Mike D'Antoni is planning ahead.
Although it's unknown whether the Los Angeles Lakers want their head coach to return for next season, USA Today's Sam Amick brings word that D'Antoni is pushing the Lakers to exercise his 2015-16 option. Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears confirms that D'Antoni has more than his status for 2014-15 on the brain:
Magic Mike signed a three-year deal with the team in November 2012 that has a club option for a fourth season. With D'Antoni fully aware of how precarious his job status is, Amick says he's looking for some security:
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, D'Antoni is has some concerns about returning as a lame-duck coach and is pushing for the 2015-16 option to be picked up. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the discussions.
It's unclear whether D'Antoni will return if the Lakers maintain their current stance that they don't plan on picking up the option, but the fact that he would like that sort of security should surprise no one who has watched these last two seasons unfold.
So much for D'Antoni showing himself out.
The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence reported earlier this month that the Lakers were looking for a "peaceful" way to end things with D'Antoni, since they preferred not to fire him. At the moment, it doesn't seem like he's going to make things easy on them.
This is an interesting ploy on D'Antoni's part. The extra year's worth of security would mean the world to a coach who has spent the last year or so occupying one of the hottest seats in basketball.
Blame has been attributed to him for Dwight Howard's departure. D'Antoni's offense is notorious for marginalizing big men, and his system didn't figure to be a good fit for Superman.
To a lesser degree, the Lakers are now facing a similar situation with Pau Gasol, who will enter free agency this summer and hasn't hesitated to point out that D'Antoni's system isn't ideal for him.
"I've never concealed the fact that D'Antoni's style doesn't suit my game," Gasol wrote on his official website, via Lakers Nation. "Everybody knows this. I don't know if my decision will be swayed by whether Mike stays or leaves. Obviously, the coach is a very important factor for any team."
Whatever the Lakers decide to do with D'Antoni, Gasol's stance will play only a minor role. Pushing 34, he doesn't factor into their long-term future. D'Antoni's fate is tethered to what the Lakers wish to do beyond next season, not just this summer.
Injuries and a below-average roster have ensured D'Antoni hasn't gotten a fair shake in Los Angeles. Neither Steve Nash nor Kobe Bryant were healthy this season, and the Lakers weren't built to make the playoffs without them.
But investing an extra year in his services is difficult. Sticking with him through next season is justifiable. Committing to him for another two years even though D'Antoni has yet to prove he's the right man for the job would be puzzling on the team's behalf.
"It's not for me to decide," D'Antoni told Amick of his future in early April.
If the Lakers decide to placate D'Antoni's request and pick up his option, it's more likely a ploy of their own. While it may guarantee he sticks with them through 2014-15, it promises nothing for 2015-16, other than he's going to get paid.
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