Pau Gasol's speech at Lakers practice reinforces Darvin Ham's credibility

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham talks with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Lakers coach Darvin Ham, talking with forward LeBron James during the team's first win of the season Sunday, had former NBA great Pau Gasol address the team at practice Tuesday. (Michael Owen Baker / Associated Press)

Darvin Ham gave Pau Gasol the floor to speak to his team Tuesday, hoping that the former Lakers great and NBA champion would impart the same values about winning that Ham has tried to instill since becoming the team’s coach.

It was a chance to, again, build credibility — the challenge that every coach undertakes with his team. It was a calculated chance to use the team’s past successes to shape the team’s present and future.

“When you have guys who’ve achieved what he’s achieved in his individual career, some of the great teams he’s been on, whether it’s the Lakers or the Spanish national team, as far as the great Spurs teams, for him to come in and the words he shared are the words they hear us saying every day,” Ham said. “Being competitive, embracing the adversity, being together, communicating — like all these words we use with our guys every day. And some of them are themes of who we want to be and what we want to get back to being.

“So it just reaffirms to these guys that we’re not crazy out of our minds.”

Coupled with Ham’s decision to use Russell Westbrook as the Lakers’ sixth man, his internal credibility should be pretty high despite the team’s 1-5 record.

He’s preached effort and defensive execution, and so far the Lakers are second on that side of the ball, allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions. The only other team in the top 10 defensively with a losing record is the Clippers.

While they’re by no means an offensive juggernaut, improvement in the last two games along with an easier schedule ahead are cause for some guarded optimism — starting with Westbrook’s embracement of his new role.

“Just being in position, the right position,” he said of what he’s noticed. “When I'm in the right position to help my teammates and make them better, it's beneficial for everybody in my opinion. And my job is to find ways to keep making the team better, whatever it is [that's] needed that night, whether it's assists, scoring, rebounding, defending. I'm a person that prides myself on doing everything each and every night. And I want to have that trickle-down effect on the guys I'm on the floor with.”

Ham said the team’s defense being ahead of its offense was not only expected but probably guaranteed considering his plan and the schedule.

“The biggest thing I wanted to attack first was the defense because that’s the best way to show your competitive nature, is to go out and get stops and make it difficult for teams to run their offense and score and whatnot,” Ham said. “I thought our schedule has really been tough. … It’s been something. But I’ve been extremely pleased with the way we’ve defended those teams. Those are really high-caliber offensive teams and we’ve defended them really, really well.

“… Didn’t like being 0-5 but understood it … Our offense is gonna catch up to our defense. Russ gave us a huge lift, huge boost off the bench. What I anticipated it would be like it was. So I think we’re right where we need to be.”

If Gasol told the Lakers the same thing, all the better.

Injury updates

Ham said Anthony Davis is feeling some fallout from playing through back pain late in the team’s win Sunday. He’ll be questionable Wednesday against New Orleans.

“He’s good. He’s feeling it a little bit,” Ham said. “We’re managing his back. He’ll be listed as questionable for tomorrow. But just saw him come in today, get his treatment, get his work, get his exercises in, just relax. And he’ll be teed up and ready go starting tomorrow at shoot-around.”

Dennis Schroder, who hasn’t played this season after preseason thumb surgery, did on-court individual work with a brace on his thumb. He’s to be reevaluated Tuesday.  

UP NEXT

VS. NEW ORLEANS

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330

Update: The Lakers might play more freely now that the team’s five-game winning streak has been stopped. Forwards LeBron James and Juan Toscano-Anderson are probable, but Anthony Davis is questionable with his ongoing back issues. Standing in the way of the team’s first winning streak is the New Orleans Pelicans. Zion Williamson is back on the court for the Pelicans, who still are without former Laker Brandon Ingram because of a concussion.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.