With rumors circulating of a possible dismantle of the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn't believe coach Mike D'Antoni is the blame for the team's disappointing 17-24 record.
"Without a doubt, we have utmost confidence in Mike (D'Antoni) as a coach," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday. "I think if you spoke to him, his vision on Day 1 was dramatically different than it is today. It's the coach's job to adjust and to make changes. Sometimes a player is just not going to fit. Sometimes a coach has to make changes and compromise in the way he's done things and I think that's what Mike is going through right now is just the process."
The Lakers have already passed the midway point of the season and are currently riding a three-game losing skid.
D'Antoni was hired after the November firing of former coach Mike Brown after the Lakers started 1-4. Kupchak said D'Antoni's coaching system was more suited to the talent" on the Lakers than Phil Jackson's Triangle offense, and yet several players have had a difficult time fitting in -- Dwight Howard has sniped publicly about his lack of post-up and shot attempts, Pau Gasol has balked at accepting his role off the bench and free agent acquisitions Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks have both had to endure strings of DNP-CDs (Did Not Play -- Coaching Decision) under D'Antoni.
Still, Kupchak believes D'Antoni's shuffling of the roster is evidence that he is willing to change and try new things in order to produce winning results.
"It's not like he started a week or two ago trying to figure this thing out," Kupchak said. "He's been searching for combinations now for probably six to eight weeks. Understandably, I think the longer the season goes the more is at stake and the bigger hole you dig, the more dramatic your adjustments or your take on coaching has to become. I think that's what he's doing. He's grabbing every rabbit out of the hat trying to look for something that works."
Kupchak instead blames the lack of effort by players as for why the team is currently in the situation that they're in.
"I'm a little bit concerned about our effort," Kupchak said. "I'd like to see better effort on the court. When the ball is not bouncing your way, when shots aren't going in, you just can't seem to get a break, the one thing you can control on the court is your effort and loose balls and running the floor, defending, offensive rebounding. I think back to the Miami game and I have that vision of LeBron (James) diving on that ball at midcourt. That's effort. It's natural when things get tough to hesitate and be unsure, lose confidence. That's one thing that we can't let happen. We have to maintain our confidence and our effort more than anything has to be at an all-time (high) to get through this period."
With the Feb. 24 trade deadline approaching, Kupchak isn't opposed to making a move if the team continues to fail to improve.
"We've got a little bit (less) than a month," Kupchak said. "Typically, it's unusual, although there was a trade today (between Memphis and Cleveland), it's unusual if things heat up five or four weeks out. Typically, as you approach the trade deadline, people get serious and they really begin to understand and know their team and they have a pretty good feel of what's out there.
"So, I don't think we're at the point where you say, 'It's time for a trade,' and a trade happens in 3-4 days. That's just not how this league works. I read somebody somewhere a week or so ago said, 'This is a deadline-oriented league,' and I think that's true even though there are exceptions. That's certainly one way to address the problem, to look into changing players."