Lakers Insider: Why Would L.A. Not Fire Mike D'Antoni? Here's Why (Maybe)

Kevin DingNBA Senior WriterApril 3, 2014

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LOS ANGELES — Judging from the Twitter response to my recent column about Chris Kaman and Mike D'Antoni, the element that really got to many people was the part about the Los Angeles Lakers leaning toward retaining D'Antoni as head coach next season.

As also stated in the column, no conclusion has been drawn by Lakers officials yet. A broader evaluation is planned for after the season, so whoever wants to organize an anti-D'Antoni petition right now, feel free.

The Lakers are already well-aware of the fanbase's general contempt for D'Antoni—along with Kobe Bryant answering, "I don't know," on The Dan Patrick Show when asked if D'Antoni should return.

But the decision whether to fire the coach with one guaranteed year (worth $4 million) left on his contract includes other elements.

If the Lakers continue to focus on 2015 free agency for the more meaningful shift in the team's direction, they are reluctant to bring on a new coach for 2014-15 and commit contractually to another three or four years with that coach while not knowing how he would mesh with the next star player or players.

One option would be to ask Kurt Rambis, D'Antoni's assistant who has not exactly grown into a D'Antoni disciple in his one season away from Phil Jackson, to fill in as head coach for next season. There'd be some possibility of Rambis earning the right to stay on for 2015-16 and beyond. (It'd be familiar territory for Rambis, who was Lakers head coach late in the 1998-99 season before Jackson swooped in for the 1999-2000 season.)

But being short term for Rambis or anyone else is a very awkward position for a coach and for the players he's trying to lead. Would that be better than giving D'Antoni one more season to be a lame duck? Odds are that no matter his inadequacies, there would be more success for his system with many of the same players back, plus Bryant.

The Lakers are also unsure if there is a compelling reason to dismiss D'Antoni, who obviously hasn't succeeded as a communicator or motivator but has been hampered by no training camp last season and even more injuries this season.

Although many Lakers fans just want D'Antoni gone after he has presided over two disappointing seasons, management has to consider the options they have for replacing him. That's the challenge even with all the evidence that he is not a great leader of men.


Rare Road Highlights in the West

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 07:  Steve Blake #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with his teammates after his game-winning three point shot en route to a 99-98 defeat of the Houston Rockets during the game at Toyota Center on November 7, 2013 in Houston, T
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After their 107-102 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, the Lakers have three road games left: Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Clippers, then April 14 at the Utah Jazz and April 16 at the San Antonio Spurs.

For all the competition in the Western Conference this season, one thing has held true for just about everyone in the West: They win when the Lakers come to town. (Or come to their home court, given the Clippers won by 36 in their previous home date with the Lakers on Jan. 10.)

The Lakers are 4-19 in road games (.174) within the Western Conference. There have been so few West road victories that all of them stand as fairly memorable for the Lakers:

Nov. 7 at Houston: Steve Blake's three-pointer at the buzzer, off a dual pick from Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, won the first game against the departed Dwight Howard.

Dec. 6 at Sacramento: A rally in the fourth quarter behind a previously struggling Gasol moved the Lakers to 10-9 on the season—one rare stat of pride—before Bryant's highly anticipated season debut the next game.

Dec. 17 at Memphis: Bryant played well through his fractured knee and delivered a victory in what wound up being his final game of the season.

March 3 at Portland: A 107-106 victory was secured by Kent Bazemore's inbounds lob pass to Wesley Johnson and then Jodie Meeks' stop of Damian Lillard.


Question for Kaman: Why Are You Here?

Gus Ruelas

For all the logic that D'Antoni's system is an ill fit for Kaman—something we predicted as far back as the start of training camp—Gasol's decent health this season stands as the real reason Kaman has endured such a lost season.

I asked Kaman why he thinks the Lakers signed him to D'Antoni's team, paying him $3.2 million, which is more than any of the other free agents they added last summer. Kaman's reply: "That's a good question I can't really answer. I don't really know."

I said I thought it was because the Lakers really just wanted him as insurance for Gasol, who played 42 of 82 games last season and was coming off significant procedures to both knees with tremendous NBA and international mileage on his body. Gasol was also going to be a constant trade candidate.

The Lakers were desperate for a veteran big man upon Howard's exit, and it wasn't really intended for Kaman to play much next to Gasol for D'Antoni, given their defensive inactivity.

"I don't know," Kaman said. "That's not what they told me. They told me I was going to play. I didn't think about insurance (for Gasol). I didn't even think about it until you brought it up, to be honest. It's an interesting topic."

Gasol has played 60 out of 75 games this season, and it was only upon Gasol suffering vertigo that Kaman's streak of 10 games without getting off the bench ended last week.


Kevin Ding covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.