Why the Lakers cooled on Tom Thibodeau

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was one of the first names to trickle out as a potential candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers to hire when Mike D’Antoni resigned almost six weeks ago.

ESPNLosAngeles.com had reported the Lakers planned to reach out to the Bulls for permission to interview the 2010-11 coach of the year.

Now, the Lakers have cooled on the idea of trying to get Thibodeau. And that request to the Bulls never happened.

What gives?

Well, for starters, the Lakers are all but sure that Chicago will require that L.A. trades its No. 7 pick in the first round, if not more assets, to allow Thibodeau out of his contract that runs through the 2016-17 season.

With only three players under contract for next season and the draft considered to be loaded, the Lakers deem that too steep a price to pay.

Getting a good, young player on a relatively affordable rookie deal could end up doing wonders to fielding a competitive team, while maintaining the bulk of the Lakers’ cap space to pursue a veteran or two on the free-agent market in the coming summers.

Beyond that, even if the Lakers were willing to go down that road and part with a pick for Thibodeau, the only way they could get Thibodeau to bite at the idea of abandoning a team that has the reigning defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah and a bright young star, albeit an injury-prone one, in Derrick Rose, for an uncertain situation in L.A. would be to hand him a lavish contract.

And why would the Lakers want to be paying their coach $8 million to $10 million a year when privately they know they might not be a playoff team, let alone a championship contender next season?

The Lakers may already have done their homework and realized that if even if it has been well documented that Thibodeau and the Bulls’ brass don’t always see eye to eye, he isn’t necessarily looking to leave Chicago. The last thing the Lakers’ front office would want to do, considering how unpopular they are with the fan base in L.A. these days, would be to formally go after Thibodeau only to have their interest be rebuffed.

The Lakers aren’t the only team to be linked to Thibodeau this offseason, either. Grantland’s Bill Simmons reported the Memphis Grizzlies had visions of trading for Thibodeau, hoping to lure the coach with a .657 winning percentage in his four seasons on the Bulls’ sidelines to the Memphis gig by offering him additional power as team president.

Memphis ended up going in a different direction, of course, extending coach Dave Joerger’s contract after he went 50-32 in his first season with the team.

The Lakers, though, are still on the hunt to settle their coaching situation.