Archive for the 'Mitch Kupchak' Category

Mitch Kupchak: 2014 Exit Interview


- Opening statement:
“At some point in the near future, I will sit down with Mike (D’Antoni) and probably Jim Buss and review the season, which is what we do every year at some point at the conclusion of the season.”

- On Kobe Bryant leaving town before the regular season ended:
“First of all, I did not know he was leaving town. Second of all, it’s a bigger story to you guys than it is to us. We had a tough year and Kobe (Bryant) has had a two tough years and two career threatening injuries. He’s had to live through this season that we had to live through together. I haven’t spoken to him in the last day or two but I understand (with him) leaving town, he will see his medical consultant in Europe. All things considered, to me, it’s not that big a deal.”

- On if D’Antoni will be the head coach next season:
“Mike is under contract for two more years. If anything happens, we’ll let you know.”

- On if he gives D’Antoni some leeway with all the injuries that hit the team:
“Under the circumstances, I’m not sure anybody could have done a better job (than) he did.”

- On if his view or approach on free agency has shifted knowing that the team’s pick this year will be high and the way the contracts are structured currently:
“Well, we didn’t expect to have a good pick and it looks like we’re going to have a good pick. Hopefully on May 20th, it becomes a much better pick, but there’s also a chance it becomes a less attractive pick, which is the nature of the lottery. We haven’t had a pick this high since I’ve been here, which is quite some time*. That’s exciting. We’ve been doing a lot of canvassing the country like everybody else watching games and watching the players. It’s a good group this year. We’re confident the asset will be a good asset for us going into the draft. Regarding the other part of the question, cap strategy and financial flexibility is a huge part, particularly with the new collective bargaining agreement. It’s really the main tool you have to work with to improve your team. Fortunately we’re in a market where that gives us advantages to pursue players. We do feel having the draft pick is an asset and having the financial flexibility going forward is as good a position as we can be in. Like I said, there is a degree of patience here. We have to make sure we use it wisely. If we can use it wisely right away, we will. If we have to use part of it and then wait a year to use the other part of it, we’ll do that. Just creating an environment where you have that flexibility sometimes takes teams six to eight years to do and we just have to be wise about our choices.”
*This pick will be L.A.’s highest since 1982, when they took James Worthy at No. 1 overall.

- On approaching the players on one-year deals on the current team:
“Despite the season and despite the criticism for having players with one-year deals, I thought we had a pretty good look at a lot of guys that are pretty talented. I would speculate that there’s a good possibility that we pursue some of them to come back.”

- On the utilization of cap space:
“We don’t want to predetermine that we’re going to spend or use our flexibility today. A lot of it is going to depend on the marketplace and our draft choice. There are a lot of guys on our team I like a lot, but we don’t know what the marketplace is going to dictate their contracts are going forward. You just don’t know.”

- On looking at the top of this year’s draft class and where he sees potential draft picks making an impact:
“They’re varying in degrees based on the player you’re talking about. Under normal circumstances you have to wait a year or two for a young player (to develop). A lot of times, the kids that come out are freshman. It’s rare, although we’ve seen it. Typically, based on maturity and position, it’s going to take a year or two. I think there are some players that are a little bit older in the draft that aren’t just freshmen and may be able to make a contribution quicker. But once again, we’ll have to see where we’re drafting. The list is still incomplete in terms of early entry candidates, so we’ll have to wait on that as well.”

- On Mike D’Antoni’s comments on how the game has changed and where he sees the game today and how it’s evolved:
“I don’t think there’s any doubt it’s changed. He’s 100 percent correct, and if you look at college, it’s how they play in college. If you look at those NCAA games several weeks ago, they were pushing the ball up the court and guys were taking 3-point shots before there’s a rebounder near the basket. That’s just how they play today. It is fun to watch. I thought at the beginning of the season this year, we were fun to watch, it was exciting and we were relatively healthy. The way the rules are today, it promotes that style of play. There are actually coaches today that tell their team we’re going to score in one of three ways: it’s going to be a free throw, it’s going to be a layup or it’s going to be a three-point shot. The idea of a two-point shot doesn’t even come up into a conversation with some coaches. That’s just the way it is today. Now is it going to be that way five years from now or 10 years from now? I don’t know. It is entertaining, it’s fun to watch and players love to play that way. I think it’s here to stay. Our challenge is – where teams that have a more mature and older roster – having to incorporate the talents of certain players on a team into a style of play if that’s how you want to play. But I think that’s the way the game is played today.”

- On if re-signing Pau Gasol is a priority in the offseason:
“Absolutely he’s a priority. If you look at the free agent board or the guys that may be a free agent, there’s probably not a player as good as Pau on the board. He’s waited a bunch of years to become a free agent. He’s going to get phone calls, so we’ll do our best to stay on top of it. I think Pau has a good relationship with this organization and I know he loves this city. We’ll have to see what the market dictates.”

- On if this was one of the more difficult years he’s experienced:
“No, actually it wasn’t. I know it was difficult for our fans and I thank them for their support and patience. Early on, when the injury bug hit, there was really nothing we could do. We had players under contract because they were getting paid so little and on one-year deals, we couldn’t trade them and get anything back in return that was better. Certain things are out of your control. I think Mike (D’Antoni) understood it and we understood it. It wasn’t easy for our fans with the year we had, but quite frankly, there was nothing we could do about it. There wasn’t a trade that we could do and bring somebody else on board. We had a feel going into the season how we wanted to end the season in terms of our flexibility. I think we did the best we could. It was a stressful year for our fans. I don’t think they questioned our direction, but we have passionate, loyal fans. They don’t want to see us lose.”

- On if he feels pressured to put together a contender in the time frame Kobe Bryant is under contract for the next two seasons:
“We want the same thing. Everybody in this room knows Kobe. He’s not the most patient person in the world and that’s not going to change. We’ve won five championships because of the package he brings to this franchise. We want to win and win as soon as possible. But it takes an organization a long time to get into a position we’re in now where we have options going forward financially and we have to use wise decisions with that (cap) space.”

- On Steve Nash’s injury woes:
“When we signed Steve, nobody anticipated in the second game, he’d break his leg. Not unexpectedly because he is an older player, but when that happens later in your career, one thing leads to another. A lot of times it doesn’t, but in his case it did. Nobody has worked harder and has been more frustrated than he’s been. He wants to play next year. From an organization standpoint, it’s hard to say from the point guard position: ‘We can bank on this guy.’ We can’t do that. We have to make sure that that position is covered. I know Steve will be in here every day, he’ll be in Vancouver working with his trainer, he’ll be in this gym working with our people. We’ll know more as the (summer) goes along.”

- On if signing a starting caliber point guard is a priority this offseason:
“We’ll see. We’ll see what the draft holds and we’ll see who is available in free agency. We have a nice young ballhandling guard who had an opportunity to play and who I thought from time to time really showed he could play in this league. Is he ready to lead a team through the playoffs? That remains to be seen. But we are optimistic on Kendall Marshall going forward.”

- On if he would have approached getting under the luxury tax around the trade deadline knowing how this season ended:
“No. This organization rarely, if ever, has made a strategic decision just to save money. I’m not exactly sure – there’s a lot of rumor – what deal we could have done but there was a lot of activity. The bottom line was we didn’t feel making a financial deal and not getting an asset back was the right message to send from this organization. The luxury tax is going to be important but that won’t prevent us from fielding a team that we feel can contend for a championship. We’re certainly not in a position where we were a couple seasons ago where we were locked into the tax.”

Mitch Kupchak Presser Transcript

ts_130925mitchkupchakpresserLakers GM Mitch Kupchak addressed assembled media members at the team’s practice facility in advance of the 2013-14 season. He addressed a wide range of questions, including the status of Kobe Bryant as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon, the health of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, the club’s offseason signings and more. Below is a transcription of the press conference:

Opening statement:
Kupchak: With the exception of Kobe (Bryant), we expect everyone to be able to participate to some degree in practice. Now clearly, we’re going to be a little more patient with Pau (Gasol), Steve Nash and Ryan Kelly. But we expect a full training camp for us to maybe use 19 people. There are some spots that are up for grabs, but it’ll be competitive and it’ll be spirited. We’re excited.

Q: Do you think this has any negative impact in signing free agents in the future:
Kupchak: No, I don’t think that has anything to do with it. The Lakers and Los Angeles remains a destination for athletes in any sport. As you know this is a wonderfully supportive fan base in Los Angeles, a vibrant city and our franchise is one of the best, if not the best, since we came here in 1960. We’ve always figured a way to bring players and put competitive and championship teams on the court. Those things don’t change.

Q: On what he expects from Kobe this season:
Kupchak: No real expectations. I do believe he’ll get back and play this season. You won’t be able to look at him and say he was hurt. In other words, some guys, like myself when I hurt my knee, I always had a limp. You won’t be able to tell. He’ll get back on the court, he’ll be healthy, but he is 35. His game has been evolving anyway the last two or three years, although statistically you would not notice that. Even if there is a difference statistically this year, it may be a function not of the injury, but of the team we have he may decide to get players involved more or do things differently. He comes into the season with a mindset of how he’s going to play. I do expect when he does come back, and if he’s thinking a certain way, and we’re down by two or three, the Kobe we all know and love is going to take the last shot. I do know that.

Q: On if he’s explored talking with Kobe about his approach on the court this season:
Kupchak: No, that’s really more an area that falls under the coaching than what we do. I’ve seen Kobe this offseason more than I’ve seen him any offseason. He’s been in the facility every single day at 7 o’clock in the morning. We’ve visited once or twice a week, but it’s more like: ‘how you doing’ and talking about the team as it evolved in early July and August, and monitoring his progress and stuff like that.

Q: On any contract extension talks with Kobe:
Kupchak: There have been no contract extension talks (with Kobe). I would suspect that at some point this season, we’ll sit down, whether it be Kobe and I, or Kobe and his representative, Rob Pelinka, and talk about the roadmap for the future. But Kobe has made it clear that he intends to retire in a Laker uniform, and I know as an organization, we feel the same way.

Q: On a wait and see approach with Kobe regarding extension talks:
Kupchak: I think it’s natural. He wants to do the same thing. If you think for a second that Kobe can’t play at a high level or up to his expectations that he wants to continue to play, I don’t think that’s in his DNA. I think it makes sense for him and for us to get him back on the court, and to get a feel or a gauge of how much longer he wants to play and at what level.

Q: On what he’s most excited about with the roster he’s put together:
Kupchak: We have open spots, so I think there will be a lot of competition. Considering our roadmap and our game plan for the next year or two, which certainly involves a lot of financial flexibility, I thought we were able to get a nice combination of veteran players that are proven and can play in this league, and younger players who were drafted high in the draft, but for some reason, did not get to where they wanted to get to as quick as they wanted to get there. We’ve added some new coaches to our coaching staff. Excitement is high and it’s a fun time of the year for our team, and for all NBA teams.

Q: On the statuses of Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Ryan Kelly regarding their health:
Kupchak: Nash has been practicing and scrimmaging at 100 percent for maybe a month to a month-and-a-half now. I’d say he’s been scrimmaging for two to three weeks. But he and I communicated during the summer and probably a month to a month-and-a-half ago, he indicated he was 100 percent, and we want to keep it at that pace and level. I don’t know how we’ll use him in camp. He’ll start practicing right away, but he may not practice 100 percent like the younger players do. Pau, it’s the same thing. I’ve spoken to him and we’ve communicated over the summer. He feels better and better. I’m not sure how much he’s been on the basketball court the last two or three weeks, but he certainly feels feels ready to go, and like with all veterans, we’ll bring him along slowly. Part of the reason we’re looking to bring in 19 to 20 guys into camp is we make sure we have enough so we don’t have to push our veterans unnecessarily in training camp. Ryan Kelly, it’s been a rough time for him. It’s a frustrating period not being able to play basketball for six months. I don’t anticipate him participating much in training camp. Expectations for a second-round pick are not high anyway, but we like his size and his ability to shoot the ball. We like what he can bring to the court if healthy.

Q: On Pau Gasol the last several years sacrificing his overall game for Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, and what he expects from him this year, if he’s healthy:
Kupchak: If he’s healthy, he’s going to be an All Star player. He’ll be the focal point of our play in the paint. He’ll be able to post up and he’ll be on the move whether it’s a pick and roll or pick and (pop). He’ll be able to hit (the outside shot). He won’t really have to share that much space. Much of what we did last year was an adjustment and deferring and trying to figure out how Dwight Howard would fit in and try to get the best out of him. Pau Gasol made a lot of sacrifices last year. I think he’s looking forward to playing this year.

Q: Does the organization have to monitor Kobe and make sure he doesn’t do too much, too soon?
Kupchak: We can only control what he does in this building. Yeah, I’m concerned. He hasn’t really been on the basketball court. He’s been in the training room and he’s been on the alter-G treadmill. I’ve looked out my window for three months, and he hasn’t been on the basketball court one day. But quite frankly, I’m wondering if he goes to a gym at night somewhere.

Q: On how going into this season feels different compared to previous season:
Kupchak: There’s a little bit of an underdog tag, low expectations contrasted to a year ago. It’s night and day.

Q: On his expectations going into this season:
Kupchak: It’s hard to have expectations right now until when and how Kobe is going to return. You cannot sit down and pencil in what you think your record may be until you know how one of the best, if not the best player in the NBA, is going to play and when he is going to play.

Q: On how the team will pick up defensively losing Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard, two former Defensive Player of the Year award winners:
Kupchak: The coaches have been meeting every day and they’re going to have to change how they coach. You could argue with Dwight, you could funnel into the paint and you know you have that big guy back there. There’s nobody like him in the NBA. Pau is big and long, and Chris (Kaman) is big and long, Jordan Hill, who did not play much last year, is very active defensively rebounding and blocking shots. So obviously, we can’t depend on one player to make up for the mistakes; it’s going to have to be more of a team effort.

Q: On if he thinks it’s important that Kobe shows a little bit more facilitating in order to lure a high-profile free agent for next season or the future:
Kupchak: Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles. He’s going to play to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. In January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.

Q: On if less pressure and lower expectations is better for the team heading into this season:
Kupchak: Well, I guess it depends how we end up. I think right now going into the season, it’s probably a good thing. I enjoyed going into last season like everybody else did. I thought the second half of the year we measured up to expectations. If we played the first half of the year like we played the second half of the year, we would have won 60+ games. Then the injury bug got us at the end of the year. Not to say if we didn’t get injured, we would have won a championship. I don’t know if we would have. But people in Los Angeles expect the Lakers to be in a position every season to win a championship, and I don’t think that’s the expectation right now. That’s not how we feel. We feel we’re as good as anybody. But once again, we have to get our team on the court, they have to play at a high level, everybody has to be healthy, our young guys and veterans we signed have to produce and that’s how we’ll be judged.

Q: On if it’s dangerous if fans are looking ahead to next July:
Kupchak: It’s natural with the way things have been set up. Yeah, I do think it’s a little bit dangerous only because the rules have been created where it’s going to be tough to get players to move. It really is. I don’t know what next offseason holds. Certainly we’ll be active. If we want to get done what we want to get done, then great. If not, we’ll move to the next offseason, and then we’ll move to the next offseason. I know at some point in time we’ll be able to put together a very competitive and attractive team. I don’t think this is a franchise that can take 15 years to build through the draft. The worst thing you can do is be burdened with contracts that are $6, 7, 8 million dollars a year that go out three or four years and have average players, and you’re kind of stuck in the middle. You’re not going to get a good draft choice and you don’t have financial flexibility. So in my opinion, we’re probably best as set up as we can for the future.

Q: On if he has any time frame of when Kobe will start to get onto the court:
Kupchak: I don’t have a timeline. I really don’t. The only thing I know is he’s still on the alter-G (treadmill). When you get to 100 percent, that’s a gravity-oriented treadmill where you can adjust your weight percentages. When you get to 100 percent you’re there for a couple days, then you transition to the court. Like I said he has not been on the court yet, but I’m not aware of any setback. When he get back to the court, it’s no like he’s not going to start practicing. It’s going to take some time.

Q: On any idea of how many players they’ll take on the roster:
Kupchak: You have to keep 13. In year’s past, it would probably be harder to justify keeping 14 or 15. But I could see where it comes down to a decision where you can keep a 14th or 15th player, and I think ownership would be open to it than they would in year’s past.

Q: On how Mike D’Antoni will handle this roster with a full traning camp:
Kupchak: It’s hard to have expectations. It really is. I mentioned Kobe and we just don’t know when and how he’ll look when he gets back. Although I expect him to be productive, I don’t know when that is. If he gets back early in the season and we’re going to have a high performing player for 60 to 70 games, that’s one thing. If we have a delay and there’s setbacks, that’s going to affect the performance of the team. Anybody else in this league who plays at that level, if you don’t have that player, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. I do feel the players that we have are excited to be playing the kind of basketball that Mike D’Antoni coaches.

Q: On managing Kobe’s personality in terms of input to the coaching staff:
Kupchak: No, there’s never a comfort level. With Kobe, you just try to manage who he is the best you can. Trust me, at 17 years going on 18 year in the league, you’re not going to change who Kobe is. He’s mellowed a bit, and from time to time, he likes to talk to the media, but during a game, he’s tough to manage. He’s got blinders on, his mind is racing, the juices are flowing, he’s competitive, he’s thinking about the score, down by one or up by one. He’s cut a little bit differently, so that’s not going to change. The best Mike can hope for is to get to know Kobe better and maybe figure out a way to manage it as best he can. I think that’s Mike’s best chance. No coach has been able to control Kobe. No coach we’ve had since 1996, and that’s not going to change.

Q: On what he envisions D’Antoni’s offense (a lot of pick-and-roll or getting up and down the floor) to be this season:
Kupchak: It’s going to be really the way all NBA teams play today. It’s not something that one person came up with. It’s really based on the rules and the way the NBA is, I guess, how they feel the game should be played. For example, years ago, they wanted to cut down on hand checking. They put the semi-circle under the basket to allow players to get to the rim more. The NBA just felt an open game, more up and down, more scoring and less physicality is a better game to watch, and because of the rules, our coaches are so good, they figured out a way to play that way. If the rules ever change, the coaches will change how they coach, but that’s the way the NBA game is played today.

Q: On signing guys like Elias Harris, Marcus Landry, Shawne Williams, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, etc.:
Kupchak: Like I said, some of them are former high draft choices. In fact, some of them are lottery picks. When you come out of college and you’re 19 years old and get drafted in the first round, general managers are forced to decide your future or at least part of your future after the first year. A lot of times, a general manager won’t pick up the third-year or fourth-year option only because they haven’t had enough to look at the player. Sometimes those guys are better off with the second team they’re with. Shannon Brown is a great example. Shannon came out of college early and couldn’t find his niche. We brought him here and he found his niche. We’re hoping that one or two or three of those guys will be the same with us. They’re very talented and drafted high for a reason. Maybe because of age or the makeup of the team or the coach, they didn’t grow as quickly as they could have grown. So we have the roster spots and it makes for a healthy opportunity for players. They play the way the Mike wants to coach, so I think it’s good.

Q: On the positives or negatives of signing these players to one-year deals:
Kupchak: I think players look at it as an opportunity. Clearly, they get guidance from their agent, but I’m sure their agents are saying: ‘Listen, they have all this cap room and financial flexibility a year from now. This is a great opportunity for you.’ In year’s past when we were so far over the cap, I’m sure a lot of agents were saying: ‘Even if you play well, they’re only going to sign minimum guys.’ I’ve talked to a lot of agents and they feel this is a great spot for players.

Q: On constructing a roster and using the financial flexibility as management tries to reconstruct the club the next couple years:
Kupchak: We’ve given away draft choices in the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades. We have our pick this year and a pick every year for the next two or three years. We looked at a lot of these young players as draft picks. We may not have our draft pick this season, but as I mentioned, we got three guys that were former lottery picks. This draft is shaping up to be one of the best, but it’s way too early to tell. We don’t know where we’ll be in the process, but it’s a good year to have a pick.

Q: On if he feels Steve Nash can still be an elite point guard in the NBA:
Kupchak: I do. We’re not expecting 35 minutes per game from Steve Nash. He is completely healthy right now. The one player we haven’t talked about is Jordan Farmar. We know him very well and he gave up a very lucrative deal in Turkey to come to Los Angeles. He’s been here every day and he’s playing very well. With Steve Blake and Jordan and Steve Nash, we’re hoping that combination will give Nash some rest where we won’t have to rely on him 100 percent. He’s 39 years old, and you can’t play him 35 to 40 minutes per game. I don’t know what the number is. But we have some players we can go to and give him a rest.

Q: Regarding last season and the different roles certain players had to play:
Kupchak: The whole season was a laborious process to win one game, then the next game, then the next game. There wasn’t enough practice to buy into a system. There was so much pressure to win and get into the playoffs and the players did whatever they could do to win games. Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta (World Peace) were very, very unselfish in the way they chose to play the game. They gave up a lot of what they did to win games. I don’t know how this year is going to go. I think we’re a great team with the ball in Steve Nash’s hands, but once again, I’m not sure how it’s going to play out. With the training camp and increased depth at that position, I think there’s more confidence back there than there was last year.

Q: On if this team, in a loaded Western Conference, and with the expectations already on the team, can they be more cohesive and can that play be reflected in the standings:
Kupchak: We ended up with the 7th seed (last season), and we were a little disjointed. Whether it was on the court, or the injury factor and then no training camp. All those things were a factor. I can’t dismiss the fact that we ended the season 28-12. You can’t dismiss that. That’s on pace to win almost 60 games. But it wasn’t everybody moving in one direction. Hopefully this year will be a better case to make, but once again, we don’t know when our best player will be back. So hopefully he gets back in a timely fashion, and moves in. He will be able to watch the team play and he’ll see where he fits in, and if that takes place, I think you’ll see a team that’s fun to watch and we’ll win a bunch of games.

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.”

Click here to watch every exit interview on our Exit Interview Central

Mitch Kupchak Presser Transcript

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak addressed reporters to announce the firing of former head coach Mike Brown.

Below is a transcript of the press conference:

Opening statement:
Kupchak: Mike’s a good man and very hard working – maybe one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever been around. The bottom line is that the team was not winning at the pace that we expected this team to win and we didn’t see improvement. We wish Mike (Brown) well and we’re sorry it ended this way. We’ve decided to move a different direction and make a change. For tonight’s game, Bernie Bickerstaff will be the acting head coach for the Lakers until we begin the process to search for a new head coach.

Q: On when the decision was made to relieve Brown of his duties and if there was any input from the players:
Kupchak: No input from the players that I’m aware of. Yesterday afternoon, last evening and this morning was the final determination of the decision.

Q: On whether he’s looking for a coach for the next couple years or for the long haul:
Kupchak: I think that would be one in the same. We’re not looking five or 10 years down the road. This team was built to contend this year. There’s no guarantee this team can win a championship, but we feel they can be deeply in the hunt. We also are aware that players are under contract for another year or two, and players are getting older, so our feeling is that we can contend at this level for a couple years. That’s our focus right now.

Q: On the limited coaching options:
Kupchak: It’s certainly a possibility that you go to another team. I think the bigger possibility is that you look to another team for an assistant coach. Clearly, great coaches in this league that have jobs would not be let out of their existing contracts with their team, so that’s not really a realistic possibility. There is a remote possibility that you look at assistants in a league, and of course, teams at that point would probably not stand in the way of a coach advancing his career. I think it’s more likely that we’ll look to coaches that are presently unemployed.

Q: On how long the search will last:
Kupchak: The sooner, the better. We don’t have a timetable, quite frankly, because this happened so quickly. The reality is you can’t call around and gauge coaches’ interests in this job. In the fraternity that exists, a coach wouldn’t say he has interest as long as somebody has the job. We didn’t even begin a search, but we do have a list that we put together, and we’ll go through that list in an orderly fashion.

Q: On the thought process of not allowing Brown a little more time to coach:
Kupchak: It’s really no different on what I touched on. You can argue: ‘Was last season a part of the process? Was the preseason a part of the process?’ After five games, we felt we weren’t winning and we weren’t seeing any improvement, and we made a decision. Maybe it would have changed a month down the road or three months down the road. But with this team, we didn’t want to wait three months and then find out it wasn’t going to change.

Q: On Brown’s system for the players:
Kupchak: There’s a defensive system and offensive system. That’s how you handle players. We did struggle to score and we introduced a new offense. To some degree, it was unfair to be categorized as the Princeton offense. It really wasn’t the Princeton offense; there were derivatives of the Princeton offense; there was a lot more mixed into it. But it was a system. The success I think Mike was hoping for didn’t come about very quickly, and as I mentioned, we had to make a quick decision.

Q: On if the move was made out of panic:
Kupchak: It wasn’t made out of panic. We were aware of this team’s progress through training camp and through the beginning of the season. Only yesterday did we come to the decision to make a change. Obviously everybody in this room knows we went 0-8 in preseason, which doesn’t mean a whole lot, but we’re 1-4 now. So it’s not like this came out of nowhere. It’s something that’s out there that we’ve been talking about internally. After our game against Utah, we came to this conclusion last night and early this morning to make a change.

Q: On the status of the rest of the coaching staff:
Kupchak: (The assistant coaches) will be there tonight. Beyond that, who knows. We have no immediate plans to make any changes in the next day or two.

Q: On the age and injury of players, and whether Brown’s tendency to work the players was a factor:
Kupchak: It’s really simple. It’s wins and losses, and Mike knows that. We’ve talked about that many times over the last year and a half. The fact we didn’t see progress played a part as well.

Q: On whether the team showed enough emotion playing:
Kupchak: I think there was plenty of emotion. They played hard and I saw a lot of frustration, and clearly there was a lot of emotion. Everybody cares, so I don’t think that was a problem.

Q: On whether any players lost Brown in this process:
Kupchak: Nothing from a player. We saw frustration and not a great deal of frustration, but there was some that we were seeing. But really, it came down to ownership and management – looking at the record, looking at the improvement level and wondering a month or two or three down the road if we’d be in the same spot.

Q: On what factored into this decision:
Kupchak: Without going through each game and each practice session, we’re 1-4, and cumulatively, we didn’t see any improvement that we had hoped to see.

Q: On reaching out to Phil Jackson:
Kupchak: When there’s a coach like Phil Jackson – one of the all-time greats – and he’s not coaching, you have to be negligent to be not aware that he’s out there. We’re putting together a list and an attack plan. We have not reached out to anybody at this time.

Q: On the qualities and philosophies they’re looking for from the next coach:
Kupchak: I think we’d like to see something the players can pick up on a little bit quicker. As I mentioned, I’m not sure we have the time to implement something complex. We want to start winning games and find out how good we really are. Certainly I’d think we’d look to an experienced coach.

Q: On how much of a factor played into the fact that Dwight Howard is a free agent next year:
Kupchak: It’s not something that was discussed among the three decision makers. We know (Dwight Howard) is a free agent this summer. You want to make the experience for him as good as possible. But we have a lot of other people we’re trying to please as well. We have a lot of fans and a lot of players, so it’s not just about one person.

Q: On the defensive shortcomings and how much played into the decision:
Kupchak: The two main reasons to making a change was the win-loss record and the fact that we didn’t see improvement. I guess we didn’t see a consistent performance … but we couldn’t seem to put together a consistent string of offensive and defensive performances.

Q: On what Bernie Bickerstaff and what his staff will run:
Kupchak: That’s a question for Bernie and we’ll find out tonight. He and I sat down for half an hour or 45 minutes and we basically had the same discussion I’m having with everybody today, and how we came to this decision. He understands our concerns and I’ll expect he’ll make some changes – maybe keep things a little simpler tonight. But you can’t change everything in a six-hour time period.

Q: On his assessment of Brown coaching here:
Kupchak: It was an incomplete evaluation. What he went through last year really wasn’t fair – making a trade that fell apart, one of the players was moved on (Lamar Odom) and the other player was scarred for a complete season (Pau Gasol). Then we made a trade as we approached the trade deadline to get a younger, ball handling point guard, and we did no worse than we did the year before. On top of that, it’s a strike-shortened season, so on top of that, it’s difficult to give a coach a grade.

Q: On if the players were having trouble grasping certain aspects of the new system:
Kupchak: It was a little odd. It’s a complex offense. When we introduced the Triangle, it seemed like it was decades ago. There was the same degree of skepticism on the players’ face, so there were some similarities. It certainly didn’t come about quickly. In fact, I never thought we got to the point where the offense was flowing. You’d see some flashes of it, but we never had a consistent flow throughout of the course of a game. They either weren’t getting it or it was going to take too long for them to get it, and we weren’t willing to find out which of the two it was.

Q: On how the team was assembled and if this offense fits those pieces:
Kupchak: Obviously we’re making a change, so we’re not completely comfortable with a couple different facets with the team and the way it was coached. Coaches make decisions going into the season and they’re very aware of the decisions they make … It’s hard to say to sit here and predict how the season would have turned out if we had a full season. It could have turned out just fine, but we weren’t willing to take that chance.

Q: On Pau Gasol thinking the coaching change was a wake up call for the players:
Kupchak: That’s not a part of what we’re trying to do, but obviously, it’s going to have that effect. I addressed the players and I made it very clear: we get evaluated on winning. Maybe a player would take it that way.

Q: On if there will be player input in the hiring of a next coach:
Kupchak: Maybe. We do have veterans on this team … Perhaps a coach or two we’re considering, we’ll run it past – not for their approval, but ‘tell us about this person.’ That’s not something we’ve decided to do yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

Q: On whether Bickerstaff or Eddie Jordan will be candidates for the job:
Kupchak: We don’t have a coach to replace Mike right now, but we do have an interim coach. There’s no guarantee, although I think it’s an attractive job, and I think we’ll get a coach. But if we don’t get the coach we want, and Bernie’s doing a great job, crazy things happen in this league. Going into it, and the way I explained it to Bernie was that’s not the plan, but certainly it’s a possibility.

Mitch Kupchak On Antawn Jamison Signing

Below is a transcription of Mitck Kupchak’s comments following the team’s press conference for the signing of Antawn Jamison:

Q: On Jamison potentially getting easier, open looks in L.A. while playing with so many players who demand attention as contrasted with his previous several seasons:
Kupchak: I think he’s going to get better looks. I think teams will certainly prepare for him, but they’re going to prepare for Steve Nash, Kobe (Bryant), Andrew (Bynum) and Pau (Gasol). Maybe some teams will take him for granted a little bit.

Q: On if he and ownership are looking to add further to the bench:
Kupchak: You can always get better. We still feel we have another roster spot or two to look at it. Maybe a back court player.

Q: On his stance of not looking to use the mini mid-level exception:
Kupchak: We look to add value. We have a mini mid-level still available but I think it’s unlikely we’d use it unless there’s an incredible value out there.

Q: On Jamison coming despite having offers for more money elsewhere:
Kupchak: He makes us a better team. We’re happy to have him on board. I didn’t think it was likely that he would agree to come here for the (veteran’s) minimum. As unlikely as it was for us to get a call from Steve Nash, it was just as unlikely (to get one from Jamison). We didn’t recruit him as much as you might think because I didn’t really think it was a possibility, but after several conversations with his representative, I started to say to myself, ‘I think this guy will do it,’ and at that point it happened quickly.

Q: On L.A. being a desirable destination:
Kupchak: L.A. has always been a good destination. We have a lot of advantages that other teams don’t have, fortunately. It’s a big city, a desirable place to play and live. I think we’ve always had that advantage and I think we always will. And stable ownership is certainly a big plus.

Q: On the pursuit of a championship:
Kupchak: I thought (Jamison) got his point across clearly that he had other opportunities, but he’s accomplished everything he wanted to accomplish in his life in terms of basketball (except) winning a championship. He was in Italy about eight days ago when I called him and tried to talk him into coming here, and the thing he talked about was the one thing that was missing. And that’s unusual. That’s rare.

Q: On if the Lakers ever need to put the brakes on in terms of looking around the league at free agents/trades:
Kupchak: Typically it slows down in August, but the brakes are never on.

Q: On if he’s spoken to Andrew Bynum’s agent:
Kupchak: I spoke to his representative today. I wouldn’t share with you what we spoke about, but we communicate regularly. (I’d characterize the conversation as) productive and positive.
*Editor’s note: Kupchak said that nothing is imminent in terms of an extension for Bynum. When asked if there would be something done before the start of the season, Kupchak answered: “Hopefully it will progress.”

Q: On his assessment of L.A.’s second round picks (Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre) from the Las Vegas Summer League:
Kupchak: They are unsigned. I haven’t really had conversations with their representatives. As we get closer to training camp, I will. The bottom line is they are players that were drafted in the 50′s, and they’re always considered long shots to make a team. But we like them both … we’ll see.

Kupchak Checks in from Vegas

We caught up with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak prior to the tip of L.A.’s third summer league game in Las Vegas to discuss how the Steve Nash acquisition impacts the rest of free agency (and may encourage veterans to sign with the Lakers), what Dr. Jerry Buss considers before signing off on something, what Kupchak focuses on at summer league and more.

Q: On how he’s thinking about the Steve Nash acquisition a week later:
Kupchak: Clearly it was a significant signing. The more I think about it – which is not much because you don’t have time to let your mind wander this time of year – the more I know it’s going to make our team better. You have visions of Steve directing traffic throughout the game and especially at the end of quarters, making it easier for Pau (Gasol) and Andrew (Bynum) and Kobe (Bryant). You envision lob passes, pick and rolls, pick and pops. You look at Kobe’s energy being conserved where he doesn’t have to go out and create a shot whenever you need one. So when you take the time to think about it, it’s going to be fun to watch.

Q: On Nash’s impact on how the Lakers approach the rest of the offseason in terms of player acquisition:
Kupchak: Compensation normally drives the free agent market, but every offseason, there are going to be certain players that have limited options for various reasons like age, injuries or financial considerations. Those types of players often try to find a place where they can play for a year, either to win a championship or to see what it’s like to contend for a championship, or maybe learn under certain players on your team. So those kinds of opportunities will be there for us this summer just by adding Steve Nash. Some of the veteran players that haven’t won a championship may look to Los Angeles to try and win one, like some of the names that are being talked about.

Q: On preferring veteran’s minimum contracts to fill out the roster:
Kupchak: That’s the only way we can fill out our roster. With the new collective bargaining rules, it restricts what we can do. Right now, I don’t think we’ll use the mini mid-level exception. But other than that, all we have is the minimums. And with five high-salaried players, there’s only so much you can expect the owner to do, whether the rules permitted or not. I think we’ve demonstrated that this organization wants to win with the Steve Nash signing, but you can’t just go out there and sign the world.

Q: On Dr. Buss always being willing to spend money if shown that a move can help the team (i.e. using the trade exception from the Lamar Odom trade to acquire Nash):
Kupchak: Dr. Buss has always had a position not so much of giving a budget, but more like, ‘Tell me whom you’re thinking of signing, and I’ll tell you if I’ll do it or not.’ In his mind, he’s just not going to spend money to spend money. If it’s going to translate into a dramatic difference in the team make up, in wins or losses or excitement on the court, he makes a quick decision.

Q: On his split of time between talking to other GM’s and agents and watching the summer league games in Vegas:
Kupchak: I’d say it’s been business as usual, which at this time of the year means a lot of phone calls, a lot of discussions and meetings with ownership talking through different scenarios and possibilities. The fun part is the summer league aspect, watching young kids play, and hopefully seeing a player worthy of being invited to training camp and making the team. It’s also fun to watch high draft picks on other teams, guys you’ve seen play at college but not against each other at this level.

Q: On assessing the young players on the summer league roster:
Kupchak: Any time we draft a player, we feel he’s good enough for a shot to make our team. That’s what we believe in, but the reality is, historically, a player drafted late in the second round is unlikely to make your team. Keeping that in mind, during summer league we look for parts of the players on our roster’s games that translate to the next level. Even if they play well, it doesn’t mean they’re good enough to make our roster, but it probably means they’re good enough to invite to our training camp in the fall. Then they go up against NBA players like Kobe, Steve Blake, Andrew and Pau and so on and you find out how good the young players are. At that point, you assess their potential.

Mitch Kupchak On Nash Acquisition

“The opportunity to play for one of the (league’s best franchises) was too good an opportunity for me to pass up. This is going to be a really exciting chapter of my career. I’ve always wanted to win, I’ve always competed the best I can to try and win; to be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling.
- Steve Nash, 7/11/12

Throughout most of a 30-plus minute press conference in which Mitch Kupchak flanked his newest signing, twice-MVP point guard Steve Nash, the Lakers GM had a steady (if subtle) grin on his face.

Considering L.A.’s financial situation, Nash didn’t even seem like an option at first when free agency began on July 1, the Lakers having only the mini-mid level exception to offer, but executive vice president Jim Buss kept stressing to Kupchak that they had to “make the call.”

After the Nash press conference, we asked Kupchak how the process to acquire Nash began and was ultimately executed. Below are his answers, along with two addition responses to questions about where else L.A. must improve (bench depth) and the difficulty in acquiring star players:

On how the Lakers acquired Steve Nash:
Kupchak: That is very interesting, because beginning with free agency, we always do a list — (Jim Buss and I) work with my staff — of the players that we’re going to contact on July 1 at 12:01 a.m. We always like to call our players that are free agents first, Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill and players that were on our roster. So we did that, and coincidentally, Steve Nash is also represented by Jordan Hill’s representative. Steve was at the top of our list in terms of point guards, but it never occurred to me that he’d actually be available. All we had was the mini-mid, which is a $3 million exception. Jim Buss kept saying, ‘Hey Mitch, don’t forget to call.’ Of course (Nash) was at the top of our list, and I said, ‘Jim I’m not sure this is something that can even begin to work out.’ But I said, ‘You never know unless you try.’ So when I spoke to Bill Duffy, we talked about Jordan Hill and Steve Nash, and (Duffy’s) first comment was ‘Well Mitch, would you like to speak with (Nash).’ I said ‘Of course.’ And then 10 seconds later, (Nash) was on the phone. (Duffy) was with Steve Nash when I called at 12:01 a.m.; I think they were together in New York. So that doesn’t happen very often. Looking back on it, maybe it was a sign, if you believe in those things. I didn’t hear much for a day or two, and then we got a call from Bill Duffy saying ‘Steve thought about the conversation we had and he’d like to make this work.’ So that started the whole thing with Phoenix in motion.

On how the complicated sign and trade with Phoenix was figured out:
Kupchak: It was a long process. As everybody knows, we used Lamar’s exception*. It had to be a sign and trade. The market for Steve was pretty vibrant out there. He had other options. I believe some of those options would have resulted in more compensation. This was the largest deal that we could offer, provided Phoenix cooperated.
*The Lakers had a large trade exception from a preseason trade that sent Lamar Odom and a second round pick to Dallas for the exception and a first round pick they later moved to Houston.

On the need to improve the bench from where it was last season:
Kupchak: We didn’t have a great bench last year, and I think we have to look to improve our bench a little bit. We have challenges in front of us, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to figure it out. A lot of it has to do with our coach and how many minutes the guys are going to be playing, of the five starters. One is under 30, and the other four are above 30. I don’t think any of them would ever ask to play less, so we’re going to have to manage minutes. Therefore, you’re going to have to have guys that come off the bench that could do no worse than keep things at the same level they were before the starter’s left the court. You hope to get a player that can add (to the score margin) coming off the bench, so that will be a challenge. The new (CBA restrictions) make it difficult, but we’ll find a way to improve the team.

On the difficulty of acquiring stars in an NBA offseason:
Kupchak: Going into the offseason, every general manager tries to get that one player that can dramatically improve their team. If you can get one every five or seven years you’ve done pretty good. We think we got one this year. You’re asking me if I think we can do that twice?* I’m not sure that’s possible.
*Kupchak was asked about trade rumors surrounding Orlando’s Dwight Howard, but declined to comment.

Mitch Kupchak on Ramon Sessions

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak answered questions from the five beat writers who cover the team, including us here at, to discuss the decision of Ramon Sessions to opt out of the final year on his current deal.

Had Sessions picked up his option, he’d have been guaranteed to play for the Lakers in the 2012-13 season, where as he will now become a free agent starting on July 1 with the ability to sign with any team.

On Sessions not picking up his option:
Kupchak: The fact that he would not extend (his option) clearly puts him in the position where he’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1. With all situations like that, both sides have to absorb some risk. I’m not quite sure if he’s completely aware of what the future holds for him beginning on July 1. Beginning today, we have to plan for the contingency that he won’t be available as a free agent at a later date in July. We have to make sure we have back up plans in place.

I suppose we could look to fill that position between now and July 1 via a trade, or we can wait until July 1 and pursue Ramon, or perhaps another free agent, although we’re limited with the exceptions available to us. He did indicate that he was happy here in Los Angeles and that he would look to return. But once again, once the market comes into play, there’s no telling what will happen. We don’t know if he’s going to be back or not at this point, so we have to cover our bases, which (Ramon and his agent) understand. Beginning on July 1, it takes one team to make him an offer that we couldn’t or would not match; there’s a market value, and then there’s always a team that will do something beyond the market value. So that’s the whole process of uncertainty with becoming a free agent, but he’s represented by a really experienced agent and Ramon is a bright kid. We’ve talked it through and I think both sides are aware of the uncertainty that each side has to deal with.

On if Kupchak wants him back, or wishes he would have picked up the option:
Kupchak: My preference was that he would have extended for one more year.

On having few games with Sessions:
Kupchak: We had a shortened season, no training camp. He was traded to us in mid-March, which is late, probably about 20-something games to go. He’d admit that he wasn’t really familiar with playoff intensity – it was the first time he’d ever played in a playoff game. So I think he would indicate if he were talking to you right now that he thinks he’ll play better with a year of training camp, 80-something games and playoff (experience) under his belt next year, and I think he will too.

On Sessions as a player:
Kupchak: He’s an incredible athlete, he thinks the game, he understands the game, he’s great in the locker room, he wants to improve. I thought when he first got here he was very effective and I thought as we approached the playoffs and particularly the second round of the playoffs, he wasn’t as comfortable as he was at the beginning. Having gone through that many, many years ago, the playoffs are a completely different experience. The intensity level, the scrutiny, the awareness by the public. Typically you don’t see (young players succeed as much) under those conditions. I think he’d admit it wasn’t his best basketball. I look at our team, and not many of our players (played their best).

On if he’s surprised Sessions didn’t exercise the option:
Kupchak: No. Nothing surprises me at this point. He is a young player that’s going to get better, and now you’re dealing with a traditional unrestricted free agent situation, and there’s a number of different ways that can go.

On what the Lakers could offer Sessions as a free agent:
Kupchak: He falls into the unrestricted free agent category, and we have Bird rights with him. So I don’t believe we’re limited other than the maximum exemption, which obviously he wouldn’t apply for.

On what the team wants to do with Sessions moving forward:
Kupchak: Even if we did, I’m not sure I’d share it right now. You could have 8-10 teams that value him at a certain number, but maybe there’s another team that values him at a much higher number. We’ve been involved in situations like that in the past. We knew what his number was if he did extend. But it can work the other way too: the market might not be as good as he thinks it might be. But he’s a young, developing player who I think is going to get better.

On if this changes how he looks at the trade for Sessions with Cleveland:
Kupchak: There were several reasons why we made the trade. Obviously we were aware that he could elect not to extend. Like I mentioned earlier, that’s not what I was hoping for, but it frees up dollars to go in another direction if that’s what we choose to do. When we evaluated the trade three or four months ago, those were the things we talked about. We felt either way, we were in a good position, maybe one way a little bit better if he chose to extend.

On the free agent class:
Kupchak: There is always value. In terms of high profile names, I wouldn’t categorize this free agent class as one of the best ever, but there is always value out there depending upon how you define it. Whether it’s at the minimum, the mid-level or the mini-mid (level), there’s somebody out there every year that can play and help your club.

On Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris:
Kupchak: Andrew Goudelock is on a 2-year deal, so we have no decision to make there. Darius Morris – we have until June 30 to tender him a 1-year contract. If we do that, we retain his rights and we retain the right to negotiate with him beginning July 1.

Mitch Kupchak Checks In

While in Chicago for the NBA’s pre-draft camp, Mitch Kupchak took a few moments to answer some questions about what he’s seeing, where he’s headed next and how the Lakers are approaching the June 28 Draft:

MT: Let’s start with a general summary of what you and your staff are going through at these pre-draft camps?
Kupchak: Last week we were in Minnesota for a pre-draft camp, are now in Chicago and tomorrow head to Treviso, Italy, for the camp on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. All of these are repeat venues. In other words, they occur every year about the same time in preparation for the draft. We believe that you have to prepare for the draft the same way every single year no matter where your picks are, because you never know what might happen.

MT: Right now, the Lakers have only the final pick of the second round (No. 60). You’ve maintained that you will still be prepared at every one of the 60 slots should a trade or acquisition of a pick happen, but does that change your opportunity to see some players?
Kupchak: This time of year, the agents arrange workouts for their clients that are expected to be first round picks and specifically lottery picks, but they won’t send those players to visit the Lakers at No. 60 only. So to some degree you’re at a disadvantage, and you can’t possibly be as prepared as a team that’s picking in the top five and hosting the top players. Those teams sit down, bring the players in, interview them, give them tests, spend the day with them. Based on your order in the draft, that’s how the agents look at the world. If you’re drafting 15th and they think their player has a chance to be taken there, they will send him to you. And that helps more than just watching a kid play in college. Having said all that, after years of scouting, you end up knowing many of the players pretty well regardless.

MT: Will you be looking to move up in the draft?
Kupchak: We always look at ways of moving up in the draft if we like a player. And that doesn’t have to involve a trade of a player on our roster, necessarily. You can always trade a future pick, as well, or you can also look to buy a pick. There are plenty of ways aside from trades, but I can’t give you a percentage as to the likelihood we will do so.

MT: With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, are younger players on rookie deals more valuable commodities than in years past?
Kupchak: You have to look at each team, the circumstance that surround that particular team, to answer that. The problem really becomes when you have veterans that have been All Stars for several years on their third and fourth contact; it gets tougher and tougher to surround them with good players. If you look around, the good teams all have the same problems. Us, Boston, Miami, Dallas, San Antonio. It is a good problem to have, however, because if that’s the case, it means you have excellent players on your roster and that you’ve probably been winning. Oklahoma City is in a good spot right now, but they’ll have tough decisions to make down the road.

MT: Is it fair to say you have a system down pretty well for what works in approaching this whole process?
Kupchak: Our system has been good to us, and we’re always looking for ways to improve and having new things to do. There will always be tweaks, but the process remains similar.

MT: At these pre-draft camps, how much discussion occurs between all the general managers and team personnel about trades and such?
Kupchak: It’s natural for all the executives to have conversations about personnel. Sometimes it’s awkward to pull somebody aside with 300 people in a room, but other times it’s natural to have conversations evolve. Most of that stuff does take place via telephone, but there is a natural process that takes place with 30 GM’s and 150 scouts in a gymnasium.

MT: The organization recently promoted Glenn Carraro to assistant general manager. I know you’ve been working closely with Glenn for some time now…
Kupchak: Glenn is not a new variable to our organization. He’s been here for 10 to 12 years, and every year he’s acquired more and more responsibility. This year, for several reasons, it resulted in a title change. It’s not the first one he’s had since he’s been in Los Angeles, but this is significant. Our working relationship hasn’t changed that much … but maybe he feels more responsibility, which is good, because he does have more.

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.”