A week after raising the need for the Lakers to have clarity soon on where coach Mike D’Antoni stands, Kobe Bryant he remains unsure on if he should stay beyond this season.
“I don’t know,” Bryant said Wednesday on “The Dan Patrick Show.” “It’s been tough on him. The two years that he’s been here, he’s been dealing with so many injuries left and right. He hasn’t really gotten a fair deal, fair shake at it since he’s been here.”
The Lakers haven’t told D’Antoni that his job in jeopardy. But the Lakers also do not plan to evaluate D’Antoni until after this season ends next month, which will end with a missed playoff appearance for only the fifth time in franchise history.
Plenty of complicating variables remain, including how the Lakers assemble the roster and if they’re willing to fork over the $4 million D’Antoni is owed next season even he doesn’t coach. D’Antoni has two years left on his contract, but the Lakers have a team option on his final season.
The Lakers finished last year with a 45-37 record and went 28-12 to close out the season. But the Lakers lost in a first-round sweep to San Antonio amid Bryant’s season-ending injury to his left Achilles tendon and philosophical differences between D’Antoni and his premier post players in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. The Lakers (22-44) enter tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs (50-16) at Staples Center fielding serious injuries to Bryant (fractured left knee), Steve Nash (nerve irritation in back) and Jordan Farmar (strained right groin) and a roster full of role players that lacked significant breakout seasons with other teams.
Meanwhile, D’Antoni’s struggles exacerbated considering the Lakers surprisingly hired him over Phil Jackson to replace Mike Brown five games into last season. To this day, a large segment of Lakers fans have trouble processing the team passing over Jackson, who won five of his 11 NBA championships with the Lakers.
“That makes two of us,” Bryant said. “I don’t really understand it much either. But I think what we can do as players is trust the organization.”
Still, Bryant expressed skepticism last week when he called out executives Jim and Jeanie Buss to improve their relationship, which was strained partly because of Jackson being passed up. Jackson has been engaged to Jeanie, who serves as the team’s president and vice president of business operations. Jimmy oversees the Lakers’ basketball operations.
“I’ve had conversations with Jimmy, and Jimmy’s really adamant about the direction he wants to go with this organization,” Bryant said. “He feels really confident he can turn it around. Him and Jeanie seem to be really focused on getting on the same page and being on the same page and pushing this organization to have the same legacy their father was able to maintain for so many years.”
Patrick didn’t sound as if he bought Bryant’s apparent optimism.
“It’s hard. It’s hard to really see that in this type of situation when the future seems really bleak,” Bryant said. “It’s tough to have that faith and trust. But it’s what you have to have. I’ve been in this organization since I was 17 years old. I’ve known Jimmy and Jeanie. They bleed purple and gold and want to do the right thing for the organization. When you have people that passionate like you are, it’s just about communication and going forward in the same direction. I have no doubt that will happen.”
Bryant also downplayed any doubt he will recover fully from his fractured left knee, which he says he could play on if the Lakers were in playoff contention.
Even though he played in only six games this season, Bryant believes the extensive time off to rest and heal his 35-year-old body will allow him to turn back the clock.
“I personally think you’re going to see the same old Kobe you’re used to seeing, the Kobe that was present after the all Star break after last season,” Bryant said. “I never had a whole year to get with this much time off to recover and rest and to get stronger.”
Bryant’s also never been on a Lakers team this bad. Bryant, who is helping the White House’s effort in promoting President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, even insisted the Commander in Chief could make the Lakers’ current lineup.
“That’s not a knock or dissing the current roster we have,” Bryant said. “It’s more of a sign of respect and skill that the President possesses.”
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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org