It's been a long season for the Los Angeles Lakers, but there might be hope for a turnaround next year.
With the team coming off of an abysmal year in which the team finished well below any hopes of making the playoffs, Kobe Bryant has already left on a plane for France to start his vacation, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
But he didn't leave without sending a message to the fans about expectations for next season:
While Bryant might be back for next season, it looks like he will be returning to a team that cut ties with either Pau Gasol or Mike D'Antoni.
The relationship between the two appears to be severed, and Gasol has zero interest in playing for the Lakers if the coach is retained for the future. Nick Borges of ESPN (subscription required) wrote about that point exactly, citing the marriage between the two as a reason why he'd walk away from the team:
Gasol and Mike D’Antoni have not been on the same page the last two seasons, which is why many think Gasol will leave if the head coach comes back in 2014-15.
"I’d love to play with Kobe Bryant more, because he’s a friend, he’s a winner and he’s a guy that I’ve been through a lot and won championships with," Gasol said. "I would love to play with my brother, but you can’t have everything. Just try to think where is the best position for me to succeed collectively and individually.
With the season over and a lot of decisions to make, it appears Los Angeles wants to keep Gasol around.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak expressed interest in keeping the center around for next season, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Mitch Kupchak told me "there is great interest in re-signing Pau"— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 14, 2014
Should the Lakers cut ties with D'Antoni to keep Gasol?
This decision seems like a simple one—just cut ties with D'Antoni and move ahead. But the question at this point is who would take over in his place?
Inheriting a Lakers team with history and legacy that is coming off of a horrid season doesn't exactly fit under the category of great decisions. On the same note, the team is an aging one with the two best players in Gasol, if he stays, and Bryant, who will be 36 years old when next season starts.
Then there's the fact that Gasol could simply walk away even if the Lakers do axe D'Antoni. Bresnahan brought up the future with Gasol and provides the center's thoughts on staying with the team:
Gasol says there's a chance he'll return to L.A. next season. But..."I have to be picky, put my personal [pro-Laker] feelings aside.”— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 13, 2014
That doesn't exactly exude confidence in what the Lakers are building for the future.
But with cap space to spend in free agency and a high draft pick after a miserable season, Los Angeles has a chance to build with or without D'Antoni, or Gasol, for that matter. But with his ability alongside a healthy Bryant, the Lakers might have one more run in them for respectability.
That won't happen with D'Antoni at the helm.
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