Armed with the power of a new multiyear extension, L.A. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak insists he doesn’t plan to consult star guard Kobe Bryant about the team’s decision regarding the future of embattled coach Mike D’Antoni.
As the end of his surefire Hall of Fame career careens toward an end, Bryant has previously hinted he isn’t sure if he wants to continue playing in D’Antoni’s up-tempo, yet largely unstructured system. The 35-year-old, 18-year veteran missed all but six games this season, rehabbing from a knee injury and offseason Achilles’ surgery.
But knowing the ultra-competitive Bryant, the biggest sting of all may comes in knowing that the Lakers will not be seeking his opinion on how best to resurrect a franchise in the throes of its worse season in history. With four games remaining, the Lakers’ 53 losses this year already match the most in team history and assure the team of missing out on the playoffs for just the third time since 1976.
While the team’s re-signing of Kupchak is seen as a nod in favor of his decision- making abilities and a reflection of the esteem management still seems to hold him in, nothing could be further from the truth in the case of D’Antoni.
Rumors are the team is leaning toward cutting ties with the veteran coach and speculation has even college coaches John Calipari and Kevin Ollie among the candidates that could replace him. But on Wednesday, Kupchak was only willing to tip his hand where Kobe was concerned.
No matter what the organization ultimately decides to do, he told USA Today of Bryant “we will not consult with him. Our decisions going forward — we’re not going to do knee-jerk stuff. We’ll let the season end, and take some time. And as much as we’d like to be very competitive and competing for a championship next year, it may or may not happen.”
And what of Bryant, how might he handle all the alienation and perceived slights?
“He’ll be fine,” added Kupchak, who has led the Lakers to four championships since taking over as GM 14 years ago. “He’s got no choice. When we lose, he’ll rant and rave and be upset and be hot and won’t talk to anybody, but that’s the way it is. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”