During his time of need in this tumultuous season as a first-year coach of the Lakers, Darvin Ham has been able to lean on friend and former teammate Chauncey Billups, the second-year coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.
The stress. The pressure. The long nights after losses. The questioning of yourself. The wondering what you could have done differently.
Billups went through all of that last season in his first year as coach of the Trail Blazers, and he was more than willing to share with Ham on the ways to navigate all that he faces.
But, Billups said before the Trail Blazers played the Lakers on Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena that there was and is one big difference.
“The difference is I was in Portland, Oregon,” Billups said. “He’s with the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s totally different. And he’s coaching one of the top few guys [LeBron James] to ever play the game, and then three top-75 guys [in James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbook] with expectations. I didn’t have that. A lot of things I can’t help him on. There’s a lot I can, but there’s a lot that I can’t. We’ve had some good talks. He’s stood tall through it all. Man, I’m just proud of him.”
Ham went down the list of coaches who have been willing to share with him — the Clippers’ Ty Lue, the Bucks’ Mike Budenholzol, the Grizzlies’ Taylor Jenkins, the Magic’s Jamahl Mosley and the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.
But Ham and Billups won an NBA championship together as players with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 — over the Lakers — and the two have had a bond ever since then.
“Everybody’s been so forthcoming and an open book for me with any questions I may have being a first-time head coach,” Ham said, “But Chauncey specifically … I consider him more than a friend. He’s like a brother to me. So, he’s always there whenever I need him. No matter what time of night, I can call him.”
After the Lakers defeated the Trail Blazers 128-109, Ham and Billups embraced.
Lakers still growing after 20 games
After 20 games, the Lakers are 8-12 and are sitting in the 13th spot in the Western Conference.
They have won six of their last eight games and are seeing some promise.
It was painful for the Lakers to blow a 17-point lead and lose to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. But the Lakers didn’t let a 19-point lead slip away against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
“I’m very encouraged. I’m very excited,” Ham said. “Basically, a fourth of the season is out of the way and we’re just now starting to get all the way whole and then tonight going into the game we lose two more guys. But overall, I’m pleased. Guys are embracing it. They had a lot of fun playing today. They played the right way on both sides of the ball. I’m very, very, highly encouraged.”
Lonnie Walker IV (left foot soreness) and Troy Brown Jr. (left foot soreness) didn’t play against the Trail Blazers and both will be reevaluated Thursday before the Lakers leave for a six-game trip that starts in Milwaukee on Friday night.