The Los Angeles Lakers held their end of season press conferences today, far earlier in the year than they’re accustomed to due to the fact that they are lottery bound for just the third time since 1994. After a 27-55 campaign, major shakeups are being anticipated, but Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak made it seem like there could be more similarities than differences next season. The hot topic of course is the status of head coach Mike D’Antoni’s job security. No definitive decisions are close to being made and the front office plans to take their time in evaluating whether they should move in a different direction. D’Antoni certainly sounded like someone who expected to be back next season, pointing to the two years remaining on his contract. Meanwhile, Kupchak did voice a certain amount of confidence in him, questioning whether any coach could have done better based on the cards he was dealt. After all, D’Antoni only had Kobe Bryant in the lineup for six games this season. Steve Nash only made 15 appearances and the team’s potential was always limited by the squad being assembled with primarily players on one-year contracts as the Lakers looked to preserve financial flexibility. According to Kupchak, the Lakers’ plan to create cap space dates back to four years ago. They’re finally going to be under the cap enough to sign a max-level free agent this summer with guys like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Eric Bledsoe (restricted) hitting the market. That doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to spend it, though. Kupchak is prohibited from talking about any free agents until after the league’s moratorium period ends in July, but he can talk about his own and he had very high praise for Pau Gasol, who is also set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent. “If you look at the (potential) free agents, there is probably not as good a player as Pau Gasol,” Kupchak said. “His stats and his play showed he can be effective in any system,” D’Antoni added. In 60 games this season, Gasol put up 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 3.4 assists on average. His bounce back performance after a down season last year went largely unappreciated by the masses because it didn’t do much to help the Lakers’ struggles overall. However, there should be ample interest in the two-time champion this summer. The New York Knicks, run by Phil Jackson, the coach who Gasol won two championships under, have already been mentioned as a possible suitor for him.
Could Lakers Stand Relatively Pat?
Basketball Insiders | Apr 20