Ready for Mike D'Antoni III? After 10 days of soul searching, the key figures in Lakers management are agreed on bringing back D'Antoni for a third season as coach, a source with knowledge of the deliberations told the Register.
Keeping D'Antoni, of course, would be unpopular among Lakers fans, united in their desire to see him fired and Jim Buss resign.
The Lakers aren't commenting, but Jimbo's not planning on leaving. With Pau Gasol making no secret of his dissatisfaction and Kobe Bryant reportedly in favor of a change, D'Antoni was widely expected to be fired.
But one thing you've got to love about the Lakers -- I do, anyway -- they don't always do the easy thing.
D'Antoni took himself out of the running for the Marshall University coaching job last week, which went to his brother, Dan.
However, reports from West Virginia that the Lakers told Mike he was returning are incorrect.
D'Antoni decided he didn't want to return to Marshall, where he once starred, in any case.
The Lakers have yet to inform D'Antoni of anything, but they intend to keep him, absolving him of blame for the 27-55 finish without Bryant and Steve Nash for 141 of a possible 162 games.
Nor are they discomfited by Gasol's announcement on his website. ("I've never concealed the fact that D'Antoni's style doesn't suit my game. ... I don't know if my decision will be swayed by whether Mike stays or leaves. Obviously, the coach is a very important factor for any team.") Jeanie Buss, who noted recently, "I'm the boss," is continuing her preference to leave basketball decisions to the basketball people.
Jim is aligned with GM Mitch Kupchak, a steadfast D'Antoni defender emerging as an ever-stronger figure with a multi-year extension in the wake of their misadventures.
Despite local anguish about leadership, the Lakers have a plan. It's just not one that anyone likes ... starting with Bryant, who must have thought more was possible when he signed that two-year, $48.5 million extension ... which may have served as a wake-up call for Jeanie and Jim, who did it, to return direction to the professionals.
If they hoped to bag a front-line player and a blue-chip draftee this offseason, who knew there would be few blue-chippers and no marquee free agents?
It's true, the Lakers can be trying, or, depending on your point of view, comical. A rare combination of genius and dysfunction, it's amazing they could get out of bed, much less win five titles from 2000 to '10 as the Kobe-Shaquille O'Neal feud broke up the team that won three in a row ... and Jeanie and Phil Jackson became a power couple, alienated from Jim ... with their father disinclined to bring her fiance back again.
Getting the big things right makes up for a lot. Jerry Buss had a poor boy's ambition, a gambler's daring and the humility to let his professionals run things, not only with the iconic Jerry West but the low-key Kupchak.
The Jerrys' coup came five titles into Buss's tenure, between Johnson's 1991 retirement and Shaq and Kobe's 1996 arrival, having saved the cap space that gave them the leverage.
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