Lakers coach Darvin Ham is unlikely to return next season.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham is unlikely to return next season.

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Lakers coach Darvin Ham is unlikely to return next season.

Darvin Ham is in “serious peril” following the Los Angeles Lakers‘ first-round exit on Tuesday.

The Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-106 in Game 5 on Tuesday at Ball Arena. A late jumper from Jamal Murray sealed the Nuggets’ 4-1 series win and ended the Lakers season.

Ham has been consistently under fire this postseason, with fans even chanting “Fire Darvin” during a Game 3 loss. According to The Athletic, it seems unlikely that he’ll return for a third season in LA.

“The Lakers’ unflattering finish leaves Ham’s future as head coach in serious peril, multiple league and team sources tell The Athletic, with some stakeholders indicating it’s highly unlikely he’ll return. The plan is to reassess everything that went wrong in the coming days before making a final decision. In 2022, Ham signed a four-year deal in the range of $5 million per season, so the team would be assuming the remainder of his deal if he is fired.”

Ham isn’t ignorant of the fact that he’s on the hot seat. The expectation for a LeBron James-led Lakers team is a championship. LA salvaged some pride by not being swept out of the first round by the Nuggets but it was likely not enough.

“It’s been a hell of a two years sitting in this seat, I’ll tell you that,” Ham said after the Game 5 loss. “It’s been a hell of a two years.”

Darvin Ham Points to Lakers’ Injuries as Challenge

Some of the Lakers’ issues have been beyond Ham’s control. The most prominent challenge has been injuries. James played in 71 games, and Anthony Davis appeared in 76 contests this season — the most for either player during their tenures in LA.

However, the Lakers struggled to maintain a consistent rotation due to role players being in and out of the lineup.

“It seemed like every time we hit a rhythm, somebody, a key piece, would fall out of the lineup. It is what it is, man,” Ham said. “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, for ourselves. It’s an unbelievable franchise to represent. I couldn’t ask for a better governor, a better president of (basketball operations) in Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss. But I’ve seen a lot my first two years in this seat. I’ll continue to work, to get better and to control what I can control.”

While the injuries threw a wrench into Ham’s plans, he made some questionable decisions regarding his rotation that affected the locker room.

“Throughout the series and most of the season, however, team officials and players believe Ham’s fluctuating rotations, game plans and lack of adjustments led to an underperforming group,” The Athletic trio of Shams Charania, Jovan Buha and Sam Amick reported. “It created discontent within the locker room, which became palpable across the franchise.”

Lakers Want to Convince LeBron James to Stay

The other significant question facing the Lakers this offseason is LeBron’s future. The four-time MVP has a player option worth $51.4 million for next season. He has until June 29 to opt in. James wasn’t ready to talk about it after the season-ending loss on Tuesday.

“I’m not gonna answer that,” James said when asked about his plans.

It’s unknown how a coaching change could affect James’ decision. But Ham didn’t get any help with his job security when Davis, James’ co-star, appeared to publicly call out the coaching staff after a Game 2 loss to the Nuggets.

“We have stretches where we just don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor,” Davis told reporters on April 22.

When asked about Davis’ comments, Ham said: “I just chalk that up to being frustrated. It’s an emotional game, the way it ended and all of that. But I’ll agree to disagree on that one.”

The Lakers surprisingly conducted their exit interviews following the Game 5 loss in Denver. The timeline for a decision on Ham’s future is not known but will likely be sooner than later.

J.R. DeGroote covers the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Lakers for He covered local and statewide sports as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and has decades of experience in digital media with previous stops at SB Nation and Bleacher Report. He has won multiple state, regional and national honors for sports reporting and photography. More about J.R. DeGroote

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