Kobe Bryant has officially been ruled out for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. The All-Star was simply not able to overcome a left knee injury and he will sit out the remaining 18 games. The Lakers season is dead in the water whether Bryant comes back or not, making the decision to sit an easy one. Now that Bryant can focus on returning healthy in 2014, he has a few requests to make Los Angeles a winning franchise once again.
According to Sean Deveney of SportingNews.com, the first piece of business has to do with head coach Mike D'Antoni. NBA sources report Bryant has zero interest in playing for the coach next season and will request a change at the position. The Lakers have already announced that D'Antoni's job is safe for the remainder of the year, but gave no guarantees after that. While speaking with the media on Wednesday, Bryant said that if better change is going to come to the Lakers, it starts with the people in charge.
"I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team," Bryant said, via ESPN.com. "What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there and from there, you can start building out your team accordingly. You got to start with Jim. You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out. It starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff and what Mike (D'Antoni) is going to do, what they're going to do with Mike and it goes from there. It's got to start at the top."
D'Antoni has one more year remaining on his contract, but has gone 62-74 since being hired last November, not helping his future. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith suggests that D'Antoni getting fired will signify a pursuit of Carmelo Anthony in free agency. The Lakers are realizing that the head coach will not make them a contender for the long-term, but the pairing of Anthony and Bryant will. It is safe to assume that is simply an assumption from Smith, but if Bryant wants D'Antoni gone, expect it to happen.
If/when D'Antoni is fired, who could replace him? John Calipari is an easy guess. The Kentucky coach has professional experience while also coaching international teams. The New York Knicks have already placed him on the shortlist of options, so the Lakers likely will too. One person not available is Phil Jackson. Bryant would only say he is happy for his former coach after getting hired by the Knicks.
"You know how I feel about Phil," said Bryant. "I have so much admiration for him and respect and I have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don't really get it."