With the 2014 NBA draft approaching, the Los Angeles Lakers have still yet to find their head coach, and rumors about both the coaching search and the No. 7 overall pick continue to spread throughout the Association.
Only two vacant head coaching positions remain, with the jobs open for the Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The New York Knicks most recently filled their vacancy by hiring former Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, as he'll be joining another former member of the Lakers in Phil Jackson.
As the offseason continues to drag on without a new Lakers head coach, let's take a look at some of the newest rumors regarding both the NBA draft and the team's coaching search.
Are the Lakers Intentionally Delaying the Coaching Search?
Many people have criticized the Lakers for taking this long to find a new head coach. Potential candidates like Fisher, Steve Kerr, Stan Van Gundy and even Mark Jackson have found new jobs in some form or another, leaving the Lakers with few options.
Apparently, that might have been the Lakers' plan all along.
The slow pace of the Lakers' coaching search that began April 30 when Mike D'Antoni resigned has been timed deliberately with the upcoming free agency period in the NBA, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Specifically, the idea that the Lakers could beat the odds and land the likes of the Heat's LeBron James, the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony or any of the other superstars who may be free agents on July 1 has led the Lakers to plod through their process so as to not limit their potential options.
The idea that the Lakers could recruit someone like LeBron or Carmelo isn't impossible. Both players may return to their current teams, but they both have the option to opt out of their current contracts and become free agents.
The Lakers will have plenty of money to spend to try to bring in one of these big names. According to Eric Pincus from the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers will have an estimated $28.2 million in cap space for next season.
Still, having input on who will be the next head coach likely won't be enough to convince one of these superstars to come to Los Angeles unless the team can back it up and make the case that they can be a potential contender for an NBA title in the near future.
Mitch Kupchak Reportedly Reaches Out to George Karl
There have been more than a few names tossed around as potential candidates for the Lakers coaching job, but now former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl is in the conversation.
Mark Medina from the Los Angeles Daily News confirmed reports from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that Karl had talked with general manager Mitch Kupchak, but that it was an informal phone conversation and not an official interview:
Can confirm @ramonashelburne nugget that George Karl talked with Mitch Kupchak— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 3, 2014
George Karl hasn't had an interview w/ Lakers yet. Just had an informal phone conversation w/ Mitch Kupchak— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 3, 2014
Karl most recently coached with the Nuggets, where he had plenty of regular-season success. During his last season in Denver, he led the team to a 57-25 record and won the NBA Coach of the Year award, but was fired after the season, leaving the team with a 423-257 record.
While he's had plenty of success in the regular season, Karl struggled to lead the Nuggets past the first round of the postseason. In fact, in nine seasons in Denver, he only led them out of the first round once, back in 2009 when they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers.
Considering the rumors that the Lakers may be trying to bring in Carmelo, it would be interesting to see how he'd respond if the team named Karl their new head coach. Karl is just another name in the hunt right now, however, as it's unclear who has the best chances of being the new coach.
Lakers Looking to Trade No. 7 Overall Pick
This year's NBA draft class is littered with promising young talent, but the Lakers may be willing to part ways with the No. 7 overall pick if they can get a big-time player in return.
ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) wrote that the Lakers are reportedly shopping their first-round pick, saying:
The Lakers keep shopping this pick but are struggling to find an All-Star caliber big in return. If the Cavs can’t get that type of player with the No. 1 overall pick, the Lakers are probably not getting it at pick No. 7. If the Lakers keep it, they’ll want a player who can come in and contribute from day one, and three players — Randle, Smart and Doug McDermott — seem to be the targets.
The No. 7 overall selection could be a very tempting pick for teams to try to trade for. The big three in Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will be gone by then, but names like Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon could all be up for grabs with that selection.
There is a chance that this report is a smokescreen. After all, with Pau Gasol and others set to hit free agency, the Lakers desperately need some frontcourt help, and there will be at least one of the promising power forwards available with this pick.
On the other hand, the Lakers may want to bring in another potential All-Star to pair with Kobe and try to convince either LeBron or Carmelo to join forces and create a new Big Three in Los Angeles. Either way, the rumors that the Lakers are shopping their first-round pick will make things a bit more interesting as the draft approaches.