James, who has not been shy about showing and voicing his frustration of late, took what can only be described as a thinly veiled shot — if not a blatant one — at his current coach by going out of his way to compliment his former one.

LeBron James, when asked about the “James Harden Clippers,” gassed up his former coach by saying the team should be referred to as the “T Lue Clippers” for Lue’s impact on getting LAC rolling this season pic.twitter.com/y4ZVQbWIWc

— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 8, 2024
The question LeBron was asked was simple: “What do you think of the new James Harden Clippers?”

“You said it’s the James Harden Clippers? Nah. It’s the T-Lue Clippers,” James quickly corrected, referring, of course, to Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who coached LeBron in Cleveland and whom LeBron reportedly lobbied for to coach the Lakers before Frank Vogel was hired.

“I know T-Lue very well. It don’t take T-Lue very long to make sure shit get right,” James continued. “It took five games, and they’ve been cooking since.”

LeBron is actually dead on with the five games thing. The Clippers literally lost their first five games with Harden in the lineup, after which they won 16 of their next 21, including Sunday’s loss, with Harden in uniform.

With all the talk that is swirling about the Lakers and specifically Ham, if this isn’t a direct shot at Ham and his implied inability to “get shit right,” I don’t know what is. LeBron could’ve easily just said the Clippers are playing well. Harden is playing well. And left it at that. But he went out of his way to go down the coaching path.

To be fair, LeBron was asked directly about Ham and how he has managed the team’s ups and downs, and he didn’t say anything to directly undermine his coach.

“By just staying and trying to keep us prepared when it’s time to go out and for battle,” James said, via Lakers insider Jovan Buha.

That is a total non-answer into which plenty can be read between the lines, but at least it’s not a direct shot. The thing about Lue and how much difference a great coach can make? LeBron was taking aim at Ham there. Does that mean LeBron wants Ham out, or is he just trying to up the urgency? Nobody knows. But what I do know is this: If LeBron wants a coach out, unless your name is Erik Spoelstra, he has a pretty strong track record of eventually getting his way.

Ham may have held off the wolves for one game. Maybe, as per Stein’s report, he can keep his job for a while longer. But if things don’t get better, soon, it’s hard to imagine this ending well for Ham in LA.

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