Mitch Kupchak said he wouldn’t consult Kobe Bryant on Mike D’Antoni, sending a clear message about Kobe’s status in the Lakers organization.
But you have to think Kobe’s reported lack of interest in playing for D’Antoni had something to do with with the coach wanting his 2015-16 team option picked up and resigning when it wasn’t. Handling a disgruntled star is never easy, and it’s much harder as a lame duck.
Kobe knows how to play this game. The Lakers won’t consult him? Fine. He’ll be heard other ways.
And here comes a report from a writer who has repeatedly broken Kobe stories and often features exclusive Kobe quotes in his articles.
Bryant will wish for Tom Thibodeau to free himself from Chicago. He loves Jeff Van Gundy, and shares management’s affinity for Euro legend Ettore Messina, who spent a season on Mike Brown’s staff.
Bryant has long admired Byron Scott, but there’s a different ex-Lakers guard who could go much further to regenerate the franchise’s culture and hold the insight into getting the most out of Bryant’s final two seasons: Derek Fisher.
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If Bryant longs for Thibodeau – whose reported rift with Bulls management has his name popping up for openings even though he’s under contract – the most-similar clearly available coach is Lionel Hollins. The former Grizzlies coach would foster an environment that rewards toughness and defense, two traits that also define Thibodeau’s system.
But Wojnarowski’s article centers on Fisher, and while Kobe is not quoted, I don’t think the Fisher focus is coincidence. Of the coaches who would satisfy Kobe, Fisher might be the most attainable. (Scott also seems likely to take the job if offered, but it’s unclear whether Kobe’s admiration extends to wanting to play for someone whose Cleveland teams struggled so much.)
Of course, Fisher must first finish his playoff run as the Thunder’s backup point guard. At 39, Fisher is still playing.
I forget, where are we on players moving directly to coaching? Did Jason Kidd prove it can’t work, or has he proven it can? Maybe we shouldn’t make a rule on a single example, especially one with mixed results.
Fisher is bright. There’s a reason he’s lasted 18 years in the NBA despite never scoring better than 13.3 points per game (something only Rick Mahorn and Tree Rollins have also done), and many believe he has the disposition to coach.
But it was hard for Kidd to go from playing against Brooklyn’s current players to coaching them. I think it would be even harder for Fisher to go from playing with Kobe to coaching him. The relationship just changes too much – even if Kobe and Fisher go into it with the best of intentions
There’s a bigger issue, though: Why hire a coach to get the most out of Kobe? He’s 35 and missed 76 games this season with two devastating injuries. If the Lakers want to get the most out of him, hire a good doctor.
It’s more important the Lakers hire a coach who can develop their 2014 lottery pick and attract a big-name free agent in 2015. If that’s the same person who relates best to Kobe, great. But the Lakers shouldn’t elevate Kobe’s agenda over bigger priorities.