As the Lakers wind down what has arguably been the worst season in franchise history, fans and media alike are asking what does the future hold for the purple and gold.
The summer of 2014 has been a key point of the Lakers plan to return to prominence for the last few years, it is the reason why a number of players were signed to one-year deals as the free agent class has some significant players that could turn teams drastically into contenders.
While it remains to be seen what the Lakers will do on the player personnel front this offseason, there is one move the team can make over the final two months of the season and it is a necessary one.
Fire Mike D’Antoni.
Now before you start thinking this is another hate-fueled article you read on other Lakers websites, blaming D’Antoni for all the Lakers troubles this season, please note that this is not one of them.
Do I expect the Lakers to be title contenders next season with or without D’Antoni? I would be unrealistic if I said yes without hesitation. The fact is we do not know how the roster will look next season and we are not sure how Kobe Bryant looks in his return (although I would put money on him looking close to the Kobe we have all come to expect).
One thing is for certain, the Lakers cannot go through another season like the one they are currently having.
Firing D’Antoni is not about turning the team around with a single coaching change, nor am I saying another coach would have done a better job with the current roster situation.
What it is about is laying a foundation for future Lakers teams and its success, something that needs to start this summer instead of accepting another season of transition.
If the Lakers were to allow D’Antoni to stay on for one more season, the decision could have a crippling affect on the franchise past next season and here are some reasons why D’Antoni should not be in any plans moving forward:
The thought that players will want to come play for the Lakers because they are the Lakers is no longer viable.
Are the Lakers still an attractive destination? Yes, it always will be because of the tradition and history of legendary players, but make no mistake, it is not viewed the same as it was when Dr. Jerry Buss was running the team.
Will elite players come play for Mike D’Antoni? History says no as the biggest free agent that signed with a D’Antoni led team was Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks in 2010, but also struck out on signing LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.
He is known as a coach that could get role players to play up to their potential but from his time in New York and short-time in Los Angeles, his inability to deal with star players as well as veterans is concerning to say the least. Dwight Howard did what no superstar had done before … leave the Lakers. For whatever reasons that are said about that decision, one constant was his relationship with D’Antoni.
In New York, he eventually wore out his welcome with players such as Carmelo Anthony and even players like Stoudemire, who played for D’Antoni previously in Phoenix.
Looking ahead to 2015, the Lakers are expected to be major players in the Kevin Love sweepstakes but with his recent comments that Minnesota has a better foundation than the Lakers, the team undoubtedly needs to show progress next season in the form of being a playoff team or Love will look at potentially re-signing with the T’Wolves or looking at teams other than the Lakers in his free agency.
The Lakers have never accepted mediocrity. A bad season here and there happens, but there is a reason why the Lakers will miss the playoffs for only the sixth time in franchise history. If the team were to stand pat this summer and accept another year of transition, what message does that send to the players in the league? That’s a very non-Laker message to convey.
The Lakers wouldn’t dare waste $46 million over two years right?
That is what it would do if D’Antoni were to return. His up-tempo system hoped to bring back memories of the Showtime Era but that has not happened despite having the second-fastest pace in the NBA, instead resulting in one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
At this stage in his career, is it wise to put Kobe in a fast-pace system? Logic says no, although I do not doubt Kobe can succeed in any system.
With his recent string of injuries, a half-court system involving Kobe in the post is the best thing for the Black Mamba and the final two years of his career. It would also be nice to have a coach limit Kobe’s minute’s ala Greg Popovich with the Spurs, something D’Antoni has failed to do in his time here.
With the extension given to Kobe, the Lakers made it known this is Kobe’s team and since that is the case, the offensive system should be suited to his abilities at this point and time. To maximize Kobe over the next two years and also preserve his health, a new offensive system needs to be implemented and D’Antoni simply is not going away from what he knows best, the run-and-gun style of play.
The relationship between Gasol and D’Antoni has deteriorated from the day the head coach walked into the practice facility in El Segundo. Feelings expressed both privately and publically have left the two at odds and as we enter this summer, one thing is certain…
One of them will have to go.
There is no scenario where Gasol returns to play in a system that puts post play on the back burner and there is no scenario where D’Antoni adjusts his system to emphasize post play.
While Gasol’s return to the Lakers is not certain even if D’Antoni were to be fired, it certainly increases the chances significantly if it were to happen. Gasol would need to take a pay cut to re-sign with the Lakers and at this point of his career he may have to.
Keeping D’Antoni while letting Gasol leave would also take another close friend of Kobe away and that is something that will not go over well after the Derek Fisher trade from two seasons ago. While the franchise looks to reload, is letting a veteran with championship experience like Gasol a wise thing to do?
Will the Lakers let go of a player who can still produce consistent numbers on the offensive end? Fans have been down on Gasol from the past two seasons but fact remains it is difficult in today’s NBA to find a post player like Gasol who can score, rebound, and pass. While the defense is not there, as long as he is not expected to be a defensive anchor, the Lakers can get by.
Laker fans are a different breed. A very proud fan base, the purple and gold faithful are also a impatient bunch and do not take losing seasons very well.
Attendance has dropped this season and fans have voiced their displeasure through out the season with style of offense, lack of defense, and non-existent passion the team has displayed at different times this season.
As with free agents, if the team were to commit to D’Antoni for one more season, what message is the front office sending to the fans? With a lack of fan support, this franchise loses another defining quality that makes the Lakers the Lakers.
At the end of the day, I ask Laker fans and management alike, if D’Antoni is not part of the solution, what is the point of keeping him around? One thing in sports that is a constant, if the discussion is when a coach will be fired, that situation is already resolved, it is just about when the firing will take place.
For the fans, I understand it is a rough season, but with every bad season, there are another 10-15 better seasons coming for the purple and gold. Be patient although it may be difficult to do so.
For the Lakers franchise, it is time to move out of this dark cloud of uncertainty and frustration. Well firing a coach will not mean much in the short team (this season), it will pay off in the future.
And that is what matters the most.