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Lakers meet with Mike D'Antoni, give coach a vote of confidence

Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak huddle with D'Antoni on Thursday, The Times has learned. D'Antoni calls it 'a positive meeting' in an interview before Friday's game.

January 25, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan

Thursday was a day off for the Lakers, a time to recover from an 0-3 trip after returning to Los Angeles early in the morning from Memphis.

But it was a very busy day for Mike D'Antoni.

The Lakers' coach was given a vote of confidence during a face-to-face meeting with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Executive Vice President Jim Buss, The Times has learned.

Despite a shaky start with the Lakers, D'Antoni was told to do whatever he wanted with the lineup. Buss and Kupchak support him.

He was told to do whatever was best for the offense. Buss and Kupchak support him.

They discussed team personnel and morale and were unanimous in their thinking: The Lakers can still make an impact in this league. And, yes, make the playoffs.

"It was a positive meeting," D'Antoni said Friday in a quiet moment at Staples Center, long before tipoff against the Utah Jazz.

D'Antoni has no plans to change his push-the-pace offense, fully convinced it's the wave of the present, not to mention the future.

"I just find it amusing that people want us to play a different way," he said. "And I don't know why we don't look at the top five teams and play that way. You know, San Antonio, Miami, Oklahoma City — they're all playing small and fast and moving the ball. The league has changed a little bit. We're not trying to get to mediocrity. We're trying to get to be better."

Pau Gasol will keep coming off the bench, viewed as the backup center in D'Antoni's eyes, although Howard and Gasol did play at the same time quite a bit Friday against a bigger Utah team.

"All our stats and my gut and everything else is that we're not as good with two bigs on the floor at the same time," D'Antoni said before the game. "Every statistical information says that. Otherwise, I would play that way."

Earl Clark gives the Lakers "that length and speed we need on defense," D'Antoni said. "And our defense and offense is better with the smaller team on the floor right now. We'll see if that continues, but all the information we have, that's the deal."

Is winning what improves morale? Gets guys to buy into the system? And play better defense?

"Well, that helps," D'Antoni said. "You can teach and push when you win. It's harder when you lose. A winning streak would help, without a doubt."

The Lakers beat Utah on Friday, 102-84, to end their four-game losing streak and improve D'Antoni's record to 13-20 since joining them. He signed a three-year, $12-million contract two months ago. The team holds an option for a fourth year.

D'Antoni, Buss and Kupchak aren't looking that far into the future. They think the Lakers, and their $100-million payroll, are plenty talented.

"I think the team is constructed well enough to win now," D'Antoni said.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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