Mitch Kupchak says Lakers effort the problem, not Mike D'Antoni
Mitch Kupchak probably wishes amid the Lakers woes that he could echo the sentiments of the "good job, good effort" kid, who went viral last year immediately following the Boston Celtics win over the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Instead, the Los Angeles look at the very real possibility that they could miss the playoffs and Kupchak is pointing fingers not at Mike D'Antoni, the third coach the team has seen in the past six months, but at the Lakers players, specifically calling out their effort.
Kupchak said in a phone interview with ESPN's Dave McMenamin that he's a "little concerned" about their effort, and perhaps as a jab to invoke more of it, he said LeBron James exemplifies the kind of energy he'd like to see out of his own players:
"I'm a little bit concerned about our effort. I'd like to see better effort on the court. When the ball is not bouncing your way, when shots aren't going in, you just can't seem to get a break, the one thing you can control on the court is your effort and loose balls and running the floor, defending, offensive rebounding. I think back to the Miami game and I have that vision of LeBron (James) diving on that ball at midcourt. That's effort. It's natural when things get tough to hesitate and be unsure, lose confidence. That's one thing that we can't let happen. We have to maintain our confidence and our effort more than anything has to be at an all-time (high) to get through this period."
Kupchak said that D'Antoni has adjusted his coaching system to better suit the team and that it's time for the players to respond. He alluded to the idea that the roster now may not be the same for the rest of the season if things don't turn around:
"Sometimes a player is just not going to fit. Sometimes a coach has to make changes and compromise in the way he's done things and I think that's what Mike is going through right now is just the process."
The coach is often the first one to go when a team is struggling, and the Lakers have no doubt struggled this season. But D'Antoni is the third coach to manage the Lakers this season so it's no wonder that the general manager is pointing blame elsewhere. Dwight Howard trade talks are beginning to resurface and Pau Gasol, who was recently benched for the rest of the season in favor of Earl Clark, continues to be mentioned as a player who could be on the move. The team is currently third in the Pacific Division with a 17-24 record and is in the midst of a three game losing streak.