Lakers Management Blames the Players Not Head Coach Mike D’Antoni

As the Los Angeles Lakers’ hellish season trudges forward, the vast majority of the blame for their troubles has fallen on the shoulders of head coach Mike D’Antoni. Fans and the media see him as the main culprit for this ongoing disaster. As for the only voices that truly matter — those belonging to the Laker front-office and ownership group — they seem to think the players (and their perceived lack of effort) are at fault. Per ESPN: “Without a doubt, we have utmost confidence in Mike (D’Antoni) as a coach,’ GM Mitch Kupchak said. ‘I think if you spoke to him, his vision on Day 1 was dramatically different than it is today. It’s the coach’s job to adjust and to make changes. 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 Lakers have hit the midway point of the season riding a three-game losing skid as some of the promises made in D’Antoni’s introductory news conference in November are starting to ring hollow. D’Antoni claimed the team should “easily” average 110-115 points per game under his guidance. They’ve crossed the 110-point threshold just eight times in the 31 games since he took over, going 5-3. At the time of D’Antoni’s hiring, Kupchak said the new coach’s system was “more suited to the talent” on the Lakers than Phil Jackson’s Triangle offense, and yet several players have had a difficult time fitting in — Dwight Howard has sniped publicly about his lack of post-up and shot attempts, Pau Gasol has balked at accepting his role off the bench and free agent acquisitions Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks have both had to endure strings of DNP-CDs (Did Not Play — Coaching Decision) under D’Antoni. Yet, Kupchak said D’Antoni’s shuffling of the roster is evidence that the coach is willing to change and try new things in order to try to start winning. ‘It’s not like he started a week or two ago trying to figure this thing out,’ Kupchak said. ‘He’s been searching for combinations now for probably six to eight weeks. Understandably, I think the longer the season goes the more is at stake and the bigger hole you dig, the more dramatic your adjustments or your take on coaching has to become. I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s grabbing every rabbit out of the hat trying to look for something that works.’ […] ‘You don’t want to get too emotional one way or the other, but, we’re halfway through now,’ Kupchak said. ‘Quite frankly, we’ve dug a hole and I think it’s frustrating for everybody. It’s certainly not what anybody or everybody expected halfway through the season.’ Kupchak singled out the Lakers’ effort, or lack thereof, as the most frustrating part to see. ‘I’m a little bit concerned about our effort,” Kupchak said. “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.'”