The Los Angeles Lakers have vowed to not have another season like 2013. The finished as one of the worst teams in the league, getting shut out of the playoffs while being a bottom feeder in the Western Conference. With just three players under contract for next season, they are prepared to make some moves. With a coaching search now part of the offseason plans, will certain players opt to return to the team rather than jump the sinking ship?
Mike D'Antoni will no longer be returning to Los Angeles. The head coach has resigned from the Lakers per a team announcement on Wednesday. The departure is not a surprise considering the coach took most of the blame for the team's downfalls this year. He was the fourth head coach in the past three years since Phil Jackson stepped down. He went 67-87 in his brief stint with the team. D'Antoni had one more year left on his contract with the team and the team was already predicted to fire him prior to the NBA Draft.
So what does D'Antoni's departure mean for the Lakers? It could mean that Pau Gasol opts to return instead of signing elsewhere in free agency. Gasol is one of the more marquee players set to hit the market this offseason. The Lakers have come out and said keeping the forward/center was a team priority, but D'Antoni complicated that.
It was well documented that Gasol and D'Antoni were not the best of friends. The veteran criticized the head coach's game plans and D'Antoni in return criticized the forward for speaking out on team matters. Gasol has said that the fate of D'Antoni would not impact his free agency decisions, but it is assumed Gasol is watching what moves the team makes in regards to the coach. The Los Angeles Daily News is reporting that Gasol is open to returning to the Lakers, but only if D'Antoni is fired, so now the Lakers may get their wish of keeping the veteran around.
Kobe Bryant is also hoping that his long-time teammate returns to the Lakers. The veteran has said he will not be active in recruiting free agents this offseason, but publically stated his wish that Gasol re-sign with the team instead of heading elsewhere. Along with Gasol, Carmelo Anthony is the team's top free agent target. Placing him with Bryant and Steve Nash (if he returns) is an ideal Lakers set up. The team is also planning on chasing a trade for Kevin Love in the offseason as well.