Lakers News: Next Season Key for LA Justifying Mike D’Antoni Era

Mike D'Antoni is confident his team will surprise folks next season. He knows he has to be.

The embattled Los Angeles Lakers coach sat down late last week with ESPN Radio 710 in Los Angeles, discussing a wide range of topics, from Dwight Howard's decision to leave for the Houston Rockets to the current state of the franchise. While the former topic has been raked over the coals so many times that we need to buy a new rake, D'Antoni hasn't been much for State of the Union-style addresses since Howard's departure.

That stance changed in the interview, as D'Antoni made it clear he expects one thing from this roster—May basketball (h/t The Orange County Register's Janis Carr): 

Here is where you chime in and ask, "What else was he going to say? That the Lakers were going to be terrible next season? That he's not exactly looking forward to coaching Nick 'Swaggy P' Young?"

Of course he wasn't going to say those things. Camp is still months away. The Philadelphia 76ers coach would probably deny they were tanking next season, you know, if they had one.

But D'Antoni's quotes are at least worth examining because of the integral role he'll play in keeping the ship afloat. These Lakers aren't tanking. They're trying to compete for a playoff spot, even though they've made such cost-cutting measures as amnestying Metta World Peace.

Chris Kaman, Mr. Swaggy and a litany of minimum contract players isn't a lot, but there are two "open" playoff spots in the Western Conference.

It's possible the Lakers take one.

D'Antoni's optimism is more of an acknowledgement of what this season means for him and the Lakers franchise. Next season might be one of transition from a roster standpoint, but it's one in which the coaching staff will have to prove its chops.

Let's be clear: Barring a Kobe Bryant request, D'Antoni is very unlikely to...

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