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Kobe Bryant has sympathy for D'Antoni, unsure if coach should return

Kobe BryantLos Angeles LakersPhil JacksonJerry BussMike D'AntoniNew York KnicksNBA Draft

Kobe Bryant has sympathy for Coach Mike D'Antoni but isn't sure if the coach should return.

When asked on Wednesday by Dan Patrick of the "Dan Patrick Show" if D'Antoni has earned another year with the team, Bryant answered with some ambivalence.

"I don't know," said Bryant. "It's been tough on him. The two years that he's been here, he's been dealing with so many injuries left and right. He hasn't really gotten a fair deal, fair shake at it since he's been here."

D'Antoni has another fully guaranteed season on his contract.

The Lakers finished last year with a 45-37 record, winning 28 of their final regular season games, but lost Bryant late in the year to an Achilles' tendon tear.

Bryant played in only six games this season before a knee injury scuttled his return. The Lakers are just 22-44 this season.

With Phil Jackson announced as the president of the New York Knicks on Tuesday, Bryant admitted he doesn't fully understand why the Lakers hired D'Antoni over Jackson in 2012.

"I didn't really understand it much either," said Bryant. "What we can do as players is just trust the organization."

While Bryant had breakfast recently with Jackson, he wasn't in a position to convince his former coach or the Lakers to come together.

The Lakers lost owner Jerry Buss last February to cancer. The direction of the team's basketball operations is now fully in the hands of Jim Buss, while his sister Jeanie Buss runs the business side of the organization.

"I've had conversations with Jimmy. Jimmy is really adamant about the direction that he wants to go with this organization. He feels really confident in that fact that he can be able to turn it around," said Bryant. "[He] and Jeanie seem to be really focused on being on the same page, getting on the same page and pushing this organization to have the same legacy that their father was able to maintain for so many years."

Bryant is still sidelined with a knee fracture, although he acknowledged he could have pushed for an earlier return if the team was in playoff contention.

He said he expects fans to "see the Kobe you're used to seeing," when he returns next season.

"It's hard to really see that when you're in this type of situation where things really seem, the future seems really bleak," said Bryant. "It's tough to have that faith and that trust, but that's what you have to have.

The Lakers could have a top 10 or even a top five pick in June's NBA draft. The organization will also have significant spending power in each of the next three summers, depending on how it utilizes its resources.

ALSO:

Phil Jackson wasn't offered a Lakers job, Jeanie Buss says

Lakers gain closure with Phil Jackson's departure to New York

Jeanie Buss says Kobe Bryant deserves farewell tour and his extension

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Twitter: @EricPincus

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