Barely three months into his tenure in the Land of Make Believe, D’Antoni’s head is already being called for. If Dwight Howard isn’t not-so-subtly complaining about his coaching methods, then Kobe Bryant questioning the direction of the team. And if Pau Gasol isn’t publicly acknowledging his antipathy for his current role, then people are pointing to Los Angeles’ 12-20 record under D’Antoni as a means to abandon ship.
I’m sure you get the gist and understand why D’Antoni’s job is now about as secure as a cornfield.
Or is it?
Per Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, the Lakers have no intention of showing D’Antoni the door:
There’s plenty of heat and speculation — and plenty for Mike D’Antoni to hash out as far as better utilizing his players, including 2013 free agent Dwight Howard — but I was told Thursday the Lakers are not considering a buyout or firing of D’Antoni as head coach.
The Lakers signed D’Antoni to a three-year contract to replace Mike Brown, who was fired Nov. 9.
D’Antoni is 12-20 as Lakers head coach. With the Lakers’ Jan. 15 victory over Milwaukee, D’Antoni got the 400th career victory of his NBA career — the 42nd in NBA history to do so, 34 of them with winning records, like D’Antoni.
But D’Antoni hasn’t won a game since then. The Lakers’ next chance is Friday night, when they begin a three-game homestand against Utah, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
I’m sure plenty of people are. And I’m also sure even more are irate that Los Angeles isn’t dismissing him, or at least considering it.
But what I’m not sure most people get is that the Lakers’ failures are not on D’Antoni alone—they’re on everyone. It’s not as if Howard is fully healthy and dominating the way he used to, nor is it like Gasol has been open-minded to accepting a role off the bench like Amar’e Stoudemire has. And it’s not as if the Lakers are laden with depth and two-way options either.
Instead, D’Antoni is left coaching an aging, injury-riddled and shallow convocation of athletes who have not been on the court together long enough to learn and subsequently embrace his system or the presences of each other. How is that on him? How is that just on him?
By no means do I feel completely sorry for D’Antoni. The absence of job security is just the nature of the beast in Tinseltown. He should remember as much from his time with the New York Knicks. He also pined and ultimately jumped at the opportunity to take this job, so it’s not as if he is being held in Hollywood against his own will.
But he shouldn’t be forced out of Los Angeles against that very will either.
Broken record style, I feel the need to preach continued patience with regard to the Lakers. Factions of this magnitude take time, especially when the injury bug has hit them harder than most teams in the league.
Is their record acceptable?
Absolutely not. With a payroll that exceeds $100 million, playing sub .500 basketball and toiling with obscurity is inexplicable. And yet, it’s also a testament to how convoluted Los Angeles’ current assembly is.
In the Lakers, we have a roster that is plagued by not only injuries, but inconsistent talent. Aside from Kobe, Howard, Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace, there’s no concrete rotation. And how could there be? Los Angeles (before D’Antoni) pieced together the rest of its roster with a handful of Jodie Meeks’ and Antawn Jamisons’. I mean, you know the Lakers have gotten desperate when Earl Clarks isn’t only playing big minutes, but starting.
That desperation isn’t D’Antoni’s fault. He’s doing the best he can with what he’s been given to work with, and it just hasn’t been good enough, or even close to good enough.
Yet should that cost him his job? Just 32 games into his tenure, should he be unceremoniously canned?
Remember, he wasn’t given a trading camp or even a say in the personnel he was coaching. He needs to at least be given that; he needs to be given into next season to show he has what it takes (or not) and is capable of making the necessary systematic adjustments to get the job done.
Yes, it’s his responsibility to work with what he has, but he didn’t just choose the Lakers, they also chose him. And when that happens, the team–at least to a certain extent—has to be committed to constructing a roster around their coach’s strengths.
Los Angeles hasn’t done that. Not yet, anyway.
And until the Lakers do, there’s no sense in them firing a man who has been given anything but a fair shake up until this point.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.