The Lakers, currently 14-22, started the season with low expectations. That was even before they were hit with the injury bug for the second straight season which has resulted in inconsistent play and embarrassing losses to some of the NBA’s worst.
Despite the team being tied for the second most losses in the Western Conference, speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak gave his vote of confidence to head coach Mike D’Antoni, expressing his pleasure with the Lakers second-year coach:
“We’re happy with Mike,” Kupchak said Wednesday. “You can look back six weeks ago and say it’s exciting and we’re playing great. It’s hard to ignore the injuries but it was a fun game to watch when we were playing without Kobe [Bryant] and anticipating his return. In other words, ‘Wow, we’re playing this well now and Kobe has still yet to return and neither has [Steve] Nash?’ So we had high hopes.”
Well I’m not sure if many fans will agree with the sentiment as the Lakers have lost 9 of 10 games, I will say that D’Antoni has done a good job with the roster he has had to work with since the start of the season.
Although, one thing about the fans here in Los Angeles, losing is a tough pill to swallow and is unacceptable regardless of the reasons. As Kupchak said, six weeks ago, many were pleased with the performance of the team, but fast forward to today, that feeling has all but disappeared.
The question remains, will injuries to the roster save D’Antoni’s job heading into next season?
We all remember Jim Buss and his vote of confidence for former coach Mike Brown, two days before he was fired. The Lakers started the season 1-4 before Brown was relieved of his duties, but even then, was coaching a roster that had no Steve Nash (hurt in second game versus the Blazers) as well as a rehabbing Dwight Howard, who was not close to 100% after back surgery a few months earlier. If the injury excuse did not save Brown, how long will it save D’Antoni?
In addition, Kupchak commented on the possibility of the team making moves as they move closer to the Feb. 20 trade deadline and was asked what the odds were that Pau Gasol would still be with the team:
“My job is to be the caretaker of this team for this year and going forward,” Kupchak said. “And every move we make, depending upon the makeup of the team and your record at the time, has to be done with vision.
“I don’t know where we’re going to be six weeks from now and certainly we’re going through a very rough time right now, but we’re going to monitor the team closely and look for opportunities to help the team either in the short run or the long term.”
For those who have followed the Lakers closely over the past few years, Kupchak’s answer is an eye opener coming from an individual who stays fairly quiet when asked about player dealings and will usually say he is happy with the team and does not anticipate any moves. His silence regarding Gasol is something that should noted as the team moves forward.
Finally, for the fans that feel the Lakers should “tank” and go for the high lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft, the feeling is not mutual with the front office:
“In any sport, that should never be a factor, whether it’s NBA basketball or football or baseball,” Kupchak said adamantly. “That’s the worst possible message you could send to anybody anywhere, whether it’s a fan or a player or a coach, and we will not do that. Our players will play hard and fight to the very end.”