With their playoff lives at stake, Darvin Ham challenges Lakers’ effort and urgency

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura recovers a loose ball next to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Lakers forward Rui Hachimura, left, recovers a loose ball next to Minnesota Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker during the second half of the Lakers’ 110-102 loss Friday night at Arena.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Maybe it was how it happened that set off Darvin Ham, the Lakers coach clearly disappointed not only in his team’s loss but also in the overall approach.

“Energy, effort and urgency — we’ve been writing those words on our board,” Ham said. “We should know what the circumstances are. It’s no reason, no excuse for us to come out and not have that against a team that we’re competing for to try to get a [playoff] spot.

“You saw the way they played. They were up in our chest all night. There were times, until the very end when we woke up and got aggressive, it just seemed liked we were on our heels. And we can’t have that, especially when you’re sitting in the position we’re sitting in and trying to get to where we’re trying to get to.”


It was clear to Ham on Friday after his team’s 110-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that this way wasn’t going to get the Lakers anywhere.

Anthony Davis finishes with 38 points, but no LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell proves costly in the Lakers’ 110-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

March 3, 2023

It was a harsh critique and inside the Lakers locker room there was some pushback against the notion that this loss was about effort or urgency. (Energy, on the other hand, was an issue at times with the Lakers coming off a three-game trip.)

Instead, some players pointed to Minnesota’s size and better shooting as reasons why the Lakers lost — the team getting smothered in the second and third quarters when it scored only 42 combined points.

“We allowed them to disrupt us a little bit. We gotta anticipate that they’re going to come out like that. We have to meet aggression with aggression,” Ham said. “I thought there were too many times we got caught up playing east-west instead of just putting our heads down and attacking the basket, getting to the paint, living at the free-throw line. When teams are aggressive like that, you gotta play downhill.”

The Lakers certainly missed D’Angelo Russell, who would’ve helped release a lot of Minnesota’s pressure with his shooting and ballhandling.

Russell has missed four consecutive games after stepping on Donte DiVincenzo’s foot during an inbounds pass early in the Lakers’ win over Golden State to start the post-All-Star push. He won’t return Sunday against the Warriors, his absence compounded by the expected return of Stephen Curry to Golden State’s lineup.


With Russell’s free agency ahead of him this summer, the Lakers need to get a real look at the former No. 2 pick to see whether he can be a reliable partner with Anthony Davis and LeBron James — durability being a necessity alongside that pair. James missed his third game in a row with a foot injury.

The Lakers badly missed Russell’s shooting and playmaking, with Dennis Schroder left as the primary ball handler, playing after injuring an ankle while being hounded by Jaden McDaniels — one of the best defenders in the NBA. Schroder struggled, making only three of 13 shots from the field, though he had 12 assists without a turnover.

Lakers forward LeBron James has a tendon injury in his right foot and will be reevaluated in about three weeks, the team said Thursday.

March 2, 2023

It was the kind of performance that summed up the game, some bad and not enough good in a loss that cost the Lakers a chance to make a move against a team they’re chasing.

“I feel like we played hard,” said Davis, who scored 38 points. “We had some stretches both ends of the floor throughout the course of the game, especially in the third quarter. Whether it was a turnover, bad shot, miscues on defense. But just went out and competed. … Just had them stretches where it’s the tale of the game. At this point, we gotta be locked in for the full 48. We can’t have those miscues, which essentially cost us the game tonight.”

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, tries to drive past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, tries to drive past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels during the first half Friday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Lakers (30-34) remain one game behind Utah and New Orleans (31-33) for the final two postseason berths.

“I’ve been around this thing 26 years,” Ham said. “Multiple championships. Multiple trips as a player and a coach to the postseason. If someone has to tell you that you have to be locked in.... We do basketball for a living. Someone shouldn’t have to tell you to be locked in. We do basketball. We get paid millions of dollars. ... We’re not digging ditches all day. We’re not building homes. We’re not doing construction, risking our lives. We’re doing basketball for a living. And we’re playing for one of the most recognizable, historic franchises on the face of the earth — the most.

“If that doesn’t motivate you to go out and try to be the best version of yourself, I don’t know what will. And we talk about it. And we pour into our players and try to make them better individually and collectively. And so, we’re gonna keep preaching it. We’re gonna keep harping on it until there’s no time left and there’s just no chance of us doing it. But until then, we’re putting our best foot forward every day. Trust me.”