Report: Lakers Not Considering Firing D'Antoni Despite Franchise's Worst Loss

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterMarch 8, 2014

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Mike D'Antoni's job as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers is safe.

For now, anyway.

According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met separately with D'Antoni and team owner/vice president of player personnel Jim Buss following L.A.'s 142-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. D'Antoni, though, assured the local media that his powwow with Kupchak was nothing out of the ordinary, via McMenamin:

The defeat that prompted the sitdown wasn't just the worst in the Lakers' rivalry with their Staples Center co-tenants; it was the worst ever suffered by the Purple and Gold in their illustrious 66-year history, dating back to their days in Minneapolis.

A loss like that—the latest low point in a disastrous 21-41 season full of them—would seem straw enough to break D'Antoni's back. But management was reportedly more concerned with figuring out ways to get this threadbare team back to playing something more closely resembling NBA basketball than with contributing even more entropy to an already chaotic situation by letting go of the one Laker who hasn't been hurt this season.

Injuries up and down the roster have given D'Antoni plenty of cover from the stench of this ongoing catastrophe. No Laker has played in every one of the team's games this season; Wesley Johnson has come the closest, with 62 out of a possible 63 games under his belt as of Friday.

Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have been foremost among L.A.'s wounded, walking and otherwise. Bryant missed the first month-and-a-half of the campaign while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, and returned to head trainer Gary Vitti's care shortly thereafter upon fracturing the tibial plateau in his left knee.

Nash, meanwhile, has been battling the very same nerve problems in his back and legs that sprung up after he fractured his left fibula on Halloween of 2012—and has been documenting the whole process for Grantland, at that.

EL SEGUNDO, CA - DECEMBER 3:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks to get open against Steve Nash #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers during practice on December 3, 2013 at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Those two future Hall-of-Famers have combined to play just 16 games in 2013-14. With just under six weeks left before the regular season comes to a close, neither seems likely to set foot on the hardwood again until next fall.

In their stead, D'Antoni has been left to sift through a "Who's Who" of "Who's That in the Backcourt," from well-traveled veterans (Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, Nick Young) to young benchwarmers (Kent Bazemore, MarShon Brooks, Xavier Henry) to straight-up D-Leaguers (Kendall Marshall, Manny Harris).

A coaching staff of Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and John Wooden would have a tough time figuring out how to win games with this rotating collection of castoffs around an aging Pau Gasol.

That doesn't mean D'Antoni won't get the ax at season's end. Like everyone, coach and player, D'Antoni will be evaluated by the organization's higher-ups once the current campaign has (mercifully) come to an end in mid-April.

If finances are of any concern to the NBA's second-richest franchise, D'Antoni will probably be back next season—much to the chagrin of his ever-growing list of detractors. The Lakers signed D'Antoni to a three-year, $12 million deal (with a team option for a fourth year) after firing Mike Brown five games into last season.

Chances are, they'd be loath to pay two guys named Mike to stay away and splash cash at another coach who they deem to be more worthy of the team's timeless brand.

And it's not as though L.A.'s latest loss to the Clippers (the Lakers' sixth in their last seven in the Hallway Series), as dark and stormy as it was, came without a silver lining. The result moved the Lakers back into sole possession of last place in the Western Conference.

That's a terrible place to be right now, but come lottery day, it could land the Lakers a top-five pick in what's expected to be a loaded 2014 NBA draft. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times noted that whatever positive effect an in-season coaching change might have would likely offset the "reward" for mediocrity the Lakers would be due:

There is no point in installing an interim coach in a season that has become such an epic fail that now the more losses, the better for draft lottery purposes. So what if Kurt Rambis or Johnny Davis could help the team net five more victories; they would come at the expense of precious pingpong balls.

If nothing else, the D'Antoni-led drubbing appears to have piqued the interest of a certain serpentine constituent:

What that might mean for D'Antoni's tenure in L.A. beyond this season is another story entirely. For now, though, forlorn Lakers fans can only hope that the remainder of the 2013-14 season flies by in Seven Seconds or Less.

Misery loves company...on Twitter.


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