After Phil Jackson took his turn, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak sat down to address assembled media members.
He began with an opening statement:
Obviously it was a wonderful, exciting and very fulfilling year from lots of perspectives. It’s been a whirlwind week since we returned to Los Angeles. I thought the parade was wonderful … It kind of brings a conclusion to the celebration. As you know, the draft is next week. We’re actively working on preparation for the draft and have a busy summer.
Here are some highlights from the rest, which will be made available on video shortly:
- Kupchak maintained that the team would like to keep as much of the championship-winning team in place as possible, including Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Kobe Bryant. He said that the whole process could end quickly, since opposing teams can make offers starting on July 7, and hopes that the process goes quickly: “The market is a free market … We don’t have rights to match on any players. We’ll make decisions and hopefully we can (do it quickly).”
- The bottom line on re-signing L.A.’s free agents: “I would use the word hopeful. I don’t know what the market will be.”
- On Phil Jackson’s potential return, including the setting of a date upon which Phil Jackson is obligated to declare his intentions: “There is a date, and this is nothing new. We signed him to a two year extension with the understanding that the second year was his option. We picked a date that made sense to both parties … Here we are, and that date is fast approaching. It’s not really fair to impose our ability to force him to make a decision under the circumstances (of the season going so long). We’ll work with him and give him the time he needs. We’re talking about hopefully within the next week or two or three, but we’re not going to hold him to (the date).
- On whose decision it is to make regarding how far L.A. will go over the luxury tax: “It’s not my decision. That much we know for sure. Dr. Buss, Jimmy Buss and I meet on a regular basis. We have not met recently although I talk to Jimmy all the time and he talks to his dad all the time. I anticipate the three of us getting together prior to July 1. It’s Dr. Buss’s decision.
- Kupchack delved into the team’s draft situation, the synthesis of which is that L.A. likely won’t keep all of its picks: “We have three picks, and if we bring back the players we want to we’ll have at least 13 players on our roster. It stands to reason that we’d look to either move a pick, trade a pick, exchange picks for future picks or pick a player and look for them to play overseas for at least a year.”
- On Kobe’s situation: “Obviously we’re aware of (his contract options) but we have no indication of what he may or may not do.”
- On what it was like to win this season after what he went through as a GM being questioned in the last few years: “I’ve always felt comfortable in my position and my relationship with ownership. I think it’s a good thing (the pressures in L.A.) because it challenges you.”
- Kupchak expressed what it meant to him to see the kind of support the people gave at the parade. “I was emotional. It was an emotional sign of support for our organization.”
- Things don’t slow down for Kupchak until the end of August, he said.
- Kupchak cited the “huge support” he’s gotten from Ronnie Lester, his assistant GM, who has handled so much.
- The best chance for L.A. to repeat, according to Kupchak, is to “Bring the team back as close to we can.” Kupchak has confidence that can happen because Dr. Buss has “Always done the right thing in terms of putting this organization in a position to compete. He makes really well thought out basketball-business decisions. I trust his judgment and ability to do that.”