Plenty of big names available to be Lakers next coach. Here’s a list.

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When the Lakers take the court Friday night to take on the banged up Golden State Warriors, Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the Los Angeles Lakers.

Who will coach the team in a couple of weeks is a different question entirely.

The Lakers have fired Mike Brown — when Kobe gives you a death stare it is a DEATH STARE. The Lakers have said they are making a big, national search — which means they are spending to bring in a big name (they just bought out four years of Mike Brown). Before they decide who they hire the Lakers management needs to decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward, what direction to go. Two years ago when Brown was hired it felt more like the Lakers defining themselves as who they were not going to be — they were not Phil Jackson and the triangle. His presence was purged from the organization on several levels.

Here’s a quick list of guys the Lakers could get:

Mike D’Antoni: Lots of Lakers fans asking for him, I don’t think he gets it. On the plus side, he has a great relationship with both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant (remember Kobe grew up in Italy when D’Antoni was a star player over there). He brings a fun and entertaining style of basketball. Although, we can seriously debate whether this roster, outside of Steve Nash, is suited to play D’Antoni’s up-tempo style. This is an old and slow Lakers team. We saw in New York how things went for him with a roster poorly suited to his needs. Also, his teams never even reached the NBA finals, thanks to Robert Horry’s hip.

Most importantly, there is this from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network:

Brian Shaw: This is the guy the Lakers players wanted to replace Phil Jackson, and it would have made sense if the Lakers wanted continuity. But Jim Buss wanted to go another direction, to put his stamp on the organization. Shaw is currently a Pacers assistant coach and after interviewing him and saying no so they could hire Brown, would Lakers management really admit that was a mistake and hire Shaw now? Plus, Shaw has never been a head coach and you’re going to hand him the keys to this car and it’s high-powered engine?

Jerry Sloan: The old-school, hard-a** long-time coach of the Jazz would bring some discipline and accountability to a Lakers roster that seemed to be lacking it. He loves the pick-and-roll and the Lakers have the personnel to kill with that play. But Sloan is not young, had trouble getting along with a star player in Utah (Deron Williams) and brings a flex offense that also can take a while to learn. The guy can win, he is loyal, but does he fit with management and the players?

Nate McMillan: The former Sonics and Blazers coach is well-respected by players if not Portland ownership. His teams were notoriously slow paced, which certainly would give the Lakers a style to stick with. However no team of his ever finished in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession). Could he do better with Dwight Howard in the mix?

Stan Van Gundy: Um… no. He’s a fantastic coach, but did you watch him and Howard in Orlando and how that went down?

Jeff Van Gundy: His teams always defended hard but were not offensively creative or entertaining (as the Lakers prefer). Plus he seems happy broadcasting, making this a long shot. Still, I love the idea of seeing Jeff Van Gundy grabbing on to Dwight Howard’s leg during an on-court fight just for old time’s sake.

Flip Saunders: Don’t laugh — yes he struggled in Washington but he has won with veteran teams. Not a guy that brings a big presence and structure, he’s more easy going and a players’ coach. A long shot.

Phil Jackson: I know a lot of Lakers fans want to see this happen, but I can’t picture it. For a few reasons. First, when he left more than a year and a half ago, you got the sense he was done with being on the sidelines. He was done with the grind of coaching — long hours, lots of travel, too many short hotel beds and massive egos around. Does he really want to coach again.

The bigger issue is that Jim Buss desperately wanted to put his own stamp on the franchise after Jackson left. It wasn’t just him a lot of people — people who had been with the Lakers for many years — were let go (with the impending lockout used as the excuse). In even a bigger way than bringing back Shaw, bringing back Jackson would be to admit a mistake. I’m not sure Lakers management does that even if Jackson wanted to return. Which he may or may not, he can’t exactly coach via Skype from Montana.

That said, at his press conference Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said Jackson is “not coaching you’d be negligent not to be aware” and at least consider it.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”