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NBA Rumors: Kobe Bryant Wants Mike D’Antoni Fired?

Kobe Bryant reportedly wants Mike D’Antoni fired before next season… LaMarcus Aldridge hurt against the San Antonio Spurs… Magic and Kobe appear to be publicly posturing for Jackson to return to the Lakers.

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Kobe Wants D’Antoni Fired?

With a 22-42 record and little hope of further improvement, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni is merely coaching out the string this year in Los Angeles—and likely won’t be back next season.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported on Wednesday morning that he had heard D’Antoni would be out, and that the Lakers’ potential pursuit of free-agent Carmelo Anthony would be the reason. But multiple sources told Sporting News that the reason for D’Antoni’s potential dismissal is closer to home—star guard Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, sources said, has “no interest” in playing for D’Antoni next season, and wants a new coach in place for the 2014-15 season.

Via Sean Deveney of Sporting News

Mike D’Antoni’s status beyond this year was already in question and not so much because of the job that he’s done this year. In actuality, he’s done about as good of a job as anyone could do in the circumstances. The Lakers’ roster was lacking in talent to begin with. Take away Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash for the majority of the season as injuries have and they never stood a chance.

However, D’Antoni has never been embraced by the Lakers’ passionate fan base because he was not the guy they wanted and he’s had tenuous relationships with Dwight Howard, whose departure was undoubtedly influenced by D’Antoni’s presence, and Pau Gasol. All parties mentioned were hoping for Phil Jackson, but at least now with Bryant reportedly calling for his exile, a change appears to be on the horizon.

Even with Jackson off of the board as he’s set to become president of the New York Knicks, there’s plenty of quality candidates out there for the Lakers to consider this offseason. Hiring head coaches not named Phil Jackson hasn’t exactly been a strength of Lakers owner Jim Buss, though. Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Brown and now D’Antoni have all failed to live up to expectations, so the pressure is really going to be on Buss this time to make the right hire. Even though he appears to be more unobtainable than ever as a head coach, the only popular choice Buss could make right now is Jackson, but we’ll get into that more below.

LaMarcus Aldridge injured

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge had to be helped off of the court during the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs with an apparent lower back injury after a hard fall.

Via Basketball Insiders

Everyone in Rip City is holding their collective breathes as Aldridge has been playing like the league’s premier power forward season. Losing him at this junction of the season for any extended period of the team is going to be hard to endure considering how tight the Western Conference playoff race is right now. The early diagnosis is a contusion, but we won’t know more about the severity until the coming days.

At 42-22 the Trail Blazers currently occupy the fifth spot, but they’re only a game and a half ahead of the Golden State Warriors and four games up on the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks. It would take a pretty colossal dropoff to miss the playoffs, but a late season stumble could cost them in terms of seeding. The Blazers are currently on a three game losing streak.

Pressure on Lakers to get Phil Jackson

The longer the story of Phil Jackson going to the front office of the New York Knicks drags out, the more it seems Jackson is either trying to extract more money and power from them or parlay his flirtation into a job with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The cards are now on the table in this NBA thriller, rife with secrecy, manipulation, power plays and intrigue involving the most successful coach in league history and two of the league’s flagship franchises — one far more successful than the other. Until recently, that is.

At 3:28 p.m. ET Wednesday — hours after ESPN, The New York Post and CBSSports.com reported Jackson had reached an agreement in principle to join the Knicks’ front office and Knicks star Carmelo Anthony had told news reporters he “heard (Jackson) will be coming on board” — it became clear there was a movement on the West Coast to see that doesn’t happen.

Via Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the day USA TODAY Sports reported comments from Kobe Bryant where he talked about how the Lakers’ rebuilding efforts fall directly on Jim and Jeanie Buss first and foremost. Shortly after, Magic Johnson publicly tweeted that Phil Jackson should be the face of the Lakers, ending a self-implemented cease fire on talking critically of the franchise he was a star player for in the 80s.

Jackson, of course, is married to Jeanie Buss and she has made no secret about his desire to work with the team. However, Jackson continues to voice no interest in coaching, the Lakers’ biggest need. He wants an executive role and the Lakers already have one of the best in Mitch Kupchak, convincing him and Jim to relinquish the kind of power Jackson covets is going to be a hard sell – especially with the Knicks’ offer being so large.

A reunion seems more unlikely than ever, but if we’ve learned anything about the Lakers and Jackson, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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