Updates from Friday, May 8
"Honestly I didn't care," Bryant said Thursday during a guest appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" when asked by Kimmel if he was "happy" that D'Antoni accepted a buyout of close to $2 million for next season rather than come back to coach the team.
"Mike was dealt a really bad hand in dealing with all the injuries that he had here," Bryant said. "This is a tough place, man. If you're not winning, you're not going to survive, man."
The Lakers announced D'Antoni's resignation on Wednesday:
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports that the move is a partial buyout:
Lakers agreed to pay DAntoni more than half of the $4 million he was owed for next season, according to a source.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 1, 2014
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports collected a brief quote from D'Antoni's agent, Warren LeGarie, explaining the primary reason behind the decision:
We've hit an insurmountable inpass and Mike will no longer be the Laker coach- mike D'Antoni's agent warren LeGarie tells yahoo— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) May 1, 2014
Mike D'Antoni wanted his option for the Lakers exercised for the 2015-16. The Lakers have refused to budge which led to D'Antoni resigning.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) May 1, 2014
Ken Berger of CBS Sports provided Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak's take on the decision:
"Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did," Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) May 1, 2014
Magic Johnson was absolutely elated after the news broke:
Happy days are here again! Mike D'Antoni resigns as the Lakers coach. I couldn't be happier!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 1, 2014
The Lakers likely felt parting ways with D'Antoni was necessary in order to distance themselves from the worst season in franchise history.
D'Antoni oversaw a dismal 27-55 finish to the 2013-14 campaign, which also featured devastating injuries to stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, tension between regular trade-rumor target Pau Gasol and the coaching staff and veteran contributor Steve Blake being shipped off at the deadline.
During his two-year tenure with the team, D'Antoni finished with a 67-87 record and a winning percentage of .435. Those numbers are beyond subpar for a club with standards as high as the Lakers.
This move shows that the Los Angeles brass is growing restless with losing and will apparently spare no expense to return to relevancy in the Association.
D'Antoni's signature fast-paced, inside-out, quick-release style of offense never seemed to fit with an aging Lakers roster that Kobe Bryant once bluntly described as "slow," according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles.
One of the main reasons that the 62-year-old originally came on board was due to the marquee acquisition of Nash in the summer of 2012. However, the two were not able to reestablish the rhythm and spacing that made their run-and-gun Phoenix Suns work so well.
Nash, who won two MVP awards playing under D'Antoni in Phoenix, broke his leg in the second game of his first season with the team and was never the same after. He played a mere 65 games overall for Los Angeles, including a grand total of 15 during the 2013-14 campaign.
To make matters worse for D'Antoni, he had to deal with Bryant's uncharacteristic stretch of injuries. Kobe, by far L.A.'s best player, tore his left Achilles tendon prior to the 2013 NBA playoffs. His absence contributed to a quick sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, a series that will be remembered as D'Antoni's ill-fated and only postseason appearance with the franchise.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs next season?
The Black Mamba did return this past season, but mustered only six rusty performances before succumbing to a knee injury that would ultimately end his comeback bid.
Even with the rash of injuries and matters out of the coach's hands, it is somewhat remarkable that the Lakers let D'Antoni linger around so long.
Remember, the club cut ties with former head coach Mike Brown just five games into the 2012-13 campaign. The Lakers went 1-4 during that span, but finished the prior, lockout-shortened season with 41 victories and a conference semifinals appearance. His overall winning percentage was significantly higher than D'Antoni's, and he led the squad deeper into the postseason.
It seemed as though Bryant was never fully committed to playing under D'Antoni. He made it clear that he would have preferred to see Phil Jackson rehired after Brown's dismissal, per ESPN's J.A. Adande:
Kobe made it clear he wanted Phil, but said after game tonight that he let Lakers know he was fine with D'Antoni.— J.A. Adande (@jadande) November 12, 2012
Los Angeles' legion of fans seemed to agree with that sentiment, as you can hear them chanting for the Zen Master in this video before D'Antoni was even under contract:
While Jackson is no longer an option due to his position in the New York Knicks front office, a number of available coaching candidates could help improve this Lakers team drastically over the summer.
Proven coaches like Stan Van Gundy and Lionel Hollins are currently unemployed and could be attracted to the bright lights of Hollywood. Add in a top-10 pick in the loaded 2014 NBA draft and this team's fortunes could be on the verge of changing as soon as next season.