ESPN's Stephen A. Smith: Mike D'Antoni Will Be Fired After 2013-14 Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

DENVER, CO - MARCH 7: Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Mike D'Antoni during a game against the Denver Nuggets  on March 7, 2014 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Mike' D'Antoni should start practicing his "I was just fired" strut.

Speaking on ESPN's First Take, Stephen A. Smith suggested that D'Antoni's first full season as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers could also be his last.

"I had a source tell me last night [that] Mike D’Antoni is gone at the end of the season," Smith said (h/t Lakers Nation's Corey Hansford). "He won’t be there [...] I’m just telling you, that’s the word coming out of L.A."

Though Mr. Smith does have a taste for theatrics, his latest claim falls well short of blasphemous and lands somewhere between believable and inevitable.

Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher actually brings word that some Lakers players have already been assured D'Antoni won't be back next season:

There was, however, a second part: “My decision will be based purely on sporting considerations. It couldn’t be any other way. I want to be in a team with a real chance of winning a ring and where I can help compete for it. I would like to win another championship. The financial side comes second at this stage in my career.”

Those “sporting considerations,” a team source says, include who the Lakers head coach is, since much of Gasol’s frustration stems from coach Mike D’Antoni and a system that utilizes Gasol largely away from the basket. At least two other players frustrated with their current roles were told to be patient because the Lakers will have a new head coach next season, sources said, but that could’ve been simply to mollify them for the time being.

All of this comes after general manager Mitch Kupchak held a sit-down with D'Antoni following the team's 48-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Per ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin, however, the meeting was characterized as "normal" by D'Antoni himself.

"I don't remember, to be honest with you," D'Antoni said of the powwow, per Shelburne and McMenamin. "It wasn't anything out of the ordinary other than just talking about different performances, and that's about it."

With only 18 games left to play this season, it's more than unlikely the Lakers show D'Antoni the door before this summer. But over the offseason, all bets are off.

While no one had 2013-14 pegged as a championship year for the Lakers, it has been especially disastrous. Injuries to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, among others, have left the team little more than a forum on which one-year rentals are attempting to secure their next contract.

Under the circumstances, it's no surprise Los Angeles is tied with the Sacramento Kings for the Western Conference's worst record.

It's been a rough season for the Lakers and D'Antoni.
It's been a rough season for the Lakers and D'Antoni.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Lakers defense has been especially problematic, checking in at 26th in efficiency, per Basketball-Reference. Their offense has also been middling at best; they rank 22nd in efficiency.

Scapegoats are usually necessities for a season like this. And when teams like the Lakers are struggling mightily on both sides of the floor, coaches make great patsies.

Smith, however, believes D'Antoni will be canned for a different reason: Carmelo Anthony.

"It’s not coming from the Lakers themselves, but people close to the organization say that Mike D’Antoni is gone because there’s no way that [Carmelo Anthony] would elect to go there if D’Antoni is there," he said on First Take (h/t Hansford). "If D’Antoni is gone, with the cap room they have coming up and Kobe’s imminent return, [L.A.] is a viable option [for Anthony]."

The reasoning there is curious.

Bleacher Report's own Kevin Ding previously reported that Los Angeles is "not planning a free-agent spending spree this summer." Pursuing Anthony would qualify as a spending spree.

If the Lakers have changed their mind and are prepared to sacrifice the ability to sign Kevin Love or Rajon Rondo, among other free agents in 2015, then Smith has a point.

Are the Lakers after Anthony?
Are the Lakers after Anthony?Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Anthony and D'Antoni didn't mesh well during their brief stint together with the New York Knicks. Before resigning, D'Antoni had actually advocated moving him for Deron Williams. To say the chances of Anthony playing under him outside of Olympics basketball again are slim would be a gross understatement.

Whatever the reason, D'Antoni appears to be walking a fine line between keeping his job and unemployment. 

Change is in demand in Los Angeles, where the Lakers are in need of a quick turnaround after this season. Driven to distance themselves from this year and start fresh, be it through free-agency spending binges this summer or next, there's a good chance D'Antoni finds himself among the collateral damage.