This was always a two-way street, this dialogue between the Los Angeles Lakers and their embattled coach, Mike D’Antoni.
It wasn’t just about whether they wanted him back, but whether he wanted to be there for the final seasons of the three-year deal worth approximately $12 million that includes an option in the fourth year. The crucial kicker, both literally and figuratively, is the option which is currently a key factor in whether he’ll return.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, D’Antoni is has some concerns about returning as a lame-duck coach and is pushing for the 2015-16 option to be picked up. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the discussions.
It’s unclear whether D’Antoni will return if the Lakers maintain their current stance that they don’t plan on picking up the option, but the fact that he would like that sort of security should surprise no one who has watched these last two seasons unfold. The former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach was brought in to spice up an offense that had no shortage of weapons when he first arrived early in the 2012-13 season, with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and the rest at his disposal back in those brief halcyon days.
But with Nash having endured seemingly-endless injuries since then, Bryant following suit this season and Howard leaving via free agency for the Houston Rockets last summer, it left D’Antoni as the unofficial fall-guy for a fanbase that just endured the team’s worst season since the Lakers came to Los Angeles in 1960 (27-55). Even with the $4 million he would earn next season, D’Antoni is clearly hesitant to subject himself to virtual whipping-boy status yet again during what will likely be another rebuilding year.
The Lakers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about an Orange County Register report indicating they wanted D’Antoni back for next season.