Speaking with Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said that he fully expects D'Antoni to remain the team's coach through the 2013-14 campaign:
After the Los Angeles Lakers rallied to beat the Houston Rockets 99-95 in overtime to clinch the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak confirmed that head coach Mike D'Antoni will return next season.
"I think under the circumstances, Mike did a great job. We don't anticipate any kind of a change," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
"No training camp, all the injuries, through the end of the season he's done a great job."
What Kupchak divulged isn't going to sit well with those who continue to feel slighted by the Lakers selecting D'Antoni over the Zen Master earlier this season. His assessment is likely to spur even more of a negative reaction from those who remain convinced that D'Antoni rode Kobe Bryant into the ground.
Still, there is a case to be made for D'Antoni.
Los Angeles was 17-25 to start the season. Magic Mike navigated the team to a 28-12 finish (including a five-game win streak to close out the season) and a playoff berth. Seventh place isn't normally conducive to a $100 million payroll, but given what the Lakers were up against, we must give credit where it is due.
And yes, D'Antoni relied heavily on Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace, but isn't that what they were there for?
D'Antoni is not known for utilizing his bench, but we'd be lying if we asserted the Lakers had a bench to use. Who was he supposed to give extensive minutes to outside of Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Earl Clark? Chris Duhon? Robert Sacre?
The Lakers spent most of the season drowning in injuries. Key components logged heavy minutes out of necessity. Kobe himself has told us that much. Therefore, berating D'Antoni for doing what he had to do—when the alternative would have been missing the playoffs—is ludicrous.
Mistakes were made along the way, but that's the risk you run with any coach. What matters is he proved open to change.
Gasol isn't still riding the bench as the sixth man. The ball is running through the post more, and Howard and Gasol are battling together. D'Antoni has made adjustments, even when they contradicted everything his systematic approach represents.
He's not perfect, but no one is. Not even Jackson.
And while we still don't even know if D'Antoni is the right man to guide a healthy Lakers faction, he at least deserves a full training camp and an additional year to make a case for himself.
After what he's done this season, whether you realize it or not, he's earned that much.
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