Lakers extend Mitch Kupchak's deal, Mike D'Antoni's future uncertain

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Lakers have faith in Kupchak to help turn things around, and one of the first order's of business will be to make a decision on D'Antoni.

The Los Angeles Lakers and general manager Mitch Kupchak have agreed on a multiyear contract extension, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne. The Lakers confirmed the news to reporters late in a 145-130 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.

Terms of the new deal haven't been released. Details of Kupchak's current contract were never released, but he had one year left on the deal. Kupchak has won four NBA titles as the Lakers' general manager since taking over for Jerry West in 2000.

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This extension comes at the tail end of one of the worst season's in Lakers history. The loss to the Rockets was the Lakers' 53rd of the season, setting the record for most losses in a season since the franchise moved to Los Angeles and matching the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers for most losses in franchise history.

There are plenty of questions surrounding the Lakers' future, but the Buss family clearly has faith in Kupchak to turn things around. Kupchak already made a huge decision in the middle of this season which will contribute to some of those questions, signing Kobe Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million extension. After missing the beginning of the year as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon, Bryant played just six games before suffering a knee injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Bryant's health is a concern going forward, especially with all the money the Lakers have tied up in his contract. With his career clearly coming to a close, Bryant has already put some pressure on the front office to get the team competitive quickly. However, Kupchak believes Bryant's outburst was partially due to the Phil Jackson-to-New York hubbub, according to USA TODAY's Sam Amick:

"He had that one outburst, but I think he got caught up in all the sensation of the moment - is Phil going to stay or is he going to go? He wants the same thing we want, which is to win as much as possible as soon as possible. I meet with him. (It's) not on a regular basis, but in the last two or three months we have met several times, and he gets it."

One of the other major questions revolves around the future of head coach Mike D'Antoni. Rumors have been flying that D'Antoni won't be back next season, but Kupchak said no decision has been made on that front:

"No. No. In fact, I told Jimmy let's get to the end season, take some time off...then review the season. Look at our roster. I mean we have a plan. We've aligned our contracts in such a way where we're at a position where we're not financially stuck. But there's a lot we don't know. We don't know where we're going to get our pick. Are we going to be sixth, are we going to be eighth, are we going to be two or three? We don't know. We know who may be a free agent, but we don't know for sure until June 30.

"So we know a lot, and we're set up to take advantage of the situations - whether it's to make a trade, take back a player, get a good draft choice, pursue free agency. But once again, it's a different world than it was 20 years ago. And as much as we'd like to be very competitive and competing for a championship next year, it may or may not happen, ok?"

One thing that is for sure is Bryant won't be consulted about D'Antoni's future. Bryant has been critical of D'Antoni in the past, but Kupchak doesn't want to make any knee-jerk decisions simply based on what his aging star has to say about the situation.

When it comes to D'Antoni himself, he's doing his best to not let the rumors get to him. The most recent one was started by former NBA player and current college basketball television analyst Rex Chapman, who tweeted that Kentucky head coach John Calipari was heading to Los Angeles. The rumor was staunchly denied by both Kupchak and Calipari, and D'Antoni is taking it all in stride, according to Amick:

"I've said it before, and it's because, (expletive), it seems like I'm always in it," D'Antoni told USA TODAY Sports,"but it's like Winston Churchill said, 'If you're in hell, just keep your head down and keep on going.' "

D'Antoni made it clear that he would love to stay in Los Angeles, but he understands the nature of the business:

"Hey look, this is a great place," D'Antoni said. "Any player who has a destination of L.A. - it's pretty good. I've been lucky to be here. I don't want to say, 'Oh yeah (I'll be back),' but I don't know. And I'm sure that everybody is going to have to sit down and figure it out.

"I think the franchise will have a way that they want to get to the best, to the top, and you go with it. And if I'm included in that, great. That's how it goes."

D'Antoni has gone 65-85 in two seasons with the Lakers and was swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs last year.

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