Monthly Archive for April, 2013

Mitch Kupchak: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_KupchakA summary of Mitch Kupchak’s 2012 Exit Interview:

- Kupchak opened by discussing Dwight Howard’s situation as a free agent, relaying that the team is “hopeful” and “optimistic” that he’ll re-sign with the Lakers. He said he won’t pressure Howard, who needs to wait until June to capitalize on increases in the potential contract he can receive anyways. With that known, Kupchak said this: “I know in my heart this is a place where I think he should be.”

- Kupchak continued when pressed on the Howard issue, explaining why he’s hopeful: “We have a great legacy, a great history of great players in this city dating back to when the franchise came here in 1960, and he certainly fits the mold. But I don’t want to get ahead of the game and take anything for granted. Obviously, I’m hopeful and optimistic. From what I understand, our players that came in today were very supportive of him returning … If you just look at the opportunity, which is to play for this franchise in this city, with what this franchise has meant to this city and its accomplishments, that’s probably the most any team can offer a player. Certainly, some players might not prefer to play on a stage like in Los Angeles, but I do know that this franchise will continue to be run as a model franchise. This is a very desirable place for players to play. What it comes down to is being comfortable selling the Los Angeles Lakers, and that’s where my confidence lies the most.”

- On the status of Pau Gasol, who enters the last season of his contract, as it relates to a potential trade: “When you lose, everything is in play. This is the third year in a row that you could argue we didn’t live up to or play up to expectations. Everybody is in play, whether it’s Pau or anybody else to look for ways to improve the team. By and large, the organization has always looked to put the best product on the court, and that will continue to be how we’ll move going forward. Looking for the best players that give us what we think is the best chance to win.”

- On being comfortable with Howard as a franchise cornerstone: “Nobody can completely carry a franchise by himself. In this day and age, with the parity around the league, and the way the league, the owners and players have set up the new collective bargaining agreement, every team is going to have good players. There’s not one player that can carry a team. We’re very confident that we can build around Dwight Howard.”

- Kupchak said the season outcome – both from the organization and D’Antoni’s perspective – was obviously not what they envisioned, but he was impressed that D’Antoni was able to turn things around from the low point at Memphis in January when the team was 17-25: “To Mike’s credit, he made adjustments. Once we started getting players back and once he started to see what our real strengths were, he was flexible and made adjustments, and that’s when we started to win games and gather momentum.”

- On feeling pride about the late-season play: “Considering our payroll and what our expectations were on October 1 … at the end of the season, quite frankly, I was proud of this group. To come in at 45-37 – and believe me that’s hard for me to say – but their accomplishments the last third-plus of the season were significant. They really almost had to win at a high level on a consistent basis.”

- On what the Lakers will run next season under Mike D’Antoni: “It’s going to depend on the talent we have. The trend in the NBA, and the way you’re seeing college players and NBA players play, it’s very different to what it was 20 to 30 years ago. That’s probably not going to change. It’s an open game, a lot of pick and rolls, perimeter shooting. The game has really gravitated to the way Mike coaches, but you have to coach to a great degree to the players you have on the team.”

- Kupchak was then asked if the Lakers planned on using the amnesty clause: “Can I refer that to Mark Cuban? He’s our amnesty expert,” talking about the Mavs owner’s comments that L.A. might amnesty Kobe Bryant (resulting immediately in Kobe going off in Dallas, then tweeting ‘Amnesty THAT!). Kupchak then said the amnesty provision wasn’t something that he’d discuss right now, but it’s obviously something the team will consider for the players that are eligible.

- Kupchak understands the “passion” of the Lakers fan base, but acknowledged that he felt bad for D’Antoni, who’s taken the brunt of the reaction from the team’s losing. But D’Antoni knew what he was getting into following Phil Jackson, and hasn’t been surprised by criticism. Kupchak should be given some credit here in knowing how to evaluate coaches, and he’s been supportive of D’Antoni, so that should tell us as much as observations from watching an injured team play.

- On a lighter note, Kupchak quipped that he liked Metta World Peace’s Cookie Monster shirt in his exit interview, though he naturally had no clue about his status for next season (MWP has a player option on his contract).

- On Dwight Howard being criticized unfairly in his mind, and thus standing up for him in February during the All-Star break, which Howard responded well to: “I think it helped that people recognized what he was going through. Once again, the expectations leading into the season were just so high and so off the charts that any kind of sub performance would result in negative feedback, and that’s what took place. When you’re not performing to the level of expectations, people look for – and rightfully so – reasons why, and for some reason, he seemed to get most of the criticism, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s here on a one-year deal, and for business reasons, he has to wait till this summer, but nobody understands that … I don’t think people understand it’s been about a year since he had surgery. Here’s a guy that had surgery last April and here it is a full NBA season later, and he played a full slate of games. I asked everybody here to look back at his March performance (17.9 points, 15.2 rebounds), and understandably, people aren’t going to say: ‘He’s not playing as well as he could because he had back surgery.’ When you’re on the court in this league, it means you’re ready to play. I feel as if he’s not been given his due credit and he’s been under appreciated.”

- On trading for Howard knowing he could possibly sit out nearly half the year: “I didn’t think we’d see him till January or February. When he showed up at the first day of training camp, I was shocked.”

- On D’Antoni, where much of the criticism went late in the season: “It was an adjustment process for Mike and getting familiar with our players. Mike was flexible and he listened to the players. Maybe too flexible at times, but he certainly, as a credit to him, worked with the veterans and they figured it out.”

- On Steve Nash’s year: “I was disappointed for him. I’ve never seen a player struggle and be as involved with the rehabbing of an injury and to be as frustrated as he was. I think everybody knows what he went through prior to Game 4 here in Los Angeles. Completely frustrating year for Steve. He’s going to dedicate the summer to get well, and he feels that he’ll be 100 percent in the fall.”

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Mike D’Antoni: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_DAntoniA summary of Mitch D’Antoni’s 2013 Exit Interview:

- On the season: “It was a bit of a roller coaster, obviously. A lot of disappointment at the end. Due to a lot of circumstances, we started off slow and got us in a hole. The last 40 games, we played well. Disappointed we couldn’t do anything in the playoffs – a lot of it due to injuries. We had ourselves set up to make a run, but we didn’t do it. Guys hung in there and battled back, and played April really well. There were some good things moving forward, and hopefully we can build off that.”

- D’Antoni was brought in to be himself as he’d done in the past, and didn’t have Steve Nash or Steve Blake when he took over the team. He said he wanted to wait and see how things would go once he got his point guards back, but eventually, he figured out how things would work, and the team played well down the stretch. Clearly, he was frustrated by having his top four guards out in the playoffs, but that was a microcosm of how the season went.

- With that said, D’Antoni was pleased with how the players competed through the end: “The thing that came out of it was the players hung in there, they wanted to get it done for Los Angeles, for themselves, for the organization and there was no panic in our room, and because of that, they let you work through the problems. I thought we worked through them and that’s a great thing for the players to take out of this season.”

- On the importance of having a full offseason and training camp to implement his system: “I think it highly impacts it. I’m looking forward to training camp. One of the biggest improvements we can get is in September, when you work individually with players on their strengths, get them tuned into what we do and then try to put the pieces together in October. I’m excited already – that’s what I like to do, and I (can’t wait).”

- D’Antoni mentioned in Memphis back in January that the team was basically an All-Star team, with four guys in particular used to being “Alpha Dogs.” The team was 17-25 at that time, but finally figured things out at that point towards a collective goal, and rallied to turn the season around and get into the playoffs. “There has to be a pecking order, and it took awhile to get used to it. I don’t think they resisted it – it just took awhile. I knew it was going to be hard .. I think it was a process and everything went into it. A lot of the early losing, I thought, was because we weren’t in great shape. That feeds into: ‘What’s my role?’ We had to get through it and you go back to the players. They did not give up. They could have. A lot of teams would have, and they didn’t do it. They fought back.”

- On how he’ll deal with Kobe next season, coming off a major injury, and if he works next to Steve Nash: “I think it was Wilt Chamberlain that said ‘You don’t handle players, you work with them.’ We’ll sit down and talk, but that at the end of the day, we’ll go on the floor and do what we need to win.” Basically, they’ll figure it out together. Said he thinks Kobe and Nash will be more comfortable playing off each other, that they eventually figured things out as the season went on, though it was rare that they were both healthy.

- In Bryant’s exit interview, he alluded to the team being a championship-caliber squad should everybody return and stay healthy. D’Antoni had this to say regarding his comments: “I think championship should be an expectation. Realistically we have enough talent here that there will be enough to where our goal is a championship.”

Kobe Bryant: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_KobeKobe Bryant put together one of his better statistical all-around years in his 17th season, averaging 27.3 points (third in the NBA), 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds on 46.3 percent shooting. He appeared in 78 games, missing two because of a sprained ankle and the final two of the regular season, plus the playoffs, after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State on April 12.

He underwent surgery the following day, the expected timetable recovery being six to nine months. The plan, according to Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, is for Bryant to be ready by the beginning of next season.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On why he’s so confident he can be healthy and fully recovered from his Achilles injury in time for the beginning of next season: “The staff we have here, the technology we have available and the understanding of this injury.” Bryant was recommended to have surgery the next day to eliminate the possibility of scar tissue developing and for less swelling. “For me, I’m willing to work and be patient. Those things together and I’m confident I can be ready for next season.” It’s definitely Kobe’s plan to be ready for the start of next season, but he acknowledged that he’ll simply have to see how rehabilitation goes.

- On how he’s feeling right now: “I’m moving a lot faster than I was. It’s a sneaky injury in the sense I don’t feel any pain, no stiffness or any of that. It’s one of those injuries where you keep it in the front of your mind at all times.”

- On if he can look at this season and take any positives away, despite all the adversity the club faced: “If we can gain something positive from this season, it’s (getting) most of the guys back. When you go from a year like this – five games out of the playoffs and then making the No. 7 seed – it does something for the group. It builds character. To allow that to dissipate and do that again with another group, it’s a headache.” Bryant believes the team as currently constructed, providing everybody is healthy next season, can win a championship. He stated the team understood how tough it would be to gain an understanding for one another, but injuries wouldn’t allow for their core group to be on the floor together. “We understood, but we didn’t have a chance to develop it because of injury after injury after injury. It was crazy. It was a constant process for us, but we finally figured it out. It’s great to bring the group back because we know what to do, and we know how lethal we can be.”

- Bryant recognizes that the team needs to add length and speed. “Some athleticism that can offset some of the deficiencies we have. If we can figure out a way to bring some of that length and athleticism, things will be (good).”

- On all the support from the fans during this time, what it means personally to him: “It drives me. It gives me more fuel and more focus to have that support. They believe in me. I take that and I wear that as a badge of honor not to disappoint them.”

- On how long he will continue to play in the league: “I don’t know. The Achilles (injury) kind of threw me a curveball, so I have to think about this.”

- On how he feels about Pau Gasol and whether or not Gasol will be a Laker next season: “I was pretty clear when I met with Mitch (Kupchak). I want him here. He gives us the best chance to win titles. You bring Dwight (Howard) back, then we’re off and running. You saw how well they played together (at the end of the season). That puzzle finally got solved.” Bryant acknowledged that coach Mike D’Antoni made a lot of adjustments during the season to better utilize Gasol, placing him near the elbow and in the post to make plays for his teammates.

- On playing with Steve Nash this year and what, if anything, he learned from him: “It was great to see him work every day, to go through his progressions, how he thinks the game from behind the scenes. (I thought), ‘Oh damn, if I knew that, maybe we could have beaten (Phoenix in the playoffs).’ But you get a chance to see his greatness because he’s extremely intelligent. His work ethic is unbelievable.” For Bryant to praise someone ELSE’S work ethic is definitely something to take seriously. They’re two peas in a pod along those lines.

- On Dwight Howard’s injury situation last year and the current circumstances he is in now trying to recover from surgery: “He went through a situation with back surgery where he was all by himself. He sees that and he doesn’t want me to experience the same thing he experienced. Our bond grew a lot.” Bryant appreciated that Howard visited him at his Orange County home after surgery: “It shows through adversity your bond can become stronger. The support for each other really shined through. That’s why I would love for this group to come back and get another crack at it.”

- With Howard set to be a free agent, Bryant stated he “hopes” the big man returns to L.A next season: “It’s just a matter of what he feels in his heart what and he wants to do. He’s reached a crossroads at his career and I think L.A. is the perfect spot for him to assert himself and have his career take off.” With Howard trying to play his way back into game shape after offseason back surgery, Bryant stated his play in the second half of the year was “impressive.”

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Dwight Howard: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_HowardDuring his first season in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard appeared in 76 games – missing six due to a torn labrum – towards averages of 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the NBA) and 2.4 blocks on 57.8 percent field goals (second in the NBA) and 49.2 percent free throws. It took Howard essentially the entire season to rebuild his strength and mobility from season-ending back surgery last April.

In four postseason games against San Antonio, Howard averaged 17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 61.9 percent field goals and 44 percent from the foul line.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Of course, the media was curious to know what Howard is thinking in terms of what he’ll do as an unrestricted free agent. His initial response is that he still needs time to “clear his head,” think about everything. Several of his teammates, including Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, expressed optimism that he’d return to Los Angeles, but we’ll of course have to wait and see.

- Howard reiterated that this season was in many ways a “nightmare” from which the team couldn’t wake up. Clearly, it was hard on everybody.
“I’m not happy that we’re sitting at home, that we got swept … but things like this happen in life. You have bad moments, bad years, but we survived. I think the future will be better for me as an individual.”

- Howard thinks it’s “great” to have the support from his current teammates and the organization throughout a struggle of a season. “To see Kobe and Steve and how supportive they are is great. Steve was the first one to talk to me before the game was over, and he said, ‘You have a tough decision to make, but I’m here for you.’”

- On the injuries he dealt with this season: “My back was pretty much painful the whole year. I came back five or six months earlier than I was supposed to, for this team, for this city because I wanted to win so bad. My shoulder, I’m going to have that looked at tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t have to have surgery. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to do whatever it takes myself to get right. I didn’t have the opportunity to get in the gym last offseason, but that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

- On not becoming the defensive team they wanted to: “That takes time. It’s tough.” He cited the injuries that kept the team essentially from practicing especially late in the season, and just prevented any kind of real progress.”

- On Los Angeles: “I love it. I had an awesome first year (living in Los Angeles), and we’ll see.”

- Howard was repeatedly asked about his plan for next season, and he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t really get into it. “I just want to be happy.” He didn’t tip his hand, and said he didn’t want pressure from anybody. (Lakers GM) “Mitch (Kupchak) said he wasn’t going to pressure me, and we’re in a good place.”

- On what he wants to add in the offseason: “I’m just going to work on everything … not having an opportunity to work on it last summer. I can really sit down and try to re-define some of the things I can do on the floor, instead of just being one dimensional and sticking myself in the post and play out of there. I want to expand (my game).”

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Steve Blake: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_BlakeSteve Blake started 13 games and appeared in 45 towards averages of 7.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds. He shot 42.1 percent on three-pointers, which ranked 13th in the NBA. He missed 37 games due to an abdominal injury upon which he had surgery.

Blake averaged 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two playoff games against San Antonio before straining his hamstring late in Game 2.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Blake said he was pleased with the way he played despite all the injuries, including to himself, which really undercut the season and made things disappointing. He, like all his teammates, wishes they’d have a better opportunity were they able to compete when healthy. “At the end of each year it’s really frustrating. One of the main reasons I came here was because I wanted to win a championship. My experience here has been great, but I love it here in L.A., I love my teammates and the opportunities I’ve had here.”

- Blake on Steve Nash: “I loved playing with Steve. He’s one of those point guards everybody wants to play with. He’s going to find you if you’re open. I really enjoyed watching him and trying to learn how he runs pick and rolls, and see him do the things he did. It really helped me out to have a better year.”

- Blake said he felt like he fits really well into Mike D’Antoni’s system, but recognized how it needed to change with L.A.’s roster. “I think it could definitely work. I’m not exactly sure what the personnel is going to be, but if we had a whole summer, I think coach (D’Antoni) could figure out exactly what works best. We definitely have the talent. That’s what the summer time is for.”

- On his play with both Bryant and Nash out with injuries: “Towards the end of the year, I got to really show some of the other abilities I haven’t shown while I’ve been here. There’s so much talent here and not a lot of shots to go around. With Kobe out and Nash being hurt, someone had to take those shots and be ready to step up.”

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Darius Morris: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_MorrisDarius Morris started 17 games and appeared in 48 with averages of 4.0 points and 1.6 assists in 14 minutes per contest.

The Lakers second-year guard played in all four postseason games, starting the last two due to injuries to Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks. He posted a career-high 24 points in Game 3 and twice tied his career-high with six dimes in Games 3 and 4.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On sitting next to Kobe Bryant on the plane: “It’s truly a blessing … once we became close, he gave me a lot of insight about stuff on and off the court. He became a mentor to me, kept me encouraged, and I really appreciate that. I watch a lot of film on the plane because he’s always watching.”

- On a particular story or moment with Kobe that sticks out: “When I had stopped playing, I’d just gotten out of the rotation, and he told me this long story – he’s always really deep – about Nike. About how Lulu Lemon came out with a new brand and were capturing women’s clothing, and asked why Nike wasn’t doing anything about it. Nike noticed that they can’t win everything, but the big picture is Nike is still very dominant. Always think big picture. I may not be playing right now, but take advantage of him, of Steve Nash, and think about where I can be in this league one day. When something bad happens, you can’t win them all, but think big picture.”

- Morris, a free agent, stated he would like to stay in Los Angeles with the team currently constructed and feels they can come back stronger next year if possible:
“I definitely want to come back, especially how we ended the season. We have a group of core guys that are hungry to get after it. Definitely want to come back and redeem this season. I like coach D’Antoni and the things he has to bring and I wouldn’t mind being a part of it. I would like to have that chance and have a great season.”

- As far as next season is concerned, wherever he may be, Morris would like to become more decisive with the ball in terms of what the defense is giving him: “A lot of times, playing the point guard position, you have to be decisive. If they give you a jump shot, you have to take it. That’s the next step in my game – just to have confidence in that.”

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Pau Gasol: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_GasolPau Gasol appeared in 49 games (the fewest of his 12-year career), starting 42 towards averages of 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Gasol battled injuries the entire year, missing eight games because of tendinitis in both knees, five games due to a concussion and 20 more after suffering a torn plantar fascia at Brooklyn on Feb. 5.

In four postseason games, Gasol averaged 14.0 points, 11.5 boards and 6.3 assists. He recorded his triple-double of the season in Game 3, the other two coming in the final week of the regular season.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On if he’ll be back to the Lakers: “I understand he position I find myself in. It can be a little draining. It’s not ideal. But I also accept it. I accept where I am. I accept the circumstances the team is in. I’m not upset about it. It’s just the way it is. The future is uncertain. There’s a possibility I could be gone. There’s a possibility I could stay. But I’m prepared either way. I understand the challenges the franchise is facing and the decision they have to make in order to keep the team in the direction they want looking at the present and the future. It’s a lot going on. I wish things were simpler, but they’re not. I appreciate Mitch (Kupchak’s) honesty and everything that he’s done and the franchise has done to keep me here, and have me on the team. There’s been two difficult years for different reasons, but we fought through it.”

- On the standing ovation he received when he was subbed out of Game 4, and what it meant to him, with Kobe coming over to console him: “At first I was upset because of the score, and I recognized it was our last game of the season … and then the emotional part kicked in. I saw and perceived the recognition from our fans, which is something I highly appreciate and am thankful for.”

- On his relationship with Kobe: “It’s grown and gotten stronger. We’ve gotten closer as friends and teammates. I’m happy and proud that we’ve grown so much as friends, and it’s been great. We communicate with each other a lot more now than we ever have. We’re on the same page, and I have great respect for who he is, what he brings to the table, what he brings to the franchise and to a lot of people.”

- On his role changing as the year went on: “We finished the year a lot happier of how I was placed on the court, and how I was used. My productivity shows that. (Mike D’Antoni and I) agreed that we all took our time to know each other and figure each other out, and figure out how to utilize the personnel to play the (best way). Nothing to regret from that part, but as any player would, I’d like to be used the right way so I can maximize what I bring to the table.”

- On his health, after what was the most challenging season of his career from that standpoint: “My knees have been an issue this year from beginning to end, and then I had to deal with my (torn plantar fascia) to come back as soon as I could. The soreness increased as I was playing more on it (when I returned). I’m going to go through several medical tests in the next several days to see the status in my knees and the arch, and then decide what kind of procedure if any or treatment I need to go through to get healthy. Hopefully next season I’ll come back at full strength.”

- We learned that Gasol has been working on a book – some photographic, some written – to express himself from a personal standpoint.

- Gasol thinks his unselfish nature as a passer and playmaker means that the team is best off when going through him, which he’s proven to be true in the past. Yet the Lakers have been in such a unique situation, with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum – two of the only other bigs in the league that would take some time from him on the block – on the roster. This season, Gasol’s injuries limited his effectiveness at times on the defensive end in particular, as he wasn’t always able to protect the rim like he has when healthy.

- He described how things were difficult, but got better, with what the team wanted to do: “In the beginning, we struggled more because everybody wanted to assert themselves and establish themselves. Things didn’t work out that well from the beginning. The coaching change had a big role into it, but we progressed as the season went on and put our individual desires aside and found what worked. We finished the season playing the right way as far as a balance.” Gasol said Kobe was willing to facilitate and distribute, and get players involved. He also stated he was able to be utilized at the post more on offense and create for others.

- Gasol was asked how he’s maintained a positive state of mind through what have been two whirlwind seasons full of trade rumors, health issues and more losing than expected: “I have a positive mind. I try to put myself in the position of others and understand where they come from. If I saw something malicious or saw something of bad intention, then I might say something. But I understand everybody’s position here. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, a lot of coverage and a lot of fans please. I’ve been extremely lucky to play for this franchise for so long.”

- Here’s what Tim Duncan had to say about Gasol after the Round 1 series: “I don’t see how he’s changed much at all. He’s in a different system, and he’s asked to do different things. He’s as skilled as there are of big men out there. He can do just about everything, and he’s unselfish. I see him playing the way he’s been asked to play. I think if he’s asked to be more of a scorer, or be something else, he can do that as well. I don’t see why he doesn’t have many years left in him.”

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Jordan Hill: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_HillJordan Hill started one game and appeared in 29 towards averages of 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds on 49.7 percent field goals. A left hip injury that required surgery caused him to miss the remaining 53 contests.

Hill was cleared for basketball-related activity after Game 1 of L.A.’s first round playoff series, returning to the court three months ahead of the projected timetable recovery. He recorded a total of 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes in three postseason contests.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On how his hip feels now and his return to the court three months earlier than expected after undergoing hip surgery on Jan. 23: “I feel great. Probably was a smart thing to keep it rested, but I felt good about it and I just wanted to play, definitely in the playoffs.” The hip may not recover to be fully 100 percent of what it was since he had the surgery, but it should get very close. That can be said of any surgery, really, and it’s Hill’s job to strengthen around the area so that his game is unaffected. Right now, Hill said the hip is at 80 to 85 percent. During practices and games, it could tighten up, but he had no pain. Hill also stated he’ll go back to Tennessee for a follow up visit with his surgeon. Hill also suffered a herniated disc in the preseason, but said that was not an issue as the season went on.

- On the season as a whole: “There were a lot of injuries. We did whatever we had to do, and kept our head high. There was a lot of turmoil and we did a great job of handling it well.” Hill believes the team has all the pieces to make a run next season, but admits – like everybody else – injuries took its toll on the club. It wasn’t necessarily the way he envisioned the season going, but he was proud of the way the guys fought.

- Hill was asked about what his best position is, depending upon what system the Lakers put in next season (if D’Antoni has a chance to put in his preferred offense, traditionally featuring one big man and a stretch four). He didn’t have a specific answer, saying this: “I just want to play … rebound, defend, shoot the ball: just put me out there and let me go to work.”

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Jodie Meeks: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_MeeksJodie Meeks started 10 games and appeared in 78, with averages of 7.9 points and 2.2 rebounds. He shot 35.7 percent from distance.

Meeks played 20 minutes in Game 1, but sprained his left ankle, which forced him to miss the rest of the postseason.

Below is a summary of his exit interview

On the ankle that kept him out of the final three playoff games: “It feels all right. It’s still hard to get a shoe on … I’m going to talk to (head athletic trainer) Gary Vitti and see what he wants me to do. But (I will) get it back to 100 percent.”

- On his shooting being inconsistent on the season: “My shooting was up and down this season for whatever reason. I’ll be ready to come back next year and (get better); this system fits me perfectly and (Mike D’Antoni) has a lot of confidence in me.” Meeks didn’t have a great answer for why he was inconsistent, for a guy with such a quick release and nice stroke. Perhaps the constantly changing line ups were difficult, as he wasn’t always sure from where he’d be receiving the ball and from whom, which can be key for a shooter.

- On his defense, for a guy known as a shooter: “I thought I did a pretty good job. I just talked to coach, and he said I came along well defensively. I watched a lot of film this year, more than what I was used to, and that helped out a lot.”

- Meeks on playing with Kobe Bryant: “I didn’t really know what to expect before the season started – it was sort of surreal at first. But he was a great teammate, giving me a lot of confidence to play the way I can … his mental preparation (stands out to me the most). No matter if he’s hurt, sick, whatever, he has the same focus for every single game. That’s hard when you’re playing against the best players in the league.”

- Meeks on Dwight Howard, with whom he is probably closer than anyone else on the team: “I know he loves this city and this team. We got pretty close as friends. I can’t say exactly what he’s going to do, but I know he likes (Los Angeles).

- On Kobe and Howard’s relationship: “I don’t think the relationship was ever bad. They got along fine from day one. I think they just got to know one another’s games as the season went on, but there was never any beef in the locker room.”

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Robert Sacre: 2013 Exit Interview

13exits_SacreRobert Sacre started three games and appeared in 32, splitting time between the D-League and the Lakers in his rookie season. The 60th pick averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in six minutes, and played a total of four postseason minutes recording two boards and one steal.

Sacre is extremely well liked by his teammates, handling the various demands of a rookie with a constant smile. Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Sacre’s overall thought on the season: “I definitely learned a lot this year. I think at the end of the day I’m glad to be with a great group of guys.”

- On what he learned from veterans like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash? “I think their work ethic – you take guys like Kobe, you hear myths that he comes in in the middle of the night, and that’s really what he does. You see that Nash is always one of the first guys in. It’s (really impressive).”

- On practicing against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol: “Again, it’s an honor. I’m super excited about playing against (them). It depends on what kind of day it is … if I want to get hit, I’d (take Dwight). Pau is one of the most skilled big men ever.” Basically, he was in trouble either way, but he learned a ton playing against them.

- On his time in the D-League: “Glad I went to the D-League to play. Later in the year, coach was shortening up the bench and I wasn’t seeing a lot of playing time. I’m a competitive guy and I know what he was trying to do. I’m not going to fuss and moan and groan about it. I took it as I can only get better and focus on what I need to do to get better. I can’t complain!”

- Sacre went on to discuss some of the more taxing parts of being a rookie, like waking up every morning on the road to deliver bags … but he took it all in good spirit. I then asked him if he had any tattoos planned, he said of course, but declined to share of what: “I have to save something for (Time Warner Cable Sportsnet’s) “Backstage Lakers!”

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