NBA PM: Will Lakers Replace D’Antoni?
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Will Lakers Replace Mike D’Antoni?
As soon as the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Mike Brown to return as their head coach, many people around the NBA were discussing how the hire would impact another team: the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers would have owed Brown about $11 million over the next two seasons, but an offset clause in his contract means L.A. doesn’t have to pay him the full amount now that he’s signing a five-year deal worth $25 million with Cleveland. Whatever the Cavaliers are paying Brown is deducted from what the Lakers owe him. What does that mean for the Lakers? It means Mike D’Antoni likely becomes much easier to fire at the end of the season if the organization is unhappy with his performance.
Throughout the season, multiple league sources felt D’Antoni’s job was safe because they doubted that the Lakers would be willing to pay three coaches (Brown, D’Antoni and their next hire). However, with most of Brown’s deal off the books (depending on how his contract with Cleveland is structured), the Lakers may be able to afford to fire D’Antoni and pay his replacement if they so choose.
The Lakers finished the season 45-37 and clinched the Western Conference’s seventh seed. Injuries played a part in the team’s struggles, but there’s no question that the Lakers underperformed and failed to reach expectations. Not only did the team struggle under D’Antoni, the head coach rubbed a lot of players the wrong way during this time in Los Angeles.
Pau Gasol made headlines earlier this season when he said he would consider asking for a trade next season if D’Antoni were to return as head coach and if his role was the same. He didn’t demand a trade prior to this year’s February 21 deadline, but he did tell the Los Angeles Times that “it would be hard for [him] to deal with another season” under the same circumstances he has dealt with this year.
Dwight Howard has privately expressed his frustration with D’Antoni. Howard has felt underutilized by D’Antoni and he isn’t sure if he fits into his system. This summer, Howard will become an unrestricted free agent. If he tells the Lakers that he’ll only sign a new contract if D’Antoni is replaced, the team will almost certainly side with the superstar center.
Most recently, D’Antoni angered a lot of Lakers fans when he seemingly disrespected Kobe Bryant during several interviews. Bryant, who is resting at home after tearing his Achilles tendon, wanted to remain involved with the team. When Bryant said that he would call the team at halftime, D’Antoni responded, “I’ll be sure to turn my phone off.”
Then, in response to Bryant live-tweeting Game 1 between the Lakers and Spurs, D’Antoni sarcastically said, “It’s great to have that commentary (rolls eyes). He’s a fan right now. He’s a fan. You guys put a little bit more importance on that kind of fan, but he’s a fan.” Bryant wasn’t thrilled with D’Antoni’s comments and tweeted, “A fan?? Lol.” He then pointed out, “If he kept his phone on so I could call him, I wouldn’t have to tweet it.” Who knows if there’s a rift between D’Antoni and Bryant, but fans in L.A. weren’t thrilled with the head coach’s comments.
Mitch Kupchak has said that the Lakers “don’t anticipate any kind of [coaching] change,” but the team also shot down rumors that Brown would be fired just before they let him go. Also, what else is Kupchak supposed to say as the team enters the postseason?
This summer, the Lakers will weigh their options and then decide on D’Antoni’s future. How the team plays in this first-round series against San Antonio will certainly factor into the final decision. However, Brown joining the Cavaliers means that this will be a basketball decision rather than a financial decision.
Marc Gasol Wins Defensive Player of the Year
Today, Marc Gasol was named the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year. He is the first Memphis player to earn this honor and he won the award pretty convincingly, considering this was one of the closer Defensive Player of the Year races in recent memory.
Gasol received 212 of a possible 1,089 points, including 30 first-place votes, from a panel of 121 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. LeBron James (149 points, 18 first-place votes) and Serge Ibaka (122 points, 14 first-place votes) finished second and third, respectively. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote received.
Gasol was one of only six players to average at least 1.5 blocks (1.7 bpg) and 1.0 steals (1.0 spg). The Grizzlies were one of the best defenses in the league this season, holding teams to a league-low 88.7 points per game during the regular season. Gasol’s +5.4 score differential ranked second among NBA centers and Memphis enjoyed a +7.5 score differential when Gasol was on the court compared with -3.9 when he was on the bench.
However, it wasn’t Gasol’s stats that won him the award, it was the fact that he’s one of the smartest defensive players in the league. He’s the quarterback of the Grizzlies defense, constantly shouting out calls, recognizing plays and getting players in position.
Here are all of the Defensive Player of the Year votes (via NBA.com):
|2012-13 Kia Defensive Player of the Year voting|