OKLAHOMA CITY –Uncertain and difficult times await, and the issues go far beyond whether the Lakers (22-42) can somehow duplicate their upset earlier this week against the Oklahoma City Thunder (47-17) with a road game here tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The outcome hardly changes the Lakers destined to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history. But what about their future? Kobe Bryant openly challenged the Lakers’ front office to stay aggressive this offseason instead of settling for another rebuilding year. He also called out Lakers executives Jim and Jeanie Buss to improve their relationship, partly strained ever since the Lakers passed up Phil Jackson last November in favor of Mike D’Antoni to coach five games into the season.
“They’ll do what’s best for the franchise. They’ve always done that,” D’Antoni said on Thursday “They’ve always been active in what they’re trying to do and plan. I don’t see any conflict of what he said and what they’ll do. Obviously everything has a timetable.. Jim and Mitch have to do what’s available and what’s best for the franchise.”
But what will that entail?
Bryant hardly sounded thrilled about the prospect the Lakers sign minimum level talent simply to save up for the talented 2015 free agency class, mindful that his two-year, $48.5 million extension ends following the 2015-16 season. But the Lakers don’t expect LeBron James to leave the Miami Heat if he opts out of his contract. The Lakers aren’t thrilled about Carmelo Anthony should he opt out of his deal with the Knicks. The Lakers wouldn’t want to spend a max-level contract on Cleveland’s Luol Deng and on Toronto’s Kyle Lowry.
So where does that leave the Lakers?
“He feel he doesn’t have the time left to wait a year or two to rebuild. That’s understandable how he feels about it,” Lakers guard Jordan Farmar told this newspaper. “He wants to go out with a chance to win a championship and will work hard and get back and healthy and get back at it again next year. His impatience is understandable.”
“It’s tough. It’s going to be very tough,” Farmar said. “If anybody can get it done, it’s the Lakers organization. They’ve done it in the past. The organization has a whole is committed toward winning all the time.”
So where does that leave D’Antoni?
“It’s not my place to have a sense,” D’Antoni said. “My job is to finish the year as good as I can and develop these guys and get consistency in guys and everybody huddles at the end of the year and we’ll see what happens. To me, it’s a non issue. I do my job and go on.”
He went 40-32 last season and oversaw the Lakers getting swept in the first round to San Antonio amid endless injuries and overlapping player and coach player agendas regarding roles as well as his style and pace of play. The Lakers have experienced relatively less drama this season and have more role players eager to adopt D’Antoni’s small-ball system. But frustrations have loomed among Bryant, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman regarding his style of play. D’Antoni is under contract for next season worth $4 million followed by a team option for the 2015-16 season. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has continuously given D’Antoni a public vote of confidence, but the Lakers declined to make him available following Bryant’s press conference.
“They’ve been great with me,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t sense anything.”