Darvin Ham on LeBron James: Goal Is to 'Lessen the Wear and Tear' on Lakers Star

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 7, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) stands on the court during an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in Los Angeles, Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said he aims to take some pressure off the shoulders of LeBron James during the 2022-23 NBA season.

Ham explained during his introductory press conference Monday that "maintenance" for the entire roster will be important coming off an injury-plagued campaign, and that starts with helping the 37-year-old four-time MVP stay healthy.

"So that will be my No. 1 goal: to try to lessen some of the wear and tear on LeBron, because I feel like the level he's playing at is not going anywhere anytime soon," Ham told reporters. "So I just want to try to assist him with being able to sustain that level."

The Lakers are coming off a forgettable season in which they missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record after entering the year with championship-level expectations.

James (56 games played) and Anthony Davis (40) were both sidelined for a significant portion of the campaign, while Carmelo Anthony (69), Austin Reaves (61) and Talen Horton-Tucker (60) were among the role players to miss a chunk of the schedule.

Davis has played just 76 regular-season games over the past two seasons combined, and Ham noted seeing him on the floor more regularly is a key part of the equation alongside James and Russell Westbrook.

"LeBron is always going to be great; LeBron is going to be LeBron. Russ is going to be Russ. But we need consistency out of Anthony Davis," Ham said. "We need him to be healthy, we need him to be in a good mental space."

It's no coincidence that when Davis played 62 of L.A.'s 71 regular-season contests and all 21 of its playoff games in 2019-20, the franchise went on to capture a championship.

So, while the Lakers roster figures to receive a shake-up for the second straight summer, finding a way to keep their superstars on the floor will be the most important factor in returning to title contention next season.

That takes on added importance because 2022-23 is the last season of James' contract, and he's been dropping some not-so-subtle hints he may want to make other stops before the end of his legendary career.

In April, he named the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry as the one active NBA player he'd like to team up with, and he previously expressed his desire to finish his playing days on the same roster as his son, 2024 draft prospect Bronny James.

"My last year will be played with my son," James told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic in February. "Wherever Bronny is at, that's where I'll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It's not about the money at that point."

Between this season's frustrations and James' uncertain future, it's unknown how much longer the Lakers' championship window will remain open.

In turn, there's an immediate sense of urgency for Ham to fix the team's problems and get L.A. back among the league's elite in his first year leading the staff.