Mike D'Antoni won Coach of the Year in 2004-05 with the Phoenix Suns. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Lakers are leaning toward keeping head coach Mike D'Antoni next season, this despite Kobe Bryant reportedly calling for his firing, Pau Gasol expressing frustration with him, and Chris Kaman recently revealing that he went nearly a month this season without speaking with the head coach.
A report on Wednesday from longtime Lakers beat reporter Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
"D’Antoni has one more guaranteed season left on his Lakers contract, and the club is leaning toward retaining him despite some privately disgruntled players and massive public disdain."
From a financial standpoint, the Lakers have every reason to keep D'Antoni, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Lakers in 2012. The club just signed Bryant to a massive, two-year, $48 million contract to keep him the highest paid player in the league. Firing D'Antoni would force the Lakers to still pay him next season plus whoever they name as the new coach -- much like they did when they let Mike Brown go in the first two weeks of the 2012 season.
With a roster comprised of mostly borderline NBA players, Los Angeles isn't likely to contend before the 2015 season, when Kevin Love and other big name free agents hit the market that summer. The Buss family, General Manager Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers front office may decide to just let D'Antoni live out the final year of what will likely be another disappointing season for the purple and gold.
Financials aside, however, if Bryant truly wants D'Antoni out the door, the Lakers could simply do what they feel is necessary to appease their franchise player in a season where he will attempt to return to form.
Buried at the bottom of the Pacific Division with a 25-49 record, the team is poised to miss the playoffs for the first time in six years.