I never enjoy being the bearer of bad news, but recent reports suggest that the Los Angeles Lakers may be leaning in the direction of retaining head coach Mike D’Antoni for next season. The fact is D’Antoni has one more year on his current contract, so this appears to be more of a financial move than a decision to improve the team. Los Angeles is one of the richest franchises in all American sports, so delaying the team’s rebuilding project in order to save a little bit of cash is not something Lakers Nation is accustomed to.
Of course, D’Antoni must be cut some slack because of all of the injuries he has had to deal with, but even when healthy, his rotations have been questionable at best. Multiple players have even voiced their displeasure with the coach including Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman. It is out of the ordinary for players to publicly speak out against their head coach, so to have three different players do just that is a glaring sign he is not the right man for the job.
Hiring D’Antoni in the first place caused an absolute uproar amongst both Lakers fans and the media. He was chosen over the Zen Master, Phil Jackson which ultimately cost the team any shot they had at re-signing their future, Dwight Howard. Now this offseason with almost every player’s contract expiring, allowing D’Antoni to be the main man on the bench will without a doubt cost the team any shot they have at re-signing Gasol and Hill, for example.
Beginning with Gasol, he has been a vital piece to the championship puzzle since being traded from the Memphis Grizzlies six years ago. He helped lead the Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant to three straight NBA Finals appearances in which the team took two. As for Hill, he was supposed to be a throw-in in a trade to save a few dollars at the trade deadline two years ago. However, as fans can attest to, Hill has exceeded any an all expectations he was presented with. Hill is known as the “Garbage Man” due to his unbelievable rebounding abilities on both the offensive and defensive glass. Today, he even stated after receiving another DNP: “It’s getting old now. Can’t be frustrated. Can’t be mad. I just need to stay humble.” Later when asked about returning the team next season barring any changes he said, “Of course not. Who would?” Therefore, allowing D’Antoni to return next season would be foolish as neither of these players are likely to return under those circumstances.
Furthermore, one more player who has voiced displeasure with D’Antoni is arguably the greatest player in franchise history, Kobe Bryant. A few weeks ago, reports stated Bryant exclaimed he has no intention of playing for D’Antoni next season. Those are certainly some powerful words that must influence the decision of GM Mitch Kupchak and owner Jim Buss when assessing their options this offseason. Other legends who have criticized him include Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
Basically, if D’Antoni is sitting on the bench next season, prepare for many more Lakers fans to continue to convert to Los Angeles Clippers fans. Also, prepare for one more depressing season as the team is unlikely to attract any marquee free agents this offseason.