Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak answered questions from the five beat writers who cover the team, including us here at Lakers.com, 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.