Lakers management took 10 days after the regular season ended to make the decision to bring D’Antoni back for a third season as head coach, which is clearly the unpopular choice among both fans and players.
According to USA TODAY Sports, D’Antoni has concerns about returning for the 2014-15 season without assurance that the club option for 2015-16 will be picked up. D’Antoni does not want to return as a “lame-duck coach.”
Though the Lakers want to bring D’Antoni back, picking up that club option may be the key to the deal. Per insider Sam Amick:
It’s unclear whether D’Antoni will return if the Lakers maintain their current stance that they don’t plan on picking up the option, but the fact that he would like that sort of security should surprise no one who has watched these last two seasons unfold. The former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach was brought in to spice up an offense that had no shortage of weapons when he first arrived early in the 2012-13 season, with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and the rest at his disposal back in those brief halcyon days.
But with Nash enduring seemingly endless injuries since then, Bryant following suit this season and Howard leaving via free agency for the Houston Rockets last summer, D’Antoni was left as the unofficial fall-guy for a fan base that just endured the team’s worst season (27-55) since the Lakers came to Los Angeles in 1960. Even with the $4 million he would earn next season, D’Antoni clearly is hesitant to subject himself to virtual whipping-boy status yet again during what will likely be another rebuilding year.
D’Antoni was rumored to be on his way out of Los Angeles as early as last month. Under D’Antoni, the Lakers finished 27-55, of course without the help of Kobe Bryant for most of the season and both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol battling injuries for most of the year. In all, D’Antoni’s team missed 319 games due to injury, resulting in 35 different starting lineups.
Retaining D’Antoni is expected to play a major role in terms of personnel for next season. One player that has had a rocky relationship with him is impending free agent Pau Gasol.
Earlier this month, Yahoo! Sports reported that Gasol would “listen closely” if the Lakers were interested in bringing him back, largely because of his relationship with Bryant. But his return could be contingent on more than just a friendship. Gasol may be too pricy for the Lakers to re-sign him. And given the fact that Gasol and D’Antoni had “misunderstandings” throughout the course of the season, it seemed unlikely they could co-exist for another year.
It’s not just Gasol whose future with the team may depend on D’Antoni’s return. The Los Angeles Daily News suggests Jordan Hill would want out of Hollywood if D’Antoni returned, and instead he’ll seek an organization with a greater emphasis on big men.
But perhaps the Lakers’ biggest concern should be whether D’Antoni returning will impact 2015 free agency, when Kevin Love hits the open market. Love has long been considered the Lakers’ main target next summer, and the team has made attempts to acquire him from the Minnesota Timberwolves.