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Kobe Bryant Reportedly Has 'No Interest' in Playing for Mike D'Antoni in 2014-15

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Tyler ConwayFeatured Columnist IVDecember 15, 2016

Kobe Bryant may slowly be realizing his mortality from a physical standpoint, but age seemingly hasn't affected his trademark unrelenting and demanding leadership style. 

If that means Mike D'Antoni has to lose his job, so be it. According to a report from Sporting NewsSean Deveney, Bryant has told people behind the scenes he has "no interest" in playing for D'Antoni in 2014-15.

With the Lakers sitting at 22-42 and tied for last place in the Western Conference, D'Antoni's job status has been the subject of much speculation. Many would point out D'Antoni has done an admirable job despite a dilapidated roster, but Bryant's focus seems to be on winning now rather than building on the little promise this team has shown.     

ESPN's Dave McMenamin provided a statement from Bryant discussing the future of the Lakers front office:

I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team. What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there and from there, you can start building out your team accordingly.

[...]

You got to start with Jim. You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out. It starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff and what Mike (D'Antoni) is going to do, what they're going to do with Mike and it goes from there. It's got to start at the top.

There are also schematic issues at hand. Bryant's more iso-heavy, ball-dominant style clashes with the rapid-fire, pick-and-roll emphasis within D'Antoni's system. The coach showed a willingness to meld both styles before Bryant's season-ending Achilles injury last season, but his struggles to field a competitive team with No. 24 out have made him persona non grata.  

Whether Bryant should wield such power is another question entirely. Before this news broke, the Lakers announced the 16-time NBA All-Star would officially miss the rest of the season due to his fractured knee. Recovery, initially expected to take six weeks, has been slow, and the team understandably doesn't want to risk reaggravation in a lost season.

In a meeting with reporters after the announcement, Bryant was typically candid in his remarks. He said he believed that, even if he's not at peak form next season, he'll be akin to the dominant scorer we've come to know. And when asked whether he would be willing to play through another disappointing season as part of a long-term rebuilding project, Bryant indicated he had "not one lick" of patience going forward:

How can I be satisfied with it? We're like 100 games under .500. I can't be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for. A lot of times, it's hard to understand that message if you're not a die-hard Laker fan. It's hard to really understand where we're coming from, what we're used to, what we're accustomed to, which is playing for championships. Everything else is a complete failure. That's just how it is.

Coupled with the disgust of losing, Deveney's report is noteworthy given the happenings in New York City. The Knicks and former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson have been engaged in a particularly public negotiation over the last week, as New York attempts to give Jackson control of basketball operations. Carmelo Anthony told reporters Wednesday that Jackson will be coming "on board" (via ESPN), though neither side has made anything official at this time.

There has been a sentiment that Jackson's public flirtation with the Knicks was to force the Lakers' hand. Jackson is engaged to Lakers president Jeanie Buss, the daughter of late team owner Jerry Buss. While the overwhelming odds are that Jackson lands in New York, one could interpret this as a quiet nudging from Bryant to bring back his old coach—even if it remains a long shot. 

Jan 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; NBA coach Phil Jackson (left) and actor John Lithgow watch the game between the UCLA Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Jackson, who has insisted he's retired from coaching, nearly came back to the Lakers bench last season before getting passed over for D'Antoni. In a recent interview with USA Today's Sam Amick, Jackson said he thought the late Dr. Buss ultimately made the surprising decision. Bryant seemed disappointed, though, that Jackson could entertain joining any other franchise.

"You know how I feel about Phil," Bryant said. "I have so much admiration for him, and respect, and have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don't really get it."

Lakers legend Magic Johnson also took to Twitter to relay his thoughts on Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and the current state of the Lakers organization:

Whether he's pushing for a Jackson return or not, all signs point to a messy divorce with D'Antoni. The oft-criticized coach isn't typically one to mince words when these reports come out, and he's certainly not above spats with players that don't always stay in-house. He and Pau Gasol have been throwing public barbs back and forth for more than a year.

With Bryant signed, sealed and delivered for $48.5 million over the next two seasons, it looks like he wields the stick. The Lakers may slowly be reconsidering whether that's a good thing.

 

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