Mitch Kupchak Presser – 7/23

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak addressed media members prior to Theo Ratliff’s introductory press conference.

Below is a summary of his comments:

On the players L.A. has added: “We are pleased. Steve Blake was our first piece that we thought was necessary, and we’re pleased to have him to shore up our back court, another ball-handling guard. To add a player like Theo with his experience in the front court … obviously DJ (Mbenga) won’t be returning, so to have a player that will take that position with (Ratliff’s) experience (15 years), ability to defend, rebound, he’s good in the locker room. That will bode well for what we hope to do at that position.
“And Matt Barnes was not something that we planned on weeks ago. Free agency is kind of topsy-turvy for a player sometimes. I’m not sure even he knew where he’d end up, but it came about quickly. In particular with Luke Walton’s health issues, we felt adding a player like (Barnes) would give us great insurance at the position. Although he can defend some bigger guards, he’s basically a small forward, and we feel fortunate to have added him at the last minute.”

On adding a fifth guard: “We’re still talking to Shannon (Brown). There’s a good chance that in the next couple of weeks we can have some resolution with Shannon. I’m optimistic. If that does come about, that would be the fifth guard, yes.”

- Kupchak said the team could go with 14 guys on the roster this season, compared with the 13 it carried last season, in part due to Walton’s questionable health: “It’s not the run of the mill type of back problem, it’s unique. We don’t know where it’s going to end up. He’s a gamer, he loves to play and wants to be a part of the team. He’ll do whatever it takes to get back on the court, so that’s a positive, to have a player that’s motivated to get well. That’s not always the case.”

– Kupchak is concerned with the potential that Walton’s back injury could keep him out for a longer period of time, including (at worst) the whole season. Both Kupchak and Phil Jackson have spoken with the players about their futures away from basketball, and don’t want any long-term damage caused from playing, as Kupchak said both he and Jackson have.

- Kupchak confirmed the team’s earlier-in-the-week statement that Andrew Bynum’s surgery will take place on July 28. It was pushed back a bit from when he originally thought due to his doctor’s availability in New York. Kupchak said the team expects a healthy Bynum for the start of training camp.

- (On if the team has the potential to be better in 2010-11 than it was during the last two championship runs): “I think we’ve added depth and I think we’ve addressed our major concern, knowing that Jordan (Farmar) probably wouldn’t return, leaving a gaping hole in our back court. So to bring in a player like Steve (Blake) gives us a great degree of comfort at that position. I mentioned earlier that the Matt Barnes thing was not something we planned on a month ago … because of the market and the way things worked out he became a real possibility just a day or two ago. And to add to our front court with an experience player, we’re pleased. We think we have a balanced roster. We may or may not be done, (but) if the season (started) tomorrow, I think we’d be very happy with this group.

- (On second round picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter): “I think they did play better than what their draft position indicated. But most of those guys (playing in summer league) aren’t going to be in the NBA. You’re evaluating potential NBA players against (some) players that won’t be in the NBA. If you can’t play well in the summer league, (however), it’s an indication that you can’t play at the NBA level.” Kupchak said the next step is evaluating both players at training camp.

- Kupchak added that if the team concludes that either or both rookies will “be players,” there are options to offer more than just a one-year deal. There’s more clarity with the contract possibilities because the team knows what it can offer after using up the rest of the mid-level exception on Barnes. That leaves a potential of one or two year minimum contracts for Ebanks and Caracter to possibly obtain.

- (On Matt Barnes’ prospect for playing): “We know what he can do. It’s going to be based on the need from the coach and how he performs in training camp.” Kupchak said that Barnes gives the team the opportunity to get more rest for Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant, and said it will be up to Phil Jackson to manage his minutes. Kupchak said it could be between 15-18 minutes per game or up to 20-25, but explained that neither Barnes nor his agent brought up minutes during negotiations. Kupchak said that was somewhat unusual, but said he suspected that Barnes looked at the team’s roster and figured he’d be able to carve out some playing time particularly at backup small forward.

- Barnes is excited, according to Kupchak: “I spoke to him last night and he was ecstatic. He said he wants to win and he wants to win a championship.”