The Lakers share the worst record in the Western Conference with the Kings and the Jazz (all are 22-42), and while the Lakers weren’t necessarily foolish enough to think they were winning a title this year, a host of injuries to their stars has degraded an otherwise proud franchise. Now comes word that coach Mike D’Antoni may not be long for Laker land and could be terminated this summer in his role as the Lakers’ coach.
On ESPN’s “First Take” this morning — by way of Bleacher Report, since we wouldn’t waste our breakfast on that scream-fest — Stephen A. Smith revealed a source had informed him D’Antoni was gone at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season:
“I had a source tell me last night [that] Mike D’Antoni is gone at the end of the season. He won’t be there [...] I’m just telling you, that’s the word coming out of L.A.”
While Smith has a tendency towards bombast, and we’re downplaying that a bit, this rumor isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The Lakers have been dreadful this year, particularly on defense, not D’Antoni’s strong-suit. Reports indicate neither Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash will play again this year, so it’s hard to win with a roster of add-ons after your starters and stars go down. But even those players who have gotten some PT aren’t particularly happy with the mustachioed Italian’s coaching style.
One of the more aggrieved players this year has been Pau Gasol, who has been pretty open about his disdain for his role (usually away from the basket) in D’Antoni’s offense.
Ric Bucher, also at Bleacher Report, recently published a long piece about Pau’s impending free agency this summer. In the
article, Bucher alluded to Kobe Bryant‘s belief Pau might come back to the Lakers.
Mamba recently said that on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being absolutely certain, Kobe was about an eight that Pau re-signed. But Bucher also mentioned private assurances Lakers brass had given two other unnamed players that D’Antoni would not be around next year:
There was, however, a second part: [Pau Gasol recently wrote in a blog post] “My decision will be based purely on sporting considerations. It couldn’t be any other way. I want to be in a team with a real chance of winning a ring and where I can help compete for it. I would like to win another championship. The financial side comes second at this stage in my career.”
Those “sporting considerations,” a team source says, include who the Lakers head coach is, since much of Gasol’s frustration stems from coach Mike D’Antoni and a system that utilizes Gasol largely away from the basket. At least two other players frustrated with their current roles were told to be patient because the Lakers will have a new head coach next season, sources said, but that could’ve been simply to mollify them for the time being.
Kobe loves playing with Pau since the two joined forces to win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. So he’ll probably exert some influence to bring the big Spaniard back to finish his career with the Lakers. Even if that’s not the case, and Kobe doesn’t say a thing about Pau behind the scenes, it appears the only way Pau returns is if D’Antoni is gone. Pau’s return is not necessarily a sure thing, but his situation is compounded by the reports the Lakers have privately notified other players D’Antoni won’t be back, and the Lakers do have the worst record in the Conference, not exactly a glowing recommendation if D’Antoni is hoping to sticking around beyond this season.
It’s looking less and less likely Mike D’Antoni will be the coach of the Lakers at the start of the 2014-15 season.