As the Lakers’ will they/won’t they drama with Mike D’Antoni continues, I openly wondered earlier today whether the conflicting reports about the coach’s future are a result of conflicting opinions among the team’s decision makers. Specifically, I was referring to Jim Buss, Jeanie Buss and Mitch Kupchak.
But Kobe Bryant has an opinion, too.
It just won’t matter. At least that’s what the Lakers’ general manager says.
Kupchak, in a Q&A with Sam Amick of USA Today:
Q: Will he factor in on the decision about Mike?
A: We will not consult with him. No, we won’t consult with him.
Q: Because when he was asked about Mike last week, the perception was that he didn’t go to bat for him publicly. That started the storyline of “Well, Mike’s not coming back because it doesn’t seem like Kobe wants him back.”
A: We won’t consult with him. Our decisions going forward — we’re not going to do knee-jerk stuff. We’ll let the season end, and take some time.
And as much as we’d like to be very competitive and competing for a championship next year, it may or may not happen, ok?
Q: So how’s Kobe going to handle that?
A: He’ll be fine. He’s got no choice. He’ll be fine. When we lose, he’ll rant and rave and be upset and be hot and won’t talk to anybody, but that’s the way it is. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.
The Lakers’ opened Pandora’s Box by giving Kobe a large two-year extension. There’s no way he was ever going to take that and not feel entitled to direct the franchise’s future.
He wants the Lakers to contend immediately, and he’s rallying support for his admittedly “selfish” cause. Never mind that he’s already 35, can’t stay on the court and eating into a sizable portion of the Lakers’ cap room. He’ll have his say, anyway.
I’m not sure what Kupchak and the Busses should do at this point.
They enabled Kobe, and it doesn’t seem right to shut him out now. That’s just going to lead to more problems.
But so will involving Kobe in the decision-making process.
His stature remains large in Los Angeles, as it should. Purely for what he can produce on the court, though, he no longer rises to the significance of a franchise player who can dictate terms to his bosses. His production has slipped, but more importantly, he’s too near the end of his career. Unlike Kobe, the Lakers should develop longer than a two-year plan.
The Lakers can choose not to consult Kobe, but they can’t force Kobe to keep his opinions to himself. I suspect, no matter what Kupchak wants, Kobe will still find a way to be heard.