The Lakers season has mercifully ended. The final result was a 27-55 record, the worst in Los Angeles Lakers history. The most notable loss came on March 6, as the Lakers fell to hallway rivals, the Clippers 142-94, the worst defeat in franchise history. The team this year gave up over 130 points in a game seven times, and gave up over 140 points three different times. Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is in the position to be the fall guy for the Lakers this offseason. Two disappointing years, mixed with some of the worst distinctions in franchise history seem like a perfect recipe for D’Antoni to find himself unemployed this offseason, right?
Well after the exit interviews took place this week, I’m not so sure that’s how the Lakers are feeling. Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss gave D’Antoni a 4-year contract, which means he still has two remaining seasons at about $4 million per yer. Although the Lakers make a whole lot of cash, they aren’t in the business of paying multiple coaches at the same time in perpetuity. The Lakers still have to pay Mike Brown, the Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach, for one more season. Firing D’Antoni means the team will be paying three coaches next year, an unappealing proposition for any team.
Kupchak was calm during his exit interview and didn’t give off any impression that firing D’Antoni was an imminent decision. The two will speak at some time in the next two weeks after a little more time has passed. D’Antoni will hope that the front office realizes what it had given him to work with this season. Cast-offs, D-Leaguers, and lottery busts littered this roster. Add in the fact that players missed a combined 319 games due to injury and that Kobe only played in 6 games. What more could the front office expect from this? The Lakers haven’t had a first round pick that has played for the team for 5 consecutive years since Andrew Bynum was drafted in 2005 (Jordan Farmar was drafted in 2006, but then left for the Nets and the Turkish League). Without adding a least a couple of young pieces through the draft every once in a while, coupled with the new CBA’s harsher restrictions, the Lakers were always going to end up in this position.
Mike D’Antoni wasn’t the reason the Lakers were bad this year. Having to play the likes of Robert Sacre, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall, and Ryan Kelly in crunch time would result in a 27-55 record for almost any coach. The Lakers team this year had less potential and talent than almost any other team in the NBA, 76ers aside. The Lakers need to re-evaluate their medical staff. Mike D’Antoni isn’t the reason people are getting injured. Plenty of other NBA teams play fast and don’t miss 319 games due to injury. I though D’Antoni did a good job of developing some of the younger players this year and did all he could with what he was given.
And if not D’Antoni, then who? Byron Scott seems like a fan favorite, but he’s just another retread former Head Coach who hasn’t had any meaningful success. Kurt Rambis was supposed to be the defensive coach for the team this year and look how that turned out. Mike Krzyzewski isn’t going to leave Duke for this rebuilding job (although if the Lakers draft Jabari…). D’Antoni is simply one of the best options available. That is the reality of the situation. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought there was no way D’Antoni could survive the season. But now, it looks like he has a real chance of coaching this team next season.