Dating back to last year, the circumstances of the Los Angeles Lakers hiring Mike D’Antoni seemed a little strange. Public perception was that the Lakers might re-hire Phil Jackson after Mike Brown was quickly ousted. But when D’Antoni was quickly tabbed to fill the Lakers’ head coaching role, it became clear that management didn’t want to be under Jackson’s thumb once again.
But even if they didn’t want Jackson assuming his over-expanded role, picking D’Antoni was still a strange choice. He later admitted that he never spoke with Dr. Jerry Buss before the hiring and couldn’t believe that they gave him the job. This didn’t seem to be a popular choice among fans, but given D’Antoni’s resume, it wasn’t the worst choice either.
He led Los Angeles to a 40-32 record in his shortened season, despite fighting an impossible battle to gel parts like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant’s season-ending achillies tendon injury wiped out any hope of a deep playoff run. In fact, Los Angeles looked totally outmatched when San Antonio swept them in the first round.
The offseason didn’t do D’Antoni any better since Buss died, Howard went to Houston in free agency and Bryant was set to miss the first few weeks of the 2013-14 season. But D’Antoni certainly didn’t spend any time whining, instead coaching L.A. to a 10-9 record to start the season. This was actually a pretty amazing coaching job when one considers that Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash all spend time on the injury list.
With a winning record and Bryant returning from injury, things were looking up for the Lakers. But then Bryant got injured once again, leaving his team down a 16-time All-Star. Still, the team pressed on and managed to sit at 13-13 and within striking distance of the playoffs. This will no doubt be the Lakers’ peak, though, because they’ve since lost 17 out of their last 20 games.
This stretch has not only put L.A. out of playoff contention in the loaded Western Conference, but it’s also put D’Antoni on a very hot seat. Sure they’d still have a shot at the postseason if they were in the East, but they’re not. This team is now simply hoping to avoid the Pacific Division cellar, a spot which they currently tie for with Sacramento.
Looking at Los Angeles’ 16-30 record, there’s more than enough reason to fire Mike D’Antoni at this point. This is the Lakers after all and they’re not satisfied with losing. Of course, we merely need to look at all of the team’s injuries to make excuses for keeping D’Antoni a while longer. It seems that L.A. management is now facing a very tough decision with the guy whom they mysteriously chose as their coach last year.