COMMENTARY | The 2012-13 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Los Angeles Lakers, and when the time came for fans to place blame on someone, head coach Mike D'Antoni was an easy target.
Does the former New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns head coach deserve some of the blame for what went terribly wrong? Absolutely. But in his defense, he inherited a roster full of players unfamiliar with one another, tried to install a new system in-season and had an absurd amount of injuries to every one of his key players to contend with.
The most glaring reason he drew the ire of fans was because he wasn't Phil Jackson, the coach who the Lakers teased everyone with by going public that they were considering bringing back.
For better or worse, LA is sticking with D'Antoni for the foreseeable future. And to his credit, he deserves a shot to see what he can do with a full offseason and the chance to get familiar with his players before the season starts.
But for those who don't buy that notion, here are five reasons why he's not going anywhere:
1. Mitch Kupchak's vote of confidence
It's funny that this point has to constantly be revisited, but the Lakers' general manager has been unwavering and clear since before the season ended. The front office will stick with D'Antoni in 2013-14 and feel that he did a lot of good things. Sometimes, though, that's not enough for angry fans and conspiracy theorists who want so badly for the head coach to get the boot.
Kupchak told the Los Angeles Times in April that he believed D'Antoni did an admirable job in an unfavorable situation and lauded the former Team USA assistant for his ability to relate to the players. That won't make many folks in Los Angeles happy to hear, but the Lakers have made it clear that he's the one who will lead them into the cloudy immediate future.
2. They stuck with him in spite of Dwight Howard's wishes
Ironically, the coaching situation is one of the reasons the Lakers lost Dwight Howard via free agency. Even more ironic is the fact that the Houston Rockets run a similar, wide-open system. All things considered and based on the way Howard's courtship unfolded, it's reasonable to conclude that if the best free agent on the market couldn't get the team to part ways with D'Antoni, then neither can a frustrated collection of fans.
Howard went on record as saying that Phil Jackson being brought in could have kept him in Los Angeles. That's a fairly condemning statement on the relationship between Howard and D'Antoni. It further illustrates that the two couldn't co-exist well. In the player-coach ultimatum, it was the latter that won out.
3. Tempered expectations
No one expects the Lakers to compete for a title next season for a myriad of reasons, but the low expectations also mean that LA won't be making any rash decisions to shake things up. The Lakers are going to stay the course with what they've got, and that's a roster destined for mediocrity led by a coach who's uninspiring in the minds of many.
If they falter and head to the draft lottery, then no one will get hurt, especially not D'Antoni. If they exceed those low expectations, then D'Antoni will (deservedly) get much of the credit and will be welcomed back to finish out his contract. It's a win-win for the Lakers' leader.
4. One coach for the price of three?
The Lakers fired Mike Brown with $8 million left on his contract and paid at least some of that wh ile he relaxed and watched his sons play high school basketball in Orange County. According to Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, the Lakers only got "some relief" from the remaining $6 to $7 million they owed him when he was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That means that in theory, the Lakers could still be paying him.
If they fired D'Antoni before his contract was up at the end of the 2014-15 season, they'd be responsible for whatever was left of a three-year $12 million contract. That's a lot of money to pay two coaches to sit at home.
What's more is that if the Lakers fired D'Antoni, the coach they would bring in would likely be someone who commanded a high salary. Historically, the Lakers haven't pinched pennies and have been comfortable as big spenders, but given the new landscape of the NBA and its 2011 collective bargaining agreement, every team has to watch its expenses given the hefty penalties for exceeding the salary cap.
That's why it doesn't make financial sense for the Lakers to effectively admit they made a colossal mistake by ousting D'Antoni and additionally take a huge financial hit. They won't pay three coaches at once.
5. Free agents who fit
What do Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar and Chris Kaman all have in common? Besides being the newest additions to the purple-and-gold one one-year deals, they all have the ability to fill in key roles in Mike D'Antoni's system.
Young, Johnson and Farmar are young, athletic perimeter players the Lakers desperately needed anyway, but all can shoot from beyond the arc, and that's a critical component of D'Antoni's offense. Kaman can score in pick-and-roll situations and can knock down the mid-range jumper off pick-and-pop action.
In an NBA TV interview, executive vice president of player personnel and team co-owner Jim Buss spoke highly of each player's ability to contribute to D'Antoni's scheme:
"He can shoot the lights out," Buss said of Young. "We need shooters, especially in this system. He's very athletic, can sprint the floor - another one that fits D'Antoni's system perfectly."
"Wesley Johnson, he came and worked out for us and he was sensational. He couldn't miss a shot," Buss said. "You can see how long he is and athletic, another guy that fits the system … D'Antoni likes the kid a lot, he's going to develop him. We might have a little sleeper there."
That's two separate mentions of D'Antoni when talking about new free agents for those scoring at home. Like it or not, he's their guy. The Lakers are building a roster suited for their head coach, which in turn means that he's not going anywhere in 2013-14.
For more on the Lakers and the NBA, catch up with this author on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a Southern California-based sports journalist and editor. He contributes to SB Nation in addition to Yahoo! Sports and is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West.
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