Lakers interview Terry Stotts again; working with Russell Westbrook intrigues ex-Blazers coach, per report

The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly narrowed down their head-coaching search to three candidates. Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts have advanced to the final round of interviews, according to ESPN. Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson has also been named a finalist, per The Athletic.

Stotts met with Los Angeles again on Tuesday, CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter confirms. Ham and Atkinson will also be interviewed again in the near future, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Stotts says he is intrigued with working with Russell Westbrook and feels he can make him more comfortable with his role, according to Mark Medina.

All three candidates have been hot commodities on the coaching market, as the Charlotte Hornets have also had interest in them as well. However, the Lakers job may be more enticing if only for the fact that LA has the makings of a championship contender with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Though Los Angeles struggled heavily last season primarily due to injuries and the Westbrook experiment not working out, the Lakers should be contenders next season if they’re able to make moves to improve their roster this summer.

If Ham were to get the job, it would be his first head-coaching gig in the league. He’s been with the Bucks since 2018, following Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer from the Atlanta Hawks. In that time, Ham has been an integral figure on Budenholzer’s coaching staff, helping lead the Bucks to a championship last season and assisting in the development of a two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ham has been up for several head-coaching jobs in the past but has yet to land one.

Stotts hasn’t coached since parting ways with the Portland Trail Blazers following the 2020-21 season. During his time there, he helped lead them to the Western Conference finals and missed the playoffs just once during his nine-year tenure. Prior to that, he was on the coaching staff that helped bring a championship to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. He’s an offensive-oriented coach, something that could help a Lakers team that ranked 22nd in the league in offensive rating. However, Stotts has been criticized for his teams always ranking near the bottom of the league in defense filling, something he could easily address by out the rest of his coaching staff with defensive minds.

Atkinson has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers, and he’s currently holding the same role with the Warriors. Prior to that, he led the Brooklyn Nets for four seasons where his coaching record improved in each of his first three seasons. Atkinson was let go following the 2019-20 season in part due to personalities clashing between Atkinson, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Lakers are expected to conduct another round of interviews with these three candidates in Los Angeles in the near future, per The Athletic.

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