Mitch Kupchak: 2012 Exit Interview

A summary of Mitch Kupchak’s 2012 Exit Interview:

- On the uncertainty on the team with the preseason trade not going through: “I’m not going to look at what could have been and why we got beat in Game 5 of the second round. Certainly, that period of time resulted in one of our players, the Sixth Man of the Year (Lamar Odom), being moved and (Pau Gasol)) had to deal with the uncertainty around being traded. That’s not how you want to open the season.”

- Kupchak on how well Gasol handed everything: “I thought he did the best anyone can do being professional, having a really good season. He’s the consummate teammate, consummate professional, but what took place is hard for a player to deal with. I’m sure there’s a little bit of trust that’s not quite the same. But he understands … our exit meeting was really good. I think he and I are on the same page.” Kupchak said that he didn’t think all the trade rumors affected Gasol’s play at the end of the day, just maybe his trust in the situation, which is to be expected.

- Kupchak said that the Lakers plan to pick up Andrew Bynum’s option for next season.

- On the season not going as he would have liked: “We’re disappointed. We don’t grade ourselves on getting into the second round. We thought going into the season that we were one of three or four or five teams that could contend for a championship. It’s hard to get in that position with 30 owners that are very competitive, having to operate under (now different) rules. We felt we had a shot at it, so to watch the conference semifinals was a disappointing feeling.”

- On how the team was run between him and ownership this season: “There has been no difference.” Kupchak was speaking about the past four or five seasons, really going back to 2007, when Jim Buss increased his role. Kupchak had previously spoken more directly to Dr. Jerry Buss on the ownership side.

- On if he’ll look to improve the team through trades or signings: “When you lose before you think you should have lost, you have to open up all opportunities.”

- Kupchak said he has always had a pretty good relationship with Kobe Bryant, who praised him greatly after the Game 5 loss at Oklahoma City, and while he said it’s comforting to hear Bryant’s confidence in him, the expectation to win is strong from him to ownership, who combine to make decisions.

- Kupchak said that the team addressed a need in a young, athletic point guard with the trade for Ramon Sessions, but “He has the ability to opt out so we don’t know where that’s going to lead us.” Kupchak had a long talk with Sessions, who’d never played in a playoff game before this postseason, and said Sessions would admit “it was a little overwhelming at first.” Kupchak sensed that he wasn’t as confident and aggressive as he was in the regular season. And then the pressure ramped up further in the second round against an OKC team with nine days to prepare for the Lakers, and it took Sessions a while to adjust.

- Kupchak played in the Olympics himself, and while he may recognize that more games on Kobe’s body could be problematic for the Lakers perspective, he’d never tell someone not to represent their country, as Kobe will in the 2012 summer games.

- On Andrew Bynum having a few issues throughout the season: “He’s a good kid, a bright kid, and I’m hopeful going forward the things that we’re disappointed with are not as disappointing in the future.”

- Kupchak said Mike Brown did a “fine job” considering all that occurred throughout the season.

- On the talent on the team being enough to win: “In short, if we were just able to bring the players back next year and have a full training camp, we’d be one of those five or six teams with a chance to (win a championship). I can’t tell you if that’s going to happen. It’s not like we don’t have a group that’s talented, and that’s all you can really hope for.”