Jordan Hill Is Latest LA Laker to Question Return If Mike D'Antoni Is Back

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill (27) battles Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye, back right, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Los Angeles.(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Gus Ruelas

For Los Angeles Lakers big man and free-agent-to-be Jordan Hill, the idea of playing another season under coach Mike D'Antoni is a deal-breaker.

Considering Hill knows it wouldn't actually involve any, well, playing, it's hard to fault his rationale.

"It gets old," Hill said of his fluctuating position in the coach's rotation, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times. "It’s what you can expect, though. It’s not a surprise."

The 26-year-old, and eighth overall pick in 2009, poured in a career-best 28 points on March 27. Three games and five days later, he never once got off the bench during L.A's 124-112 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

While Hill told Medina "it's too early to say" what he'll do when he hits the unrestricted free-agent market this summer, he made it abundantly clear he has no interest in reviving this same role with the Lakers next season.

"Of course not," Hill said, via Medina. "Who would?"

D'Antoni chalked up Hill's wild minutes ride to the former lottery pick simply being on the losing end of the numbers game, via Lakers Nation's Serena Winters:

Peering through a one-year lens might lead an outside observer to the same conclusion. Given the circumstances facing L.A.'s sinking ship (the Lakers are a woeful 25-50 on the season), it makes sense to throw minutes at 22-year-old rookie forward Ryan Kelly and 24-year-old sophomore center Robert Sacre.

Those added minutes have to come at someone's expense, and Hill is one of the unfortunate victims.

Yet, you can't view the situation with that narrow of a focus. Not when Hill and D'Antoni have a history extending well beyond the current season's limits.

Hill saw even fewer minutes (15.8 a night) under D'Antoni in the 2012-13 campaign than he has this season (19.9). D'Antoni also coached the New York Knicks when they drafted Hill and gave the high-energy big man even less playing time then (10.5 minutes) before New York's front office realized this pair couldn't coexist and traded Hill after 24 games.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 4: Head Coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers, along with players Steve Nash #10, Jordan Hill #27 and Kobe Bryant #24, looks from the sideline during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on January 4,
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

If the Lakers come to the same conclusion about this duo, Hill might be the odd-man out again. "Laker management isn’t going to work that hard to keep him," NBC Sports' Kurt Helin wrote of Hill.

Then again, Hill isn't the only current Laker having D'Antoni problems.

Kobe Bryant, who signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension in November, has "no interest" in spending another season under the coach, sources told Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Pau Gasol, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has fired his own shots in D'Antoni's direction:

D'Antoni has one guaranteed year left on his contract, which is more than Gasol and Hill can say. That, combined with the rash of injuries he's had to face in L.A., could keep the coach stalking the sidelines at Staples Center next season.

"The club is leaning toward retaining him despite some privately disgruntled players and massive public disdain," Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding wrote. "It’s not clear which way the organization will go with him."

Ann Heisenfelt

What seems clear, though, is that Hill's days of toiling on D'Antoni's bench are coming to a close.

I'm not sure which one will remain with the team for next season. I'm not even positive that either will be around when the Lakers embark on their long road back to relevance in October.

But it seems a near certainty that both will not return as Lakers in 2014-15. Given their history, that should really surprise no one.


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