Mike D’Antoni officially stepped down after Los Angeles did not pick up the second year of his contract last week. D’Antoni reportedly asked the squad to pick up the team option on the fourth year of his deal because he only had one year remaining on his deal. The Lakers had a $4 million team option for 2015-16.
General manager Mitch Kupchak issued a statement, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles:
Given the circumstances, I don't know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons. On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.
It was time for Los Angeles to rebuild, and the best way to do that was by going in a different direction.
Will the Lakers return to the playoffs next year?
Los Angeles finished 27-55 this year, which was the worst record in franchise history in an 82-game campaign and the lowest win total since the squad played in Minneapolis. It was also the second-worst winning percentage in Lakers history.
Granted, much of that had to do with the unfortunate injuries that crippled the team, including the one that cost superstar Kobe Bryant the majority of his season. Still, it’s hard to ignore D’Antoni’s 67-87 record since taking over the team, and Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN Boston made it seem even worse when he put it in historical perspective:
Mike D'Antoni is only coach to finish his Lakers career at least 20 games under .500 since the team moved to L.A.— Jeremy Lundblad (@JLundbladESPN) May 1, 2014
The Lakers are too proud of an organization with a rich history of winning to string together losing seasons like this.
Their defense and rebounding were simply atrocious under D’Antoni, as they finished 29th in the NBA in points allowed per game this year at 109.2 and 25th in total rebounds per game at 41.
There are plenty of options for the Lakers to rebuild going forward, but they need to have a better defensive mentality in order to win in the treacherous Western Conference. The 2014 draft class is loaded with talent, and Los Angeles will receive a favorable pick in the lottery, there are a number of elite free agents available this offseason, and Kobe Bryant will be back from injury.
If nothing else, it will be good to get some fresh blood in there on the sidelines in the head coach position if the team will be heading in an entirely new direction next year.
As for D’Antoni, he will likely find a job in the near future.
Yes, his teams universally struggle on the defensive end, but he has led teams to the playoffs before based on offense. Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders brought up the Houston Rockets as a potential destination, although he did so while recognizing D’Antoni’s fatal flaw:
Mike D'Antoni would be interesting in Houston... Rockets might average 150ppg...but still no defense...they would give up 152...— Bill Ingram (@TheRocketGuy) May 1, 2014
Whether D’Antoni is in the league next year remains to be seen, but the Lakers are looking to put the last two seasons firmly in the rear-view mirror. The only way to do that was by going separate ways from the coach.
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