Mike D’Antoni has come under fire from Kobe Bryant and other Lakers players this season, and while the team hasn’t decided whether to keep the coach for next season, they’re leaning toward retaining him, according to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding. The Lakers will apparently make their final decision quickly after the regular season, which ends two weeks from tonight.
Bryant was vague in his assessment of D’Antoni in a recent radio interview, saying that he didn’t know whether the coach deserved to return but adding that D’Antoni hasn’t gotten “a fair shake” because of all the injuries the club has dealt with during his tenure. An earlier report indicated that Bryant had “no interest” in playing for the coach any longer. Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol, both free agents at season’s end, also reportedly would like to see D’Antoni go, and Hill said Tuesday that he won’t return unless his role changes. Chris Kaman, another of the many soon-to-be free agents on the Lakers, has been critical of his limited playing time on multiple occasions, but a chat with D’Antoni’s agent Tuesday prompted the center to offer defense of the coach Tuesday, as Ding passes along.
D’Antoni and his alma mater, Marshall University, are said to have mutual interest, but it would seem highly unlikely that D’Antoni would walk away from the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Lakers if they decide to bring him back. It’s nonetheless been a trying time in L.A. for the one-time darling of the coaching profession, whose vaunted small-ball attack has failed to deliver wins and bred resentment from players who don’t fit with the scheme.
The Lakers hired D’Antoni instead of popular former coach Phil Jackson early last season, drawing the ire of their fans, and the team failed to recover from a slow start that cost Mike Brown his job after only five games in 2012/13. The Spurs swept the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the Lakers tumbled to new lows this year, as they sit at 25-49, in danger of setting a franchise record for losses. D’Antoni is 65-81 as coach of the team.