On the heels of a humiliating season, the Los Angeles Lakers began their recuperation by firing head coach Frank Vogel. After two months, the “Purple and Gold” found a seemingly suitable guy for the job - Darvin Ham.
No stranger to Lakers
Ham never played for the Lakers during his eight-year NBA career. However, some may not know, but he has had quite a history with the storied franchise. Aside from winning his first NBA championship at the expense of the Lakers as part of the Detroit Pistons in 2004, Ham has also worked as a player development coach for LA from 2011 to 2012.
After that, Ham kick-started his coaching career by working as an assistant for Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee. He made his mark on the league by helping the Bucks cop the 2021 NBA championship as Budenholzer’s lead assistant.
The creation of the “Hammer” play
Before becoming the Lakers’ new head coach, most of us are already familiar with Ham’s name, given his impressive resume as an assistant coach. However, his legacy will not be limited to that. During his stint with the Bucks in the late 90s to early 2000s, Ham became a key figure in what has become one of the most efficient offensive tactics in the history of basketball-the “Hammer” play.
Some have credited the San Antonio Spurs for catapulting the “Hammer” play to the mainstream, but the truth is, it was then Bucks head coach George Karl who invented it.
Utilizing Ham’s ability to attack, Karl designed a play that basically allows legitimate three-point shooters to have enough space to knock down a clean three.
It has variations but simply put, “The Hammer” play is about Ham drawing defenders, typically from the baseline, as he drives to the basket, and he’ll kick it out to one of the team’s lethal three-point shooters. In the Bucks’ case at the time, it was Ray Allen who was often on the receiving end for obvious reasons.
“When I was playing in Milwaukee, I was a defensive, offensive-rebounding, dunking machine,” Ham said of the “Hammer” play in 2018. “We had shooters all around me. Sam Cassell. Ray Allen. Glenn Robinson. Tim Thomas. Michael Redd. We didn’t need anybody else shooting 3s. So I found my little niche.”
“They call it ‘Hammer,’ my name is Ham,” he added. “[They’re like] ‘The Hammer play is named after you?’ I’m like ‘Yeah!’…I’m humbled by it. It’s something that came out of the wits of a great coach in George Karl and I’m just happy that I’m one half of it. Me and Ray Allen.”
Will it work with LeBron?
Now that Ham will be in charge of the Lakers, it is highly likely that he will impose the “Hammer” play every once in a while. So the question is, how would it suit the playing style of LeBron James?
It may be a bit too early to say, but from the look of it, James might not benefit from Ham’s famous play. First off, as much as he's improved as a shooter, you don't want LeBron standing in the corner waiting for the ball. If he does have the ball, that would mean LeBron would be making the entry pass to someone waiting on the baseline or high post like Ham does in the “Hammer” play.
On the other hand, nobody said that Ham couldn’t modify the “Hammer” in any way. Chances are, the new Lakers coach might make a few changes so he could inject James into it. Or who knows, Ham might even innovate it in line with James’ playing style. It could at least be one of the plays that are supposed to revive Russell Westbrook's efficiency - a major talking point for all coaching candidates for the Lakers.