SALT LAKE CITY -- The Los Angeles Lakers came into Monday's game against the Utah Jazz sporting an 0-7 record in the month of April and riding a slump that has accounted for nine losses in their past 10 games overall.
With such a precipitous slide seemingly impossible to reverse this late in the season, one could hardly blame Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni if he chose to hit the ejection seat on the season with two games left to go.
However, no matter how meaningless the Lakers' (25-56) game against Utah (24-56) was, other than in the context of draft lottery positioning implications, D'Antoni swore his group was still engaged.
"We want to win," D'Antoni said before the game. "It would be unprofessional not to try to do it. That’s not right for these guys. We want to compete. Hopefully we can get it."
Keeping that mindset, D'Antoni refused to offer a final evaluation on the season or reveal his thoughts about his job security for next season until Monday's game against Utah and Wednesday's game against San Antonio were in the books.
"Thursday, we got exit meetings," D'Antoni said, not extending his offseason thoughts past the middle of this week. "So, there you go, I’m to Thursday. Then I’ve got Easter coming up. I’m going to do that. Then after that, I don’t know, guys. We’ll see what happens."
D'Antoni has one year remaining on his contract with the Lakers, set to pay him $4 million. The Lakers have a team option on D'Antoni for the following season, as well.
While D'Antoni's coaching seat has gotten a little warm over the past several months, he still has more security than most of his players. Eleven of the 15 players on the Lakers' roster are on expiring deals. Nick Young is likely to opt out of his $1.2 million deal for next season, which would bring L.A.'s free agent pool up to a dozen.
"It’s our jobs just to play as hard as we can, as long as we can and finish the year off," D'Antoni said. "Come September, I don’t think that’s going to make a whole big difference when you have a new team out there. But it makes a big difference to that individual guy and you can read into how they are. If they can’t find energy or find the will to play now, why would they do it later on?"
Even though D'Antoni took a positive outlook when claiming there's still something left to play for, he admitted the reality that no one on the Lakers should feel too accomplished for what they have done this season.
"I don’t think there’s any credit to be given," D'Antoni said. "We’ve only won 25 games, so you can’t give credit. Guys have been working hard. OK, you can [note] that. Some of them have gotten better. Yeah, OK. But there’s no credit to being in a bad season.
"Now, having said that, I think some guys have stepped up. They’ve been put in a horrific situation that for a lot of them, there’s just no solution. They’ve been put into roles that are not right for them. I think they’ve responded as well as they could, but I think a lot of them have tried to do their job as best they can."
D'Antoni tried to maintain a cheery front, but there's no denying the season has taken a toll on him as well.
When asked if he could focus on any of the little victories the Lakers had achieved this season for solace, he responded, flatly, "No."
When asked if he has taken up any off-court activities this season as an escape to protect his sanity amid all the losses, he replied, "What sanity?"
When asked if it was better to finish off a rough season like this on the road rather than at home, D'Antoni corrected the reporter: "A season like this? I think you have the question all wrong. It’s better to finish."
While the record books will show the 2013-14 Lakers as the worst team in the 66-year history of the franchise, D'Antoni is reserving judgment.
"Again guys, I sound like a broken record, but these guys are good guys," D'Antoni said. "We just come to work every day. We try to do our best. We try to give them the best that we can give them. Don’t worry about the noise. It is what it is and go through it and try to get to the next layer. It’s our job to do that. It’s their job to play as hard as they can.
"Our job is to coach as hard as we can and then at the end, it’s just, ‘OK, it went that way.’ And you pick it up or you move on or you do something. But the assessment comes after the fact, not now."