Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham in the wake of first-round playoff loss

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After being eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Denver Nuggets for the second consecutive season, the Lakers have fired coach Darvin Ham, the team announced Friday.

The decision comes days after the Lakers lost in Game 5 to Denver after Jamal Murray’s second game-winner of the series.

The Lakers went 47-35 this season, the eighth-best record in the West. They won their play-in tournament game and advanced to face the Nuggets, who they again lost to in a tightly contested five-game series.

“We greatly appreciate Darvin’s efforts on behalf of the Lakers and recognize the many accomplishments achieved over the past two seasons including last year’s remarkable run to the Western Conference finals,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement. “We all want to thank Darvin for his dedication and positivity. While this was a difficult decision to make, it is the best course of action following a full review of the season. This organization will remain unwavering in its commitment to deliver championship-caliber basketball to Lakers fans around the world.”

After Game 5, when asked to reflect on his time with the Lakers, Ham said the feelings were still too raw.

“It’s been a hell of a two years, though, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “Sitting in this seat, it’s been a hell of a two years. A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize. I know what that feels like. I had that feeling a couple of times. So, you want to do everything in your power to not to prevent and continue to feel this feeling we’re feeling now, the feeling of defeat. So again, control what I can control, continue to grow, and hopefully be a better coach for it.”

Ham, whom the Lakers hired in 2022, rebounded from a 2-10 start his first season to lead them through the play-in tournament to the Western Conference finals, where they were swept by Denver.

This season, despite the Lakers winning the NBA’s first in-season tournament, Ham’s inability to find consistently successful lineups rubbed veterans the wrong way, the Lakers leaning on players such as Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish to start games while D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura — players the team committed $140 million to in the offseason — spent time coming off the bench.

Despite All-Star performances from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, who remained mostly healthy all season, the Lakers again needed to earn a playoff berth through the play-in tournament. And after beating the Pelicans in New Orleans to earn the No. 7 seed, the Lakers again ran into the Nuggets — a matchup Ham and his team have been unable to solve.

Inside the locker room, according to those familiar with the situation, frustration with Ham’s in-game adjustments helped widen the disconnect caused by some of the lineup decisions that players questioned.

Ham went 90-74 in two seasons but 9-12 in the playoffs. In consecutive seasons, the Lakers finished the season with strong second halves.

The next coach will be the third hired by Rob Pelinka, after the team fired Frank Vogel and Ham in the last five seasons.

While candidate lists are being created, some names have already surfaced.

The team interviewed former head coaches Kenny Atkinson and Terry Stotts during their last search before landing on Ham. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue nearly coached the Lakers before contractual disputes led to the Lakers hiring Vogel in 2019.

In addition to Atkinson and Stotts, Denver assistant coach David Adelman and Minnesota assistant coach Micah Nori are both highly regarded inside the Lakers’ organization, according to people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly.

Former Lakers player Jared Dudley is close with James and Davis and has spent the last two seasons coaching in Dallas with Jason Kidd.

And JJ Redick, the former Clippers guard, could also get consideration. Redick, who co-hosts a basketball strategy podcast with James, is the lead commentator for ESPN’s NBA coverage.

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