Serena Winters: Isaac Okoro on how much pride he takes on the defensive end: “I take a lot of pride in that. Ever since I was young, I learned that was the only way I was going to get on the court was by playing defense… If I’m locking somebody up, I’m happy.” – @Isaac Okoro
May 20, 2022 | 7:27 pm EDT Update
The Lakers appear poised to make a decision on their coaching position soon, with Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts the finalists for the job that became vacant when Frank Vogel was fired at season’s end. But as the final round of interviews is set, sources tell The Athletic that Ham appears to have made the strongest impression yet.
In terms of the Lakers’ preferences, sources say team officials have prioritized a coach who can command respect and authority from the locker room and who has a strong enough presence and voice to manage the varying roles and relationships across the roster. Those characteristics bode well for Ham’s candidacy. Throughout assistant coaching stops with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, Ham has been known for his no-nonsense style and ability to resonate with his players — attributes that have stood out in his communication with the Lakers thus far as well, sources said.
Ham, who played in eight NBA seasons from 1996 to 2008, is the only former NBA player among the three finalists. Even before he reached the NBA, however, Ham’s reputation as a force of nature was cemented when he broke the backboard while dunking during his 1996 NCAA Tournament run with Texas Tech. Ham, Stotts and Atkinson are in consideration for the Charlotte Hornets vacancy as well. Ham is also a serious candidate for the Hornets, according to sources.
All three finalists will soon meet with top Lakers officials — including owner Jeanie Buss — in Los Angeles for the next in-person stage, sources said. So far, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, director of basketball affairs Kurt Rambis, vice president of research and development Joey Buss and assistant general manager Jesse Buss have led the first stage of coaching interviews.
Michael Singer: Not entirely surprising, but #Nuggets president Tim Connelly’s been radio silent with a lot of people close to him. I strongly believe he doesn’t want to leave Denver, and I also think he’d stay if the Kroenkes could make him a competitive offer.
Callie Caplan: Most active and agile I’ve seen Tim Hardaway Jr. since he fractured his left foot on this same court, under this basket, 5 days short of 4 months ago. pic.twitter.com/DA6Colq97I