With the Los Angeles Lakers' season essentially over—they have five games left and nothing to play for but pingpong balls—much of the speculation has turned to their future coaching situation. But point guard Steve Nash is still in a reflective mood, and he defended the job current head coach Mike D'Antoni has done in L.A. this season, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:
Nash on the job MDA has done w/ LAL:"(Even) John Wooden is not going to be dealt a great hand with all the change & injuries we’ve had"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 8, 2014
For those too young to remember, John Wooden was probably the greatest basketball coach in NCAA history. His UCLA Bruins won 10 national championships in 12 seasons, including seven in a row. The Bruins of the early '70s won a record 88 games in a row. Wooden won the NCAA Coach of the Year award six times, and one of the player of the year awards has been named in his honor.
Clearly, the guy could coach.
But Nash has a point: Even those who dislike D'Antoni would have to concede that this team's failings have more to do with key injuries and an overall lack of talent. Per Bleacher Report's Ethan Norof:
This will go down as worst @Lakers squad since team moved down to Los Angeles. Record reflects pathetic roster. Need big offseason.— Ethan Norof (@Mr_Norof) April 6, 2014
Looking back, the early-season Lakers actually overachieved, posting a 10-9 record on Dec. 6, with franchise cornerstone Kobe Bryant set to return from the torn Achilles suffered at the end of the 2012-13 season. But Bryant played in only six games before suffering a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee that would end his season.
Without a healthy and effective Bryant, this team simply wasn't talented enough to compete in the rugged Western Conference. Per Basketball-Reference.com, only one player, Jordan Hill, has registered at least a league-average score in the win-shares-per-48-minute metric.
Though there has been no official word on D'Antoni's future, McMenamin's sources are indicating that the coach is likely gone after the season, per Lakers Nation:
According to @mcten’s sources, the Lakers are “leaning towards relieving him of his coaching duties at the end of this season."— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) April 8, 2014
No matter who is hired to replace D'Antoni, the Lakers will need to start overhauling the roster immediately. The 2014 free-agent class pales in comparison to 2015, so the club should hope to strike it rich in this summer's draft and build a foundation that will entice big-name players in the coming years.