Archive for the 'Mitch Kupchak' Category

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Trade Deadline Day Wrap Up

A flurry of activity on trade deadline day in the NBA brought a new look to the Lakers heading into the final 23 games of the season, with the acquisition of point guard Ramon Sessions from Cleveland and departure of Derek Fisher to Houston headlining two moves directed by general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Joining Sessions from the Cavs is forward Christian Eyenga, in exchange for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, a protected 2012 first round draft pick and other considerations. To get Fisher and the 2012 first pick L.A. received from Dallas in the Lamar Odom trade, the Rockets sent big man Jordan Hill to Los Angeles.

Financial considerations were certainly kept in mind, as Kupchak explained, given the increasing luxury tax penalties negotiated into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the GM was very pleased to keep the team’s three stars – Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – in tact while still addressing a primary need.

Sessions and Hill will take physicals on Friday morning, and are expected to be available to Mike Brown should he choose to use either against the Timberwolves on Friday night.

Sessions excelled as the backup to the leading Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving, averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists in just 24.5 minutes per game this season. The Nevada product was even more productive in four starts, averaging 17.8 points and 11.0 assists, and has career averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 89 starts.

“We think Ramon (will) make a more immediate impact (than Eyenga or Hill),” said Kupchak. “Despite Derek’s presence, we felt we needed more speed and quickness in the backcourt. There’s nobody we’d trust with an open shot (more) than Derek Fisher, but we felt from a defensive point of view and giving us some speed and quickness (the move fit).”

The 6-3 guard spent his first three seasons in Milwaukee and Minnesota before being traded to the Cavs prior to the 2010-11 season. A second round pick, Sessions didn’t appear in a game for Milwaukee in the first five months of his rookie year, but immediately showed his value while averaging 11.5 points and 11.3 assists in April of 2008, including a 20-point, 24-assist effort against Chicago.

Sessions gives the Lakers something they did not have on the roster, much coveted by Kupchak and executive VP, player personnel Jim Buss: a slashing point guard adept at penetrating and creating offense either for himself or for teammates. Sessions has also improved his three-point shooting markedly this season, hitting 41.9 percent from behind the arc to bump his career average up to 29.3 percent.

Kupchak thinks that the moves put the Lakers in a better position to make a run at another championship despite losing Fisher’s leadership and experience.

“If we can get over the emotional toll, which I believe we will, we have the potential to be a better team,” he said.

Since Sessions is a bigger point guard, Kupchak acknowledged that he can also be used at the two-guard spot if Mike Brown would like, as both he and Steve Blake can defend most NBA shooting guards. It will be up to Brown to decide who starts, though it’s presumed that Blake will do so on Friday.

Hill, a 6-10 forward/center in his third year out of Arizona, was originally selected by New York with the eighth overall pick in 2009. Acquired by Houston as part of a three-team, nine-player trade midway through his rookie season, Hill has averaged 5.4 points and 4.2 boards in 151 career NBA games (18 starts) in 14.7 minutes. He averaged 18.3 points and 11.0 boards in three college seasons, and in games this year in which he’s played at least 15 minutes, he’s produced 7.9 points and 7.5 boards.

Eyenga was nabbed with the 30th pick by Cleveland in the 2009 Draft, and has played in six games this season with an average of 13.8 minutes per contest towards 1.5 points and 2.0 rebounds. The 6-7 forward played in 44 games as a rookie with the Cavaliers, averaging 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 21.5 minutes.

While the Lakers are excited about what Sessions in particular might add, the organization expressed how much it will miss Fisher, the team’s emotional leader that came up huge so many times throughout his 13 seasons wearing Purple and Gold.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Derek for everything he has meant to this organization over the years,” said Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. “Few who have worn the Lakers uniform have done so with as much class as Derek, both on the court and in the community. From his famous 0.4 shot in San Antonio to his clutch performances in the Finals against Orlando and Boston when it mattered most, Derek will always hold a special place not only in my heart, but in the heart of Lakers fans everywhere.”

Kupchak addressed the difficulty of trading Fisher, with whom he hopes to speak on Friday after an attempt on Thursday morning got Fisher’s voicemail, and also took care to thank Walton for his years of service to the Lakers, highlighted by his contributions to the back-to-back championships and consistently positive presence in the locker room.

Kupchak said it’s up to the remaining players and Brown to fill the leadership position Fisher so adeptly held. He added that giving up the two draft picks was less of a concern since such a player was unlikely to be better than Sessions.


The pick L.A. sent to Cleveland is lottery protected for the 2012 draft; in other words, if the Lakers miss the playoffs this season, they’d keep their pick in 2012, and Cleveland would get L.A.’s 2014 pick. Furthermore, the Lakers agreed to swap a lottery protected first round pick in 2013 with Cleveland for either the Cavs’ pick, Miami’s 2013 pick or Sacramento’s 2013 pick, all owned by the Cavs, at Cleveland’s discretion. In short, if L.A.’s pick is better (lower) than that of any of those three teams, the Cavs can swap with the Lakers.

The first rounder the Lakers sent to Houston came from Dallas in the preseason Lamar Odom trade, and is protected through 20 picks for six years.

L.A., Naturally, Likes Its Size

After the Lakers lost Game 3 of the Western Semi’s to Dallas, Magic Johnson suggested during ESPN’s studio show that L.A. should “blow up” the team heading into the future.

But Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who has stated that the Lakers do not want to break up the roster, thinks Johnson’s comments were intended to be more inspirational than literal.

“Unfortunately, a well-known commentator made some comments before our fourth game in Dallas about breaking up the team,” Kupchak said. “I think that’s what fueled speculation that this team should be broken up. I think that commentator was trying to inspire our players, but a lot of the fans didn’t see it that way.”

Johnson alluded in particular to L.A. deciding between one of its two seven-footers (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) and trading the other, but Kupchak is well aware of the major advantage the Lakers have with the combination of length and skill between Gasol, Bynum and Lamar Odom.

“Talented big players are always at a premium,” Kupchak continued. “You can go through college rosters, and go to the Portsmouth venue, which showcases the 64 best college seniors in the country each year, and rarely do you see a player 6-10 or above there. Everybody’s between 5-11 and 6-8. The big players are just hard to come by.”

In other words, L.A.’s not outwardly looking for a trade, particularly involving its bigs. In fact, with Kupchak and his staff spending much of their time in recent weeks focusing on college and European players in advance of June 23rd’s NBA Draft, the lack of quality big men has been quite obvious.

“There are not a lot of really talented big players in the draft,” he explained. “Some of the players from Europe may be higher picks than people think. That’s not unusual, big guys are always hard to come by, I just thought there was a lot less size than usual.”

That said, is there any less of a need for quality post players with the rules and development of the game in recent years changing to a degree? With perimeter players benefiting from rules preventing hand checking and holding on the perimeter, with eight seconds to get the ball past half court in an attempt to speed the game up?

In a word… no.

In more (of Kupchak’s) words… “I don’t think it diminishes the need for big players that are talented at all. I think given the opportunity, all 30 NBA coaches would prefer big skilled players to small skilled players.”

Big, skilled players like those on the Lakers’ roster.

“We really like the core group and they’re likely to stay together,” Kupchak concluded. “We think it’s still a team that can contend for a championship, and it’s unlikely that we’ll look to break up this team during the offseason.”

Kupchak on Draft Camps

In June 23rd’s NBA Draft, the Lakers are currently slotted for four second round picks, but none in the first round.

As general manager Mitch Kupchak explained, that doesn’t mean he and his staff won’t have a good read on every player eligible.

“You have to know every player, you have to have an opinion on every player, and you have to know the likelihood that you’ll make a deal,” he said. “But the likelihood is that you’re going to end up drafting where you have your picks today, so that’s where we spend most of your time.”

Kupchak has been spending much of that time in recent weeks at various pre draft camps around the country, from Chicago to New Jersey to Minnesota, getting an updated look at players they’ve been tracking, in some cases, for years. The biggest of those camps occurred in Chicago in late May.

“In Chicago there were groupings of players, maybe eight in a group, so it’s not that hard to track eight players for 45 minutes for two days in a row,” he said. “Maybe you know a player or two pretty well, so you focus on the others in the group, and you may pay more attention to guys you think may be in the second round. It’s very little contact, a lot of skill work, some running, a lot of shooting and physical testing, including running, jumping, quickness and things like that. Unfortunately they don’t play actual games as they used to.”

As such, draft camps are often more supplementary than primary for evaluation of players, since the lack of playing competitive games takes out a major area for evaluators to judge. Other than players still playing in Europe, most potential draftees will not play competitively before June 23, but Kupchak and his still will continue to work right through the draft. Assistant GM Ronnie Lester is due to travel to Treviso, Italy, to look at several European prospects, while the Lakers will bring in several players for workouts at the team’s practice facility.

Final prep will come in the team’s war room, as each of Kupchak’s scouts and assistants will gather the Friday before the draft to get all of the draft ducks in order. And during the actual draft, having the four second picks doesn’t mean there will automatically be four new rookies on the team next season.

“It’s unlikely you’ll draft four players in the second round that are good enough, first and foremost,” said Kupchak. “Second of all, it’s unlikely you’ll draft four picks thinking that they would make your team. You may want to take a pick or two in Europe and let them develop.

“At that point in the second round, if somebody drops that you didn’t think would drop you probably just take him regardless of position.”

In conclusion, Kupchak mentioned that the team could potentially be in need of additional guards in part because they’re unsure if Shannon Brown will pick up the option year of his contract, and in part due to the age of starters Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.

Mitch Kupchak on Coaching Decision

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak took questions after Mike Brown’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Below is a transcription of what Kupchak had to say, including his statement to introduce Brown:

Opening Statement:
Kupchak: I’d like to address the time line about the hiring of our coach. Unfortunately, in the last week or two there were a lot of inaccuracies reported about the process, so I think it’s important that I share with you exactly what took place. Our season ended on a Sunday, and that week, ownership — Jim Buss, Dr. Jerry Buss — and I decided to take a week and let things settle down a bit. Unfortunately, we were behind a little bit on the coaching search. Our season ended three weeks later than a lot of the other teams, and a lot of (those) teams had coaching vacancies. The interview process for those teams had already begun. After a week, we decided to get the process moving. During that week, I received a lot of phone calls. Our coach had announced a year ago that this would be his last year, so my phone, despite the fact our season ended on a Sunday, my phone was ringing off the hook for a week. I compiled a list of names, I interviewed several was of those people informally, and a week later, ownership (and I) sat down and decided to interview three people. Obviously, one of them was Mike Brown, the other was Brian Shaw and the third one we have not announced but I think you know who it is. Each interview with ownership lasted two to three hours, and they were done in great detail. At the end of that process, we felt no reason to delay with our announcement, and we selected Mike Brown as our coach for this team going forward. The decision was based partly on the interview, which we felt went very, very well. It was also made on (Brown’s) body of work as a coach, five years as a head coach of a high profile team with great success in Cleveland, Coach of the Year voted on by members of the media, and certainly his pedigree as a basketball coach. Being a player, working from the bottom up with coaches like Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Bernie Bickerstaff, coaches that are very well respected in this league. What I’d like to do at this time is announce and introduce the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike Brown.

Q: On if he was surprised by some of the initial reaction to Brown’s hiring:
Kupchak: Nothing really surprises me. When there was a lot of media attention that didn’t look positive, I was getting messages from coaches in the NBA telling me that we had a great hire. Not that I don’t respect the opinion of the media, but a lot of times, the media is driven by other variables. For example, my office, in the morning when I come in after a series ends, my light’s on on my phone and I’ve got a bunch of mail on my desk, and it’s all negative. People that are positive don’t take the time to write a letter saying how happy they are, or call and leave a message on the phone saying how happy they are. Negative sells, to some degree. It’s also hard to follow in the footsteps of somebody like Phil Jackson. I know that myself. Our season did not end on a positive note. We lost a Hall of Famer for a coach and we bring in a coach that people on the West (coast) aren’t as familiar with as people on the East (Coast) are, so there’s gonna be some criticism. So I’m never really completely surprised. We were very aggressive with how we handled informal and formal interviews. Once we felt comfortable with a person, we moved quickly.

Q: On the timetable of Brown being hired:
Kupchak: I think everybody seems to be forgetting that we’ve been looking for a coach since last summer. It’s not like Phil Jackson decided to leave four weeks ago, and all of a sudden we had to hire a coach. From time to time during the season, I met with ownership and talked about what kind of a coach we looked to replace Phil with. Although at the very end we always hoped that we won another championship and we could talk him back into returning, it was clear to me that he was not returning. You could say the process began a year ago, and if you look at it that way, it wasn’t a very short process at all. The other thing that I mentioned is we were behind a little bit. Teams that the playoffs ended three weeks before ours, they had begun the process. We knew who we wanted to interview. We had great interest. We knew we’d have no problem finding a good coach, and when we interviewed the candidates, we were most comfortable with Mike.

Q: On hiring Mike Brown as the coach:
Kupchak: First and foremost, we judged him on his body of work, which you could look back on his five years as a coach in Cleveland. He was a Coach of the Year, which my understanding is the media members voted on that. We felt his pedigree as a coach, no disrespect to anybody else, but he put in his time in Denver, he put in time in San Antonio, he put in time in Indiana, he put in time in Washington. And then he was a very successful head coach in Cleveland. And then lastly, as mentioned, the interview went really, really, well. Based on that information, we decided to hire Mike Brown.

Q: On being aware that other teams were hiring head coaches, and if that could have impacted the timetable:
Kupchak: We were aware of the other openings. It took three weeks to come to who we wanted to hire as a coach and we had the people on our radar that we felt were people that we wanted to interview. We didn’t want to interview anybody more. I had several informal interviews. Certainly, the process could have gone on for another two to three weeks. But if you find your guy and we all agreed on him as our guy, we made a decision to move quickly.

Q: On whether Brown was on the team’s radar last offseason when Phil Jackson said he wasn’t sure about returning:
Kupchak: Well, first of all, I always felt like Phil was going to come back, so we didn’t have a year jump on it like we did this year. And we’re obviously very aware of Mike’s success in Cleveland. Five years, averaged 55 wins, that’s great success. I look at our roster and I look at the roster in Cleveland, I like our roster better. I’m biased. So I think he did a heck of a job, (and) I think our roster is better. So we knew he did a good job in Cleveland, but when you look at another team’s coach, you don’t normally say, “I want to steal that coach.” Because he was still employed at the time.

On whether Brown’s relationship with Kobe Bryant?
Kupchak: I think that’s incredibly important to have a really solid relationship with your best player. I do. I think that’s a very important distinction. I think (Brown is) about winning and I think Kobe’s about winning. If we win, I don’t think there’s gonna be a problem. And they may not always see eye-to-eye. They may not get along greatly. But if we win, Kobe’s gonna be happy. We’re gonna be happy. And Mike’s gonna be happy. It sounds like our coach is going to hold players accountable. Quite frankly, I think it’s a breath of fresh of air to have a change like this. There are natural tendencies when you have a coach for 11 years. You kind of get set in your ways a little bit and I think although they may have a great relationship, I think it’s gonna be different. But I know Mike wants to get along with (Kobe). Kobe’s most important thing is to win.

Mitch Kupchak: 2010-11 Exit Interview

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak met with the media to wrap up the 2010-11 season. Below are highlights from his exit interview:

- On a timetable for finding a new coach: “We’d like to be deliberate. In Los Angeles, typically we hire coaches and they stick with us for a long time, and hopefully win championships. So we’ll take our time in making that decision. I have not met with ownership, so that process has not really begun. We think this team can still win, so we’re going to get a coach that we think can help us contend for championships in the foreseeable future.” Kupchak didn’t want to get into naming names, but said L.A. would “obviously” interview a “candidate or two from existing staff.”

- Kupchak detailed how this coaching search is different from the last time Phil Jackson retired after the 2003-04 season, because of the discrepancy in players that are returning. Where as Kobe Bryant was about the only player coming back the first time around, almost the entire Lakers team, full of talent, is under contract for next season.

- When asked what went wrong with this year’s team in the playoffs, Kupchak cited L.A.’s 2003 loss to San Antonio following the three straight trips to the Finals. He explained that with that team, fatigue was clearly a factor, and suggested that it was this season as well: “Initially, I think there’s a lot of contributing factors that would lead a team that’s played over 110 games. Whether it’s fatigue or the continual challenge, distractions, the fact that other teams continue to say ‘Well they’ve been there three times now, we know them, we’re getting tired of this.’ It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think the contributing factor (is) would be that you’re now going onto your fourth time trying to get back to the Finals, and that’s a mountain that’s pretty hard to climb.”

- As he maintained throughout the year when we interviewed him, Kupchak said he felt this group of Lakers had earned the right to fight its way through to the end. He didn’t think there were any moves that could have been made that would have changed the outcome. He obviously looked at opportunities, but didn’t see anything enticing.

- It wasn’t about age: “We didn’t lose to Dallas because we were an older team, they were an older team than we were. Certainly our team continues to age, and veteran teams in this league contend for championships. With the core players we have in tact, we do think we can continue to contend. We may have to look to improve certain areas.”

- On losing providing motivation for next season: “I think if there’s a silver lining in losing, that’s it, you get hungry again.”

- Kupchak had some very positive things to say about Andrew Bynum, first of which being that he finished the season healthy. That couldn’t be said for any of the previous three seasons, as he entered each offseason having to either continue rehabbing or go under the knife for various knee issues. He called the steps Bynum made this season “gigantic,” talking first about health, then general maturity, a willingness to devote himself to defense and rebounding for the betterment of the team, not to mention an ability to hit face up jumpers that hadn’t been seen previously.

- On losing Phil, and what Kupchak will miss: “His impact on his return has been huge. From a personal level, he’s made my job a lot easier. We worked, I thought, very well together. I’ll miss him on a personal side and I’ll miss working with him. I’ll miss watching him conduct a practice … (joking) I’m not sure I’ll miss watching him walk across the floor. I don’t know what the future holds for him. He goes through his medical check, and hopefully everything checks out, and whatever it is he decides to do I (hope) he’s happy doing it.”

- It’s clear to Mitch that Phil’s done and is ready to move on. Kupchak was originally planning on trying to get him to stay one more year, but it was clear that Jackson’s mind was made up, so Kupchak didn’t really try to twist his arm again.

- Kupchak said he’s unsure about what Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes will do with their player options. He thinks it’s premature to say what’s going to happen until the deadline for deciding comes. He encouraged both to meet with their representatives, and said that if he does have a good idea (which he implied he does), he wouldn’t share it anyways. Very GM of him.

- When asked about the Dallas series: “They just ran us ragged. They were an exceptional jump shooting team, (extremely) energized, feeding off a Game 1 victory. My feeling is with the exception of Game 3, we just didn’t contend or defend as well as we could have, but at that point, the series started on a Monday and it was basically over on Sunday. After losing Game 1, we were on our heels.”

- Kupchak was asked how offseason acquisitions did in his mind, and while he said that only Lamar Odom (obviously not an acquisition) stood out individually, he gave brief summaries of the other signees. He said that Matt Barnes simply got injured, which was extremely frustrating for him as it really affected his production, and said that Barnes’s right knee is actually still swollen. Theo Ratliff also got injured and wasn’t able to help, and on Steve Blake he had more details: “I thought did an excellent job of defending, running the offense, being a good teammate, he was fun to play with but he just didn’t shoot the ball, open shots, as well as he has in the past and he indicated that he just never got completely comfortable with the offense. One thing he was able to do historically was to make open shots.”

- Kupchak did not see any reason to be disappointed with anyone individually from an effort standpoint: “They’ve all shown great remorse, they’re disappointed, quite frankly they look terrible. Hushed tones when they speak. I’m not thinking for a second that there’s a player who quit or doesn’t deserve to be a Laker.”

- Back on the coaching topic, Kupchak implied that running the triangle offense was not necessarily a mandatory item for the next coach.

- Kupchak on Gasol: “He was noticeably down and hurt.” Kupchak declined to share what they discussed in their meetings, though he was also asked about how he felt about Gasol playing for his Spanish National Team in the summer, and responded that with the additional time off due to the unexpected exit, it “might not be a bad thing.”

- Asked about Phil Jackson’s suggestion that the Lakers needed to get faster to get easy buckets, Kupchak responded that it’s not quite so simple. “You don’t want a guy that can run and jump and has great quickness if he can’t play the game.”

- On the four second round picks L.A. has: “We do pretty good in the second round, we think. Maybe we can get a prospect. I trust our scouts and (Assistant GM) Ronnie Lester, who’s basically in charge of the draft … but you’re probably not going to get someone in the second round that’s going to (make a major impact).”

- Finally, Kupchak was asked if he “did want to blow up the roster,” and whether or not it would be difficult to do. His response: “I think our players have pretty good value around this league. If we wanted to have a completely different look, I don’t think that would be a problem. I don’t know if we’d win many games, but I think around the league, we have several of our players — I could be mistaken — that have value around the league.”

Mitch Kupchak Presser – 7/23

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

Below is a summary of his comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lakers Pre-Draft Podcast: Mitch Kupchak

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak joined us on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the team’s plans heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft, during which the Lakers are slotted to pick at No.’s 43 (from Memphis) and 58 in Round 2.

Kupchak explained that it’s difficult for a team like the Lakers to bring in a starter or even a role player with a pick as low as No. 43, but the team has certainly done its due diligence and hopes for a stroke of luck in terms of a coveted player still being available.

To listen to Kupchak’s observations heading into the 2010 Draft, click “play” below:

2010 Exit Interviews: Mitch Kupchak

mitchLakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak put together quite a team in Los Angeles, as witnessed by three straight trips to the NBA Finals, two straight championships and a core group in place to contend into the near future.

He shared his thoughts about the 2009-10 season, Phil Jackson, some of the team’s players and more with the media:

- (On the season): “Suffice to say we had a story book ending to a season that started out very promising. It was a wonderful run during the playoffs. I think the Oklahoma City series, to a degree, woke up a team that wasn’t ready to play their best basketball. I thought our team responded and played our best basketball going forward.”

- (On optimism for the next few years): “Extending Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol pretty much ensures our core group of players will be intact going forward.”

- (On Phil Jackson suggesting that he’s leaning towards retirement): “It’s come up (in player exit interviews). My understand was that (Jackson) was contemplating continuing or contemplate retiring. I think he’s still going to do that. I am aware that he used that phrase down here about 15-20 minutes ago, but until he makes his mind up, there really isn’t much more for an organization to do. I’ve expressed to him personally that I want him to return. He has a process that he has to go through. He knows he’s wanted here with this team, I think he’s been reassured of that throughout the exit meetings with the players.

- Kupchak said he would be “very surprised” if Jackson doesn’t coach, and said that he has not yet received any type of decision, which he expects at the end of next week.

- (On being aware that Jackson could retire): “You knew he might not come back anyway. His contract runs out on June 30. It’s not news to me that he might not (return).”

- Kupchak doesn’t think there is anything further the organization can do to get Phil to come back.

- There was a quip about Phil and sandals, since Jackson had told Kupchak that he was having trouble bending over to tie his shoes in the morning. Kupchak responded: “If you retire or don’t retire you still have to bend over to put your shoes on.” Jackson replied that he wouldn’t if he wore sandals, and Kupchak said that was OK with him.

- (On the team being capable of playing more than one way, as far as being entrenched into a system: “It’s not like we’re stuck with players that can only play one way.”

- Mitch on Ron Artest: “I think he was great. He was delightfully different in so many ways, ending with that nine-minute postgame press conference. Throughout the year he always worked hard. I think he’ll be better next year. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself by talking about how he was the one to blame … that part worked out but it might make it easier for him next year. You always wonder when you sign a free agent because you don’t know that person, but I will say that from the beginning, there were no problems on the court or off the court. It was all good. I think he struggled a little bit with the offense from time to time, but all is well that ends well.”

- “We have a lot of uncertainty in the back court” was how Kupchak addressed a question about what players L.A. might look to bring in.

- Kupchak said that the 2nd round of the draft is “probably not” the way to fill out L.A.’s roster, but he hopes the team gets lucky.

- (On going to the Finals in each of Pau Gasol’s years with the team): “Three straight Finals is just incredible. I remember sitting back and thinking I can’t believe we’re in the Finals three years in a row. It’s just unusual. Pau’s participation … certainly … you can also point to Derek and say he had a lot to do with it. You could argue that Pau is at the top (of his position in the league). We’re biased, but we might say he’s the best big man in the league. Even (if you disagreed), you’d have to say that he’s (at least) in the top five. Certainly we’re pleased, and he seems to be getting better, too.

Mitch Kupchak Press Conference

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak addressed assembled media members to discuss the 3-year extension afforded to Kobe Bryant earlier on Friday.

Here are some of Kupchak’s finer points:

- The 3-year extension comes on top of the final year of Bryant’s current deal, which concludes after next season. As such, Bryant is now signed through the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

- Kupchak said that he never seriously doubted that Kobe would remain in Los Angeles: “In my mind, I thought he’d always be a Laker.”

- The deal could have been done earlier in the season or even before the season began, but Kupchak explained that there was no real sense of urgency from either party, but rather confidence it would happen.

- Kupchak and Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, took a break from negotiations while Pau Gasol’s contract extension was being done back in December. Kupchak is certainly pleased to have both Gasol and Bryant (not to mention Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest) locked up for the next few seasons, but recognizes the pressure to win that comes alongside the talent.

- Neither the Lakers nor Bryant’s representatives wanted the negotiations to go into the playoffs, putting an impetus on getting the deal done. Kupchak explained that no team likes to negotiate during the playoffs, and that actual deadlines GM’s like to avoid start to come into play when the playoffs are completed.

- The status of Phil Jackson’s position as head coach “never came up” during Bryant’s negotiations, though Kupchak did acknowledge that he couldn’t imagine Bryant wouldn’t want Jackson to return.

- Kupchak said that Dr. Jerry Buss was “ecstatic” about getting the deal done, adding that there are few players in the world that “you’re excited about,” but that “Kobe is one of them.”

- While he is “very concerned” about how the Lakers are playing heading into the playoffs, Kupchak said the team “certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt until the playoffs are over.”

1pm Press Conference

The Lakers have called a press conference for 1pm today with Mitch Kupchak and Pau Gasol being the main players.