SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest question of the day. Today, we examine …
Lee Jenkins: Lakers. The Lakers have a lottery pick (No. 7), cap space and modest expectations for the next couple of years. They don't have a club president who is a threat to come down and coach the team. The presence of Kobe Bryant, however, makes this a difficult question. Whoever takes over the Lakers will have to deftly handle Bryant for the next two years, when he is hoping for a sixth championship, even though the club is in the midst of a rare rebuild. Satiating Bryant's appetite for offense, while keeping an eye trained on the future, will be a tricky chore. But if the coach can connect with Bryant, and use him to help install a tough-minded culture, the Lakers remain an attractive job. Free agents still want to sign there. They just need a reason.
Ben Golliver: Knicks.Boy, this query is right up there next to "electric chair or lethal injection?" in the no-win category. Usually, my answer to a question like this would be a simple assessment of how many steps it will take to build a desirable core of players. In this case, the process will likely be a little bit longer in New York, given how many future draft picks the franchise owes, how much dead salary cap weight the Knicks carry and how clean the Lakers' books are this summer. But I'm going against my usual instincts on this one simply because of Kobe Bryant and his mammoth extension. L.A.'s two-year, $48.5 million commitment to Bryant drastically limited the franchise's short-term options and, even more important, ensured that the organization's direction will be defined first by Bryant's personality, urgency to win and individual needs. I don't envy any Lakers coaching candidate who must find the right balance between appealing to Bryant and developing a roster that will be lacking in talent. It's essentially an impossible task.
Things aren't that much better in New York, but guiding a somewhat revamped roster built around Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to the postseason next year in the East is significantly easier than competing with the big dogs in the West. If Anthony winds up leaving in free agency, the expectations on a new coach will plummet, thereby buying a little time as everyone counts down to the expiration of the Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani contracts. Te lower bar for a "successful" first season in New York -- regardless of what happens this summer -- makes the Knicks coaching job the lesser of two evils.
Rob Mahoney:Lakers.Although working with Phil Jackson is alluring in its own way, working with Phil as a first-time executive under the meddlesome reign of Jim Dolan is another matter entirely. The Lakers dabble in dysfunction, but the Dolan Knicks were born in it, molded by it. Making sense of New York's perpetual foolishness would be a constant chore for a basketball lifer, and as reward the Knicks' next coach will be subject to a laughable level of media scrutiny, the day-to-day stylings of J.R. Smith and the possibility that Carmelo Anthony -- the team's best player by far -- might leave in free agency.
The Lakers' job has its challenges as well, particularly in gaining the very necessary respect of Bryant and obliging his push for the team to compete immediately. Whether that's at all feasible remains to be seen, though at the least the Lakers are a franchise looking to reload in relatively short order between an upcoming lottery pick and the cap room for a max offer. There's progress to be made in the short term and a beloved market (and landmark franchise) to be leveraged in the long term. That's more than enough to make L.A. the preferred gig between the two, particularly when the immediate future of the New York job could be a lost-cause season followed by painful uncertainty. One of these franchises has a track record of flipping assets to land stars and reboot contending teams. The other remains mired in problems of its own doing, drawn upon a culture of distrust and incompetence. No, thank you.
Matt Dollinger: Knicks. But if TNT were an option, I would totally choose that. While the Lakers have a top pick, cap room and the second-best shooting guard in history, the Knicks have something their Western counterparts don't: a chance to win. L.A.'s next coach will face the same crippling expectations that led to quick dismissals for Mike Brown and Mike D'Antoni. Don't get me wrong, coaching in New York comes with as much pressure as any NBA market, but it also comes with a reasonable shot of making the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is open for the taking; the West is more congested than the 101 at rush hour. Assuming Carmelo Anthony returns, New York should compete for a playoff spot next season and could even win its division if Phil Jackson is able to make some minor improvements and instill a winning culture quickly. As for the Lakers, a 35-year-old Kobe Bryant, a few spare parts and a couple of young bucks is unlikely to result in postseason play. It might be temping to go out West and avoid the wrath of James Dolan, but the Knicks provide a better chance at winning and keeping your job.
Richard Deitsch:Knicks:It's like choosing between the dentist drill and a tetanus shot -- at least for the moment. But it is a job in a huge market, rich in basketball culture, and one that comes with serious cash. The problem is both rosters are a mess for next year and neither team has a quick fix around the corner. The Knicks have a better shot at success in the long-term, given the contracts coming off the books in 2015, the possibility of re-signing Carmelo Anthony and the presence of a front-office boss whom you can lean on for coaching advice (no, I don't think Phil Jackson will ever coach again). I also think you can rise in the East much faster than the West. Of course, there is the James Dolan factor, which would blow up everything I just wrote if he meddles … again. I do like the Lakers' lottery pick this year — assuming they keep it -- and the cap relief they have coming. But it's going to be tricky to rebuild that roster with Kobe Bryant wanting one last chance at a title. I'll take Manhattan over the beach.
Chris Johnson: Lakers. After watching Los Angeles hit rock bottom this season, one might have the impression that the next coach will have a massive rebuilding project on his hands. In truth, the Lakers may not be that far away from returning to the playoffs. They should have ample cap room over the next two offseasons to add a star and other pieces in free agency. Reasonable minds can differ on whether Los Angeles is still a premier destination for free agents, but it’d be foolish to count out the Lakers as potential suitors for big names looking for a change of scenery. One All-Star power forward in Minnesota comes to mind. Even if the Lakers can’t sign or swing a deal for Kevin Love, though, there are other options, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez, in 2015. Setting aside potential player acquisitions, the next Lakers coach need not be beholden to a specific system. For the most part, he should be able to run his team how he sees fit. By contrast, the Knicks' coach will likely be a triangle acolyte (or someone willing to run the triangle), an on-court extension of Phil Jackson and someone who will have reduced influence on tactics and style of play.
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