Lakers’ losses, issues pile up
The triangle offense is back in Los Angeles, but not in a way that would make Phil Jackson smile.
There are three distinct entities on these triangle points -- Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni -- and they have some differences to sort out.
The rapidly expanding gap behind the scenes overshadowed the Lakers’ 131-102 loss Thursday to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Bryant doesn’t like D’Antoni’s spread-the-floor scheme, according to a person familiar with his thinking, and wants a more traditional offense such as the triangle or a post-up system.
Gasol also doesn’t like D’Antoni’s small-ball offense, which is no secret, and it might lead to Gasol’s departure this summer as a free agent.
“A lot of factors will influence me going one place or staying here,” Gasol told The Times on Thursday. “We’ll take everything into account.”
Gasol and Bryant, who won two championships together under Jackson’s triangle offense, are united in their resolve for a different approach on offense next season.
The Lakers, though, are reluctant to part ways with D’Antoni for a few reasons.
They think he’s a capable coach and don’t want to be known as a franchise that lacks coaching stability. Including Jackson’s last season (2010-11), the Lakers would have four coaches over five seasons if D’Antoni were fired.
The Lakers also don’t want to pay D’Antoni $4 million to not coach them, trying to avoid the same multimillion-dollar sacrifice they made by firing Mike Brown before his contract expired. D’Antoni has one more guaranteed year on his contract.
The team is hoping for a peaceful resolution. For starters, maybe D’Antoni changes some schemes to more readily accommodate Bryant, and perhaps Gasol, in traditional sets next season.
Bryant is under contract for two more years and $48.5 million. Gasol makes $19.3 million this season but could go to any number of teams after June 30.
Adding another log to the fire -- many of the younger Lakers like D’Antoni’s free-flowing scheme because they score a lot of points, an important concept for those in the final year of their contracts.
D’Antoni, for his part, says he doesn’t think about whether he’ll come back next season, preferring to chronicle the progress of the Lakers, not his job security.
“It’s not my place to have a sense” on a possible return, he said Thursday. “My job is finish up the year as good as we can, develop these guys, get some consistency in guys and then everybody huddles at the end of the year and see what happens.
“To me, it’s a nonissue. I do my job and go on.”
Bryant briefly brought up the need to decide D’Antoni’s future during his rant about the Lakers’ front office Wednesday.
“What’s Mike going to do? What do you want to do with Mike?” he said.
Gasol wasn’t strongly critical of the front office a day later, choosing a different tack than Bryant.
“I always want this organization to do great and to be cast in the best possible scenario,” Gasol said. “I hope everything works out well for the organization, for management, for ownership. I’m very appreciative, and if I continue to be here I would also want them to be in the best possible position.”
Gasol didn’t have his best possible game Thursday.
He had 14 points on five-for-12 shooting and did not play in the fourth quarter.
The game was an abrupt, and almost expected, about-face from the Lakers’ 114-110 victory over the Thunder last Sunday at Staples Center.
Jodie Meeks had a team-high 19 points Thursday but didn’t come close to the 42 he scored last Sunday.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant each had 29 points and Serge Ibaka controlled things in the defensive end with seven blocked shots for the Thunder (48-17).
“Every time they needed something, they got it,” said Jordan Farmar, who had 13 points.
The Lakers (22-43) continue their toughest back-to-back of the season Friday in San Antonio.