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Andrew Bynum is tutored by Lakers assistant Darvin Ham

'He sure is helping,' L.A. big man says of Ham, whose resume includes a Sports Illustrated cover and a career as an NBA player.

January 08, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Darvin Ham shatters the backboard on a dunk while playing in the NCAA tournament for Texas Tech.
Darvin Ham shatters the backboard on a dunk while playing in the NCAA tournament… (Scott K. Brown / Associated…)

The footage is grainy, obviously transferred from videotape to YouTube, but it's still possible to see Darvin Ham flying toward the basket, grabbing a rebound and shattering the backboard with a dunk.

The play has followed him throughout his life, helping Texas Tech beat North Carolina in the second round of the 1996 NCAA tournament, landing him on the cover of Sports Illustrated next to the title "Smashing!" and serving as the most entrancing part of a basketball career that included eight NBA seasons.

Ham is hoping to create some future memories for Lakers center Andrew Bynum. In his first season as a Lakers assistant coach, he has been directed by head coach Mike Brown to take charge of Bynum.

Ham's job description follows that of a line of Lakers assistant coaches that included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw.

Ham, 38, and Bynum can be seen jostling under the basket before every game, Ham sticking his arm into Bynum's back as if it's a crowbar, cajoling Bynum to stay centered in the post as a ball boy feeds the 24-year-old down low.

"He has touch, but the balance, that's the thing we work on day in and day out," said Ham, who was a 6-foot-7, 245-pound power forward in the NBA. "He won't find his body in awkward positions. He'll be used to me being heavy on him."

Bynum didn't shoot well in the Lakers' 90-82 victory over Memphis, scoring 15 points and making five of 14 attempts, but he looked balanced as he ripped through smaller Grizzlies center Marreese Speights to establish position and loft a hook shot.

He also looked sprightly, taking a lob from Derek Fisher and dunking it. Kwame Brown probably took credit for the play.

"Some of the things we did were to give [Bynum] ultra-confidence in his body," Ham said of the workouts. "He's welcomed them. It's a lot of balance, a lot of agility, foot quickness. We want him to have active hands and active feet. Getting low, bending his knees, having his chest up, the right width between his feet."

Ham's first NBA stop as a player was with the Denver Nuggets, when a young Mike Brown was in the Nuggets' basketball-operations office. Ham was also on the Detroit team that beat the Lakers for the 2004 NBA championship.

Ham even held the unusual position of player-coach for the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League in the 2007-08 season.

When Ham interviewed for the job with the Lakers, Brown told him to help expand Bynum's game. Bynum has been on a roll, averaging 18.8 points and 15.7 rebounds through six games.

"He's come out of the cage like a bull," Ham said. "It's a testament to the work he puts in. That kid works hard. He's hungry."

Bynum was out of breath after his pregame workout Sunday with Ham, offering only a few words as he strode to the locker room, dripping sweat.

"He sure is helping," Bynum said between heaves.

As for the shattered backboard, Ham said he still heard about it from basketball fans "at least weekly."

"It was a great moment in time," he said, smiling. "It was to go to the Sweet 16 and it came against North Carolina. And to all the kids out there, I was 100% clean. No [human growth hormone], no BALCO labs, no steroids whatsoever. Just milk, broccoli and pasta."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/mike_bresnahan

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