Kobe Bryant sympathetic for Mike D’Antoni, but unsure if coach should stay

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.”
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Mike D’Antoni disagrees with Pau Gasol’s critiques on small ball & lack of discipline

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni looks in the direction of the scoreboard while playing the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. The Pacers won 118-98. (A

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni looks in the direction of the scoreboard while playing the Indiana Pacers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. The Pacers won 118-98. (A

MEMPHIS, Tenn.–Just outside the Lakers’ locker room stood Mike D’Antoni, rolling his eyes and looking annoyed

“We want a certain type of basketball and we’re trying to establish that and put everything into it,” D’Antoni said. “Our numbers clearly say that when you spread the floor and move the ball and get up and down the floor, we have a lot better chance to win.”

Inside the Lakers’ locker room stood Pau Gasol, visibly irked and audibly frustrated.

“If we want to continue to play small, we have to play to that advantage and utilize our quickness,” Gasol said. “If you get outrebounded by 20 rebounds, I don’t care who you are or what you do it’s not going to work and we’re not going to win.”

Gasol uttered those words following the Lakers’ 118-98 loss Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers where the Lakers were outrebounded 62-42. D’Antoni issued his response just before the Lakers played the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday here at FedEx Forum.

Unsurprisingly, Gasol and D’Antoni remain as far apart as the cities the Lakers traveled on consecutive nights. Gasol sounded upset with D’Antoni’s basketball philosophies. D’Antoni seemed annoyed about Gasol sharing his critiques publicly.

“The thing I don’t appreciate is, I think every coach, you keep it in house,” D’Antoni said. “It’s very easy to come over and talk about your frustrations. We’ll try to work something out and figure something out. To go to you guys and do it in the papers, that’s disturbing. I don’t think that’s the way to go. I understand we’re all trying to solve the same problems. So let’s put our head together and do the best we can.”
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Mike D’Antoni to spend remaining games seeing how players fit into team concepts

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni during their game against the Thunder at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Thursday, February 13, 2014. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni during their game against the Thunder at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Thursday, February 13, 2014. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers aren’t winning the NBA championship this season. They’re not making the NBA playoffs, either.

So what are they playing for in their remaining 28 games? OK, so if you break down the mathematics, the Lakers (18-36) could take the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference if a number of scenarios happen. 1. The Lakers nearly go undefeated. 2. Oklahoma City (43-18) coughs up no more than two wins through the rest of the season. The Lakers could technically make the playoffs, assuming bottom feeding contenders such as Phoenix (32-21), Golden State (33-22) and Dallas (32-23) plummet.

In other words, the Lakers have a .0000000001 percent chance of their season going beyond mid-April. So with that framework in mind, how does Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni treat the rest of his season? Does he approach it like a training camp where he cares more about lineup combinations than bottom-line results. Or is D’Antoni still fixated on padding the Lakers’ awful win total?

“You try to win and you try to play well,” D’Antoni said. “If they can’t fit into that, then they can’t play. With winning, it’s not about an individual’s game. It’s about winning. We’re going to do everything we can to have a great record these last 28 games and see who fits into that. They’re all talented players and they all can play losing basketball. That’s not hard to do. But we’ll see who plays winning basketball and try to build on that.”

The Lakers (18-36) enter tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics (19-36) at Staples Center with the pretty clear message from the front office that they’re looking ahead toward next season. Even if the Lakers failed to acquire additional draft picks or fall below the luxury tax threshold, trading Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for seldom-used guard Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks sent a clear message the Lakers are worried more about long-term development than maximizing this season’s win totals.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol will play after nursing a strained right groin for the last nine games. Lakers guard Jordan Farmar will play around 20-25 minutes in his second games since nursing a hamstring injury. Blake’s departure coupled with Steve Nash’s absence (nerve irritation in back) will thrust Kendall Marshall back into the starting lineup. With continual injuries to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Nick Young (fractured left knee) and Xavier Henry (bone bruise in right knee), D’Antoni also plans to play Bazemore and Brooks between 15-25 minutes tonight against Boston. Essentially everyone outside of Bryant will audition for their NBA future.

So how does D’Antoni evaluate whether his players fit into the rotation?

“For me, the first thing starts with energy especially on the defensive end,” D’Antoni said. “You do what you do and can you hone in everyday and bring that? Offensively, can you not be an individual? Can you play with your teammates? If you do those two things, you’ll get time and that will give you time to develop.”

D’Antoni then shares his feedback with the Lakers’ front office, including general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss.

“We talk all the time,” D’Antoni said. “I’ll have my opinion, but whether it’s weighed or not, we’ll wait and see. I think it’s a normal thing. Everybody talks all the time as a staff. You get a pretty much get a consensus.”

Just as D’Antoni stressed the front office has no direct influence on playing time, the Lakers’ players stressed their individual auditions won’t compromise their team mindset.

“I just want to play,” Farmar said. “We play to win. Coach coaches that way and we try to get wins every night.”

Still, players are also aware of the big picture implications of their career.

Bazemore has played limited minutes in Golden State and has provided energy, but he’s known more for his celebrated dance moves off the bench than his actual play. He also conceded playing with a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted in 2012 after starring at Old Dominion.

“My contract expires at the end of the season so it’s definitely an important time for myself personally,” said Bazemore, who made $750,000 this season with Golden State. “But I’ve never been a selfish kind of player. I’m here to play under Coach D’Antoni’s system. Whatever happens, happens. But I’m going to bring consistent effort every night.”

Meanwhile, Brooks rookie season with the Nets where he averaged 12.6 on 42.8 shooting in 29.8 minutes soon soured in a diminished role in Brooklyn in the 2012-13 season (5.4 points in 12.5 minutes) and this season both in Boston (3.1 points in 7.3 minutes in 10 games) and Golden State (1.9 points in 2.1 minutes in seven games). Brooks said he’s eager to prove he’s improved defensively, that he can still score at a prolific rate and that he can both play at shooting guard and point guard.

“I haven’t played basketball in a long time. I’m excited to see how good I’ve gotten,” Brooks said. “I expect a little rust, but I’m just going to go out there and play hard. Everything else will fall into place. It’s basketball. The main thing is playing with a lot of effort.”

RELATED:

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Mitch Kupchak unsure if Kobe Bryant will play this season

Mitch Kupchak pleads patience with rebuilding process

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

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Good chance of Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar playing against Minnesota

The Lakers have a good chance of getting back three familiar faces on the court in guards Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash when Los Angeles takes on Minnesota tomorrow.

“I think they are all ready to go, “said Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni after practice on Monday. “We’ll see how everybody wakes up, but there is a possibility that all three could play.”

Both Blake and Farmar said they felt good after practice, but would not give a definitive answer when asked if they would be playing tomorrow.

“We’ll see,” said Blake, whose right elbow was wrapped in ice when he addressed reporters. “I felt pretty good today in practice and I’ll see how I feel when I am when I wake up and go from there.”

“I’m not sure about tomorrow, we’ll see,” said Farmar. “I’m available if they allow me too, but I don’t know how they will work it out. Everyone is coming back at the same time so they are just trying to balance things out.”

All three guards returned to practice earlier in the week.

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Mike D’Antoni questions Lakers’ effort in 110-100 loss to Charlotte Bobcats

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni yells instructions during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni yells instructions during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

The same old disturbing images play over and over again, and it appears the Lakers can’t do anything to hit the stop button.

The Lakers don’t defend. The Lakers concede All-Star performances to B-list players. The Lakers play without any buzz or star power. The Lakers lose.

Everything surrounding the Lakers’ 110-100 defeat Friday to the Charlotte Bobcats featured all those same elements that have made all their other games unwatchable. But instead of lauding his injury-ravaged roster for making the best of circumstances, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni faulted them instead.

“They just weren’t ready to play, for whatever reason,” D’Antoni said. “Whether it’s the end of January, who knows. It’s inexcusable. We can’t do that. We better learn from it real quick or it’s going to be a long season.”

D’Antoni paused after he spoke those words. But before anyone could fully process that the Lakers (16-31) have only a one-game lead over the Sacramento Kings for last place in the Western Conference or that the Lakers have conceded over 100 points in 14 consecutive games, D’Antoni confirmed the obvious.

“It already is. It could be ugly,” D’Antoni said. “They have to understand that the only chance we have is to have 48 minutes of energy. We didn’t have it.”
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Mike D’Antoni to defer to Kobe Bryant on All-Star participation

Injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, watches the action from the bench against the Nuggets at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, January 5, 2014. 1st half.  (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, watches the action from the bench against the Nuggets at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, January 5, 2014. 1st half.
(Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Not that it’s a surprise, but Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday that he’ll have no influence on whether Kobe Bryant will suit up in what would be his 16th All-Star appearance Feb. 16 in New Orleans.

“That’s up to Kobe, the trainer and doctors,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t have anything against anything. That’s up to them.”
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Lakers refrain from having fractured locker room

Opposing teams are carving up the Lakers’ defense, but it’s not splintering the group. The Lakers losses are piling up, entering tonight’s designated road game against the Clippers (25-13) tonight at Staples Center with a 14-22 record, a 13th place standing in the Western Conference and dropping nine of their past 10 games. But the Lakers aren’t piling on each other.

When it’s all over, such an attitude may not really make a difference in avoiding the Lakers missing the playoffs for only the sixth time in franchise history. But with a season already looking dour with long-term injuries to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee, torn left Achilles tendon), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back), Steve Blake (hyperextended right elbow) and Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring), the Lakers’ situation could’ve morphed from depressing toward toxic. But the Lakers have avoided the blame game thus far.

“There’s no point in finger pointing because no one wants to hear it,” Lakers guard Jodie Meeks said. “The guys we have out there right now is what we have. We have to try to find the way to win with the guys we have.”
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Jeremy Lin maintains relationship with Mike D’Antoni

HOUSTON – The gratitude over Jeremy Lin and Mike D’Antoni experiencing “Linsanity” spills out in different ways.

After granting Lin the chance to morph from an anonymous player to a star that took New York by storm, D’Antoni received an invitation this fall to attend the “Linsanity” documentary. After adding a feel-good story to an otherwise dreary Knicks season two years ago, Lin received permission this summer from D’Antoni to work out at the Lakers’ practice facility. At several points during the season, the two exchange text messages.

“We’ll always have a special bond,” Linsanity said, “because of everything that happened.”

Lin became the first first American-born NBA player of Taiwanese descent and the first Harvard product to play in the NBA since 1954. Lin went on a six-game stretch in which he scored at least 20 points. His heightened play left Golden State and Houston guilty for passing on him before the Knicks picked him up. The Rockets made up for their mistake by signing him last year to a three-year, $25 million deal. Fast forward a year later, and Lin just penned an endorsement deal with Adidas.

Lin says he’s seeing a similar thing take place with Lakers guard Kendall Marshall. The Lakers signed him because of a depleting backcourt, and Marshall has taken advantage of the stint. In his three starts, Marshall has averaged 15.6 points and 12.67 assists. The Lakers also kept him on the roster, ensuring he will make $547,570 this season and a non-guaranteed $915,243 next season.

“He’s done a great job and a phenomenal passer,” Lin said of Marshall. “He’s a smart smart player. He’s definitely taking advantage of the opportunity and all the injuries that they have and have done a good job. I think people are happy for him.”

RELATED:

Nick Young assessed with a sore back

Pau Gasol’s viewing of “Lion King” musical disrupted because of false trade report

Lakers waive Shawne Williams

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

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Mike D’Antoni: GM Mitch Kupchak will do all he can to improve the Lakers

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was fielding questions from reporters following practice Thursday in El Segundo. Since the Lakers are just 13-19 and losers of six consecutive games, it wasn’t surprising that possible trades were part of the discussion.

One that has been talked about is post Pau Gasol going to Cleveland for former Lakers post Andrew Bynum. There is no evidence that deal is even close to being done. But the Lakers’ situation does beg the question – does this team need to make a major trade of shake-up proportions to give it a chance to make the playoffs and do well in them.

D’Antoni replied to just such an inquiry.

“I’m not sure, that’s Mitch’s job,” D’Antoni said, referring to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “He’s going to look at everything possible and try to make us as good as possible. But there’s no magic dust out there. You just can hope and wish and I’m sure he’ll look at everything.”

In spite of all the injuries to Lakers guards – including Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Xavier Henry – D’Antoni insists there remains enough talent on the team to be successful.

“… We have enough to win,” he said.

 

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Jordan Farmar relishing second stint with Lakers

Jordan Farmar is interviewed. The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)

Jordan Farmar is interviewed. The Los Angeles Lakers held a media day at their El Segundo practice facility. Players were photographed for team materials, and interviewed by the press. El Segundo, CA. 9/27/2013. photo by (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)

The purple and gold backdrop looks the same. The Lakers’ storied championship history hasn’t changed. Plenty of familiar faces at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo are still there, ranging from Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and various team officials.

But as Jordan Farmar begins his second stint with the Lakers, one significant thing remains different.

Phil Jackson’s triangle system may have helped the Lakers win five of his 11 NBA championships, including two for Farmar. But he always preferred a much faster-paced style offense, such as Mike D’Antoni’s, to tap into his playmaking instincts.

“I feel like my minutes on the floor, I’ll be able to be more impactful on a personal level,” Farmar said recently in an interview with this newspaper. “While I’m on the floor, I’ll have more responsibility. The ball is going to be in my hand and I’ll be making more decisions and taking more shots and being more aggressive rather than you hit the wing and go in the corner and play off of there. It’s a completely different system.”
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