Kobe Bryant is a guy who's always had all the answers, but he was genuinely uncertain when asked about the future of Mike D'Antoni, his embattled head coach.
A guest on The Dan Patrick Show, Bryant's responded thusly when asked whether or not D'Antoni had done enough to earn another year at the helm: "I don’t know. It’s been tough on him."
Bryant's never been one to mince words, and he's certainly been critical of D'Antoni when asked about him in the past. It's tempting to read some kind of agenda into Bryant's comments, especially with the way he's been so outspoken about his allegiance to Phil Jackson—both now and at the time D'Antoni was originally hired.
But this isn't any sort of vendetta against the coach for whom he's played just six games this year.
It's honesty, something Bryant always offers up when asked about his coworkers. Still, some viewed his response as a clear signal:
Kobe isn't shy about going to bat publicly for players and coaches he wants to keep. His response on D'Antoni's future wasn't hard to read.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 19, 2014
To be fair, though, Bryant was also very understanding about the complications D'Antoni has faced. Immediately after his initial answer, Bryant added a key qualifier: "He’s been dealing with so many injuries left and right. He hasn’t really gotten a fair deal, a fair shake at it since he’s been here."
Note, too, that Bryant's overall tone wasn't accusatory or angry. If anything, he sounded exasperated—probably because he's been asked that question in one form or another dozens of times this year.
The "I don't know" didn't sound like any sort of subtle criticism. It was impartial, an acknowledgment of just how difficult the circumstances in L.A. have been since D'Antoni showed up.
Think about it: MDA came in with the impossible task of coaching the Lakers while not being Phil Jackson. He was set up to fail, viewed as an unsatisfying backup plan in the minds of most fans. Right away, D'Antoni had to deal with a discontented Dwight Howard, an immediately injured Steve Nash and a roster that didn't fit his offensive style.
It's fair to criticize D'Antoni for failing to adapt, but it's hard to imagine any coach succeeding in his position—and that includes Jackson.
Bryant is heading into an offseason surrounded by plenty of his own uncertainty, as is the entire Lakers organization. It's only fitting that D'Antoni do the same.