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#pounditSunday, September 25, 2022

Lakers giving Darvin Ham power to do 1 notable thing

Darvin Ham in a suit

Apr. 7, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 125-105. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Darvin Ham will be going Emperor Palpatine “unlimited power” mode next season … at least in one prominent area.

Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported this week that the new Lakers coach Ham will have more power to bench embattled guard Russell Westbrook down the stretch of games next season. Buha adds that the power could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup too.

Benching the ex-MVP Westbrook in crunch time was a bit of a dicey area last season for Ham’s predecessor Frank Vogel (though Vogel did do so a handful of times). But Vogel did not start benching Westbrook until over halfway into the season in mid-January and even resisted calls to remove Westbrook from the starting five (Westbrook ultimately started in all 78 appearances he made for the Lakers).

Westbrook, now 33, publicly expressed displeasure when he was benched by Vogel last season. But the Lakers don’t really have much to lose by demoting him again next season since Westbrook’s trade value is below zero and since he is in the final year of his contract anyway. Nevertheless, the team is not completely banishing him from Verona, as Ham recently laid out the plan that he has for Westbrook in 2022-23.

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