After 43 games of the 2008-09 campaign, the Lakers have 35 wins. No matter how you think L.A. is playing, it’s certainly it’s hard to expect anything more from the win column. To reflect on the season’s first half, we welcomed Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak onto Lakers.com.
MT: After advancing to the NBA Finals last season without Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, you knew you had a very good team. To what degree have the Lakers lived up to your expectations at the season’s midpoint?
Kupchak: The expectations were great, and I think there was a curiosity factor with a healthy Andrew Bynum. People didn’t know what to expect based on Trevor Ariza’s short window of opportunity with us last year; I’m not sure there was much expectation there. But certainly with Andrew coming back, people were very curious, and as I would expect myself they’d expect us to be a stronger team. We’ve had our share of small knickknack injuries and we haven’t really faced any extreme adversity so far. Jordan Farmar especially, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic all missed time and Kobe Bryant’s probably the most banged up of anybody but he continues to play. So where we are today, overall, we’re pleased. But we’ll be evaluated on how we conclude the season, not where we stand in January.
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The Western Conference just got a bit more interesting.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Phoenix Suns traded Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary to the Charlotte Bobcats for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley, immediately giving the Suns an athletic, three-point shooting, former back-to-back Slam Dunk champ to play alongside Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Hornets acquired a much-needed backup guard in Antonio Daniels, while sending Mike James to the Wizards; Washington also acquired former Lakers first round pick Javaris Crittenton in the deal from Memphis, and the Grizzlies received the first-round pick they’d previously sent to Washington.
At first glance, I thought the Charlotte trade might have been made for salary purposes, with Charlotte trying to get Richardson’s contract off the books heading into the 2010 free agent craze. But Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak told me that Diaw actually has four years on his deal, and Richardson three, meaning that the trade was strictly a basketball decision. Likewise, the three-team trade was about basketball, not cap clearing as we’ve seen in other situations this season.
Kupchak went on to share his opinion about both deals, explain how the trades might affect the Lakers and added his take on the Lakers 17-3 start:
The talk surrounding Andrew Bynum’s contract extension was pretty much universally positive after practice today. From Mitch Kupchak to Phil Jackson to Andrew himself, everyone seems to think it was a nice deal for all involved.
Not only do the Lakers have another of their key pieces locked up long term, but now everyone can get down to the business on the court without having to worry about the business off of it.
“I think both management and Drew’s people understand that it’s probably as good a thing as can happen for both ends. For us as a team it’s really great because now he’s settled into the season and you don’t have to think about that anymore,” Jackson said.
As much as we’d all like to believe that these kind of things don’t effect a players performance, they can. Andrew admitted that it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it would have been something he thought about.
“That would have added a little bit more pressure I think. It’s definitely a sigh of relief to get it off your shoulders, but it would have been my same philosophy–just go out there and play, everything will take care of itself,” said Bynum.
Andrew also reiterated his excitement for this squad and their potential. “To be a Laker, which I want to be for life, and to play with Kobe & Pau and the rest of the gang. It would be nice get three or four (championships) before Kob does what he does.”
On to Denver
Now that the financials are taken care of the team can focus on their trip to Denver. In their two games this season the Lakers have been nothing short of dominant, but this will be their first real game on the road as well as Carmelo Anthony’s first game of the season (Melo was suspended for the first two games due to a DUI conviction).
“They’ll be full of vim and vigor when he comes out there to play. He’s an emotional guy and has tremendous energy as a player. They’ll be on a back-to-back but they’ll still be ready,” said Jackson.
Yesterday, I spent a few minutes on the phone with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to discuss the details of the multi-year contract extension given to Andrew Bynum.
Here’s the link.
To be honest, the whole situation is very simple: Kupchak and the Lakers know Bynum better than anyone, and thought it was well worth it to sign him for under what he would almost certainly demand next year. The risk factor of a potential injury would still exist should the Lakers have waited until the summer, when it seems obvious that several teams would have throw the max at L.A.’s center.
Alas, today at noon, Kupchak addressed assembled media members at the Lakers’ practice facility. We didn’t learn anything new from yesterday, but you click here to what Mitch had to say.
In his exit interview Center Chris Mihm expressed an intent to exercise his player option, giving the Lakers ten players under contract.
Those ten players are:
Trevor Ariza (exercised player option to stay with the team)
Chris Mihm (when he exercises his option)
They also have two restricted free agents in Ronny Turiaf and Sasha Vujacic.
When talking to the media last week General Manager Mitch Kupchak took a “they’re ours to lose” approach to the pair.
“Both players are restricted free agents, so we can’t lose either player. Ultimately it will be our choice if a player did not return,” said Kupchak.
Under NBA rules a restricted free agent’s original team has the right to match any offer extended to him during the free agency period. The Lakers will also have to look at luxury cap considerations when deciding who to bring back. The team is projected to be over next season’s luxury tax threshold and would have to pay a dollar-to-dollar penalty for money spent over the limit.
The following players from the 2007-2008 playoff roster are unrestricted free agents:
The Lakers hold the option with Coby Karl and he is expected to play for the team’s entry in the Las Vegas Summer League.
While the Lakers survived in Seattle, Coach Jackson wasn’t particularly pleased with Kobe Bryant’s 44 shot attempts and the repeated deferrals by Lamar Odom and Luke Walton.
“Try to get Lamar and Luke in a rhythm,” Jackson said. “Lamar just had an awful night and kept passing the ball. Fortunately for us, we found a way to win.”
Despite a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in his first start since Andrew Bynum’s injury, Kwame Brown looked out of place on offense and appeared to tire as the game went on.
“I think he got tired and Ronny [Turiaf] had [too many] fouls, so he had to play through it…There was no one else to take his position,” Jackson said.
Continue reading ‘Lakers Today: 01/16/08′
With seven wins in a row–the longest active streak in the league–the Lakers currently sit tied with Phoenix atop the Western Conference standings after last night’s thrilling overtime victory over the Sonics.
“Tonight was just one of those games where I had to kind of read the mood of the team, and us being a little deflated with Drew going down and being on a back-to-back and coming on the road,” Bryant said. “It was just one of those things where I just wanted to be a little more assertive.”
Although news that Andrew Bynum will miss at least eight weeks due to injury may have distracted the team in last night’s game, General Manager Mitch Kupchak was happy the prognosis is only eight weeks.
“It could have been worse,” he said. “As long as I’ve been around, I’ve seen a lot of knee injuries. You never want a knee injury that alters a career. We’re fortunate that surgery is not needed and we’ll have him return this year.
Continue reading ‘Lakers Today: 01/15/08′
Part two of our interview with Mitch has been posted. In this installment we talk about the impact Derek Fisher has had in a couple different facets of the game, what to do with the young rookies on the Lakers’ squad, some losses that really stick out in Mitch’s mind, and much more.
Click here for Part I and here for Part II.
They’ll be one more installment of the interview where we focus on the progression of Andrew Bynum.
On Thursday we sat down with General Manager Mitch Kupchak to talk about the Lakers in the first trimester of the 2007-08 NBA Season.
We’ve posted Part I today. Check it out to hear what Mitch thinks about the play of Trevor Ariza, Ronny Turiaf, the rest of the bench, and how their strong play can help the Lakers in the post-season.
Click here to read the full interview and check back in the next couple of days for Part II where we talk with Mitch about some Vets, some Rookies, and some Andrew Bynum.
Why Make the Deal?
Trevor Ariza brings a defensive presence at the three spot that no one currently on the Lakers roster can match. While Lamar Odom creates a mismatch on the offensive end for opposing teams, he sometimes has trouble guarding the quicker small forwards in the league, an area were Luke Walton also struggles.
The deal also clears up a glut at a couple positons for the Lakers.
“We thought we had some duplication on the roster—particularly at that Power Forward position between Vladi Radmanovic and Brian Cook,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “I also thought that we had duplication in the backcourt and although Maurice was a backup player I thought he might not get the minutes he felt he needed.”
The deal takes the Lakers roster number down to 14 and will give Sasha Vujacic, Javaris Crittenton, and the Lakers’ other backcourt players more of an opportunity to play.
Kupchak added, “Trevor is very young, but it is his fourth year in the league. We think there is a lot of upside there as well.”
Ariza is local to Los Angeles having played his high school ball at Westchester High School and collegiately at UCLA. He also maintains a residence in LA and is looking forward to returning to the area.
Continue reading ‘Details On The Ariza Deal’