The Los Angeles Lakers are 25-28 early in February, good enough to be the 10th-best team in the Western Conference. The Purple and Gold have not looked like the seasoned, championship-caliber team that L.A. fans have gotten used to at any point this season.
Still, midseason struggles do not yet warrant another coaching change. I believe that Mike D'Antoni's job should be safe, at least for the remainder of this season.
Changes are soon coming for L.A.'s more storied franchise as it slips further into the shadow of "Lob City." But D'Antoni should get to see this one through.
This Lakers team has not gotten it it together yet because of injuries, lack of depth and media that are hyper-critical of every win and loss.
Phil Jackson could not have foreseen or prevented the myriad injuries that have plagued the Lakers during their 2012-13 campaign. Three of five main Lakers starters have spent so much time out with injury—we're talking about a combined 47 missed games between Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol—to the point where the team hasn't ever looked the same from night to night.
D'Antoni has been the coach for 48 of the team's 53 games this year, owning a record of 24-24. Coach D has only been the coach of this team for half of one season.
Factor in the Lakers' lack of depth—created by front office plans to create a super lineup—and D'Antoni's Lakers resume improves. If you think this is invalid, I invite you to consider the Lakers' 12-man roster. Names include Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks and Robert Sacre. The bench weapons at Mike D'Antoni's disposal are some of the least reliable in the league.
On the flip side, the injuries to star players may provide D'Antoni with a chance to earn his stripes as the team's head coach and leader.
His offensive schemes are not well suited for the Lakers' healthiest lineup, but he may be able to showcase them with smaller athletes who can run the floor better. Without the top-tier talent of Pau Gasol and Howard's health way below expectations, D'Antoni really has a chance to shine as head coach by leading a team through adversity toward the playoffs.
Proving his ability as a coach with limited weapons may signal that D'Antoni can succeed regardless of the personnel. I disagree with coaches who use player-scheme matchups as an excuse, because I personally believe that great coaches can get the best out of their players by catering their strategy to the talent they have available to employ.
In recent weeks, the Lakers have been winning more than losing—eight of the last 11 since January 25—and could still tough out a low playoff seed. That should be enough to keep D'Antoni around.
All optimism aside, Coach D'Antoni's defensive schemes have not proven to work at any point. The Lakers are ranked No. 23 in the league in team defense, a fact that should be a major concern for GM Mitch Kupchak and owner Jim Buss moving forward.
The time may come for a massive overhaul of personnel, and coaches could be in line as well. Now is not that time.
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