Report: Eastern Conference scout was thrilled Darvin Ham waited so long to play last year’s core group

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

One Eastern Conference scout said that their team was happy that Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham waited as long as he did to play the core group that helped the Lakers reach the Western Conference Finals last season, according to Lakers Daily’s Anthony Irwin.

“We never honestly thought [Ham] would stick with [not playing last year’s core together] all year,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “We were definitely happy he waited as long as he did and until after we played both our games against him.”

Ham inserted forward Rui Hachimura into the starting lineup on Feb. 3 of the 2023-24 season, and the Lakers have taken off since, going 20-9 across 29 contests.

Ham’s decision to use the lineup of Hachimura, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves led to concern being lifted in the Lakers organization, according to Irwin.

During last season’s playoff run, Hachimura came up big for the Lakers. He had four games with 20 or more points, with his biggest performance coming in Game 1 of the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies.

In that game, Hachimura was lights out from beyond the arc, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from 3, on his way to a 29-point game.

The Lakers ended up using Hachimura a lot in the playoffs in the 2023-24 campaign, playing him 24.3 minutes per game.

Despite that, Hachimura mainly came off the bench for the Lakes through January, appearing in 35 games and making just seven starts over that stretch. The former lottery pick did deal with some injuries early on in the season, but he was playing just 22.8 minutes per game through Jan. 30.

Since Feb. 1, one game before Ham inserted Hachimura into the starting lineup, the Lakers forward is averaging 31.1 minutes, 16.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He’s also shot an impressive 58.0 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from 3-point range over that 30-game stretch.

While the Lakers may have missed out on some chances to get wins by playing this lineup of James, Davis, Hachimura, Reaves and Russell more earlier in the season, it appears Ham has found a formula that could work for the team in the postseason.

Right now, the Lakers hold the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference with three games to play in the regular season. They would love to move up to the No. 8 spot or higher so they have two chances to win one play-in tournament game to make the final playoff field.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.