Mike D’Antoni downplays refuted rumor that John Calipari will coach Lakers

This appeared to provide a temporary distraction from the Lakers’ failed season, their uncertain future and their mostly unwatchable games. Instead, the NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Kentucky and Florida soon morphed into another reminder about all of those elements.

Former Kentucky star Rex Chapman tweeted that Wildcats coach John Calipari would coach the Lakers regardless of the game’s outcome, a Huskies’ 60-54 victory. The Lakers immediately refuted the rumor, saying that Mike D’Antoni remains the team’s head coach. And after spending the past two seasons fielding an injury-decimated roster, mixed enthusiasm for his fast-paced system and mostly non-existent support from a restless fanbase, D’Antoni tried to shrug it all off.

“Don’t worry about it,” D’Antoni said. “It is what it is. That’s the world we live in where before three years ago, there was a rumor one person heard. Now a million hear it.”

That’s because Chapman sent out the following tweet shortly before the Wildcats and Huskies would tip off in college basketball’s most important game.

Nearly just as quickly as it takes to type 160 characters, the Lakers refuted the story.

“I spoke to [General Manager] Mitch Kupchak and he said the rumor is untrue,” Lakers spokesman John Black said. “Mike D’Antoni is our coach. There have been no conversations about any specific names for any replacement.”

D’Antoni remarked “that’s great” the Lakers immediately addressed the situation. But D’Antoni offered more sympathy for the man Chapman believed to be his replacement than his own standing within the organization.

“In today’s world, that’s the way how it’s ran,” D’Antoni said. “You deal with it and I hate it for John more than anybody. That puts an undue pressure before a big game that he doesn’t need to be distracted with. Obviously everybody handles it.”

The Lakers, however, do not have clarity overall on whether D’Antoni will return next season. He is under contract for the 2014-15 campaign for a guaranteed $4 million with a team option the following year. But the Lakers do not plan to evaluate D’Antoni until after the season ends on April 17.

Both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are not fans of D’Antoni’s fast-paced system. Less prominent post players, such as Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill, have remained frustrated with their inconsistent playing time. But plenty of role players have praised D’Antoni for helping their development.

Still, the Lakers (25-52) enter Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets (51-25) at Staples Center destined to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history. A loss tonight would ensure the Lakers with the worst record in L.A. franchise history, an honor once held by the 1974-75 team with a 30-52 record.

“It’s all relative. With the amount of injuries and rebuilding and evaluating different players, I don’t know that any coach can have a successful run this season. Last year had some difficulties as well, but we had winning basketball for some stretches. He deserves credit for that,” said Lakers guard Steve Nash, who played for D’Antoni in Phoenix from 2003 to 2008. “John Wooden is not going to be dealt a great hand with all the change and injuries we’ve had. You look at every week and someone else goes down. It’s a tough situation. I realize he’s not Phil [Jackson], somebody who’s beloved and extremely successful here. But it’s not been a fair fight in some respects.”

But D’Antoni refused to lament the circumstances he inherited.

“You try not to hear the noise. But there, you could not not hear it,” D’Antoni said. “I live in a cocoon, but I live in the same country. So you did hear it. It’s part of our business. If you don’t like that and can’t take it, don’t be in our business. If you can’t get up the next day and do your job, then go find another job. You accept and go with it. What I feel about toward these players and each day how you look at it, that’s bigger than everything else. You try to keep that perspective.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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