The Los Angeles Lakers have barely resembled an NBA team at times during the season. The injury to team cornerstone Kobe Bryant, coupled with the lack of overall talent on the roster, has led to perhaps the franchise's worst season since moving to California from Minnesota in 1960.
With the Lakers already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in the Western Conference, and Bryant already ruled out for the rest of the season, what is really left to play for in L.A.?
According to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, head coach Mike D'Antoni answered that question. And the players on his roster might not like what he has to say:
The gist here is that the Lakers players on expiring contracts should continue to play hard, if only to secure contracts with European clubs.
The Lakers have virtually no player commitments for next season, which could lead to a massive player exodus. Now, there are some impending free agents who will likely find a NBA suitor, including Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, MarShon Brooks, Kent Bazemore and Jodie Meeks. Nick Young has a $1.2 million player option for next season, and if he feels confident enough not to pick that up, he is likely to latch on somewhere. Chris Kaman hasn't been particularly good this season, but he has size and experience.
But some others, like Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson, have far murkier futures. There might not be a place for them on an NBA roster next season. If that is the case, European clubs would make the most sense, at least financially.
And what of D'Antoni himself? He too could be a goner, per CBS Sports' Zach Harper:
The Lakers have had a lot of turnover with the roster and the coaching staff the past three years. They've seen a lot of players come and go while also going through Mike Brown as a coach and possibly D'Antoni as well if he can't get a vote of confidence from Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. Even though he has dealt with team-killing injuries in his two seasons with the Lakers, he still may not be long for this team.
D'Antoni has roots in Europe, having played and coached there. Perhaps he will take his own advice and find his way there next season.
*All contract data courtesy of ShamSports.
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