The Los Angeles Lakers are 21-41, on path to claim a lottery pick for the first time since Pau Gasol arrived in Los Angeles. They have been hit by injuries to key players, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. They have fielded a depleted roster that some would compare to a D-League team. But a recent 48-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers points to the question: is Mike D’Antoni now on the hot seat?
Mitch Kupchak met with D’Antoni after the loss to discuss issues with the team. The two have a good working relationship, with Kupchak often praising D’Antoni for keeping the team together. And it is true, D’Antoni does get the most out of depleted rosters. Some would argue that the Lakers are lucky to have won 10 games this season, let alone 21.
But the Lakers are starting to look worse, even with more players returning to the lineup. There is little discipline on a free-flowing offense, which may work against some teams, but others have quickly figured out how to stop it. It was painful to watch the Clippers force Kendall Marshall to shoot the ball off the dribble, while giving shooters like Jodie Meeks little to no room to operate. There was no rhythm to their offense, and it seemed almost too easy to defend.
The Lakers’ defense has been nonexistent as of late. There seems to be no structure or even a game plan in defending opposing teams. The Lakers have given up 125.5 points per game over the last four games, and have had no answer to keeping players out of the lane. D’Antoni has been criticized in the past for poor defensive teams, and it is evident that he still has not found a solution. Few players on the team show any effort at all, as if they are waiting to get back on offense.
D’Antoni will likely finish out the season as the Lakers have no chance to make the playoffs and will benefit from having a poor record in terms of the lottery. But in the offseason, Jim Buss and Kupchak will surely have to reconsider their options at head coach, especially if they have any aspirations of competing for a championship.