Archive for the 'Summer League' Category

Lakers Beat Bucks in Vegas Playoffs

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersL.A.’s summer league squad earned the eighth seed out of 22 teams after going 2-1 in pool play, pitting them against the ninth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. from Vegas.

We took some notes as the Lakers aimed to advance into the next round of the new playoff format:

FIRST QUARTER NOTES:
- Marcus Landry, who had played very well in leading the Lakers in scoring through the first three games, drained a three-pointer to make it a 14-12 lead. As head advanced pro scout Clay Moser said, shooting the triple is actually one of his best skills, impressive for a guy who plays aggressively like a undersized power forward.
- But it was the Bucks who got hot from three (Northwestern alum John Shurna hit consecutive triples) and elsewhere to finish the quarter with a 24-18 lead, thanks in part to lottery pick Drew Henson’s eight points and five boards.

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersSECOND QUARTER NOTES:
- L.A. struggled on offense for much of the quarter, but was terrific on defense, and thus staying in the game despite as many as a nine-point deficit. Chris Douglas-Roberts was all over the place on the perimeter and Robert Sacre clogging the paint and contesting shots at the rim.
- The D continued to excel in the second, Milwaukee managing only seven points in the period, and shots started to drop for the purple and gold, enough to produce a 14-2 run and a 36-31 halftime advantage.

THIRD QUARTER NOTES:
- How do you build a seven-point lead while shooting 34 percent from the field? Defense. The Lakers continued to contest everything, with Landry and Elias Harris joining Lester Hudson, CDR and Sacre’s consistent activity.
- Lazar Hayward didn’t play in the first half, but put up five quick points in the third period to help keep the Lakers in front. Milwaukee, however, did find its range on offense once L.A.’s starters sat down, rallying to tie the game at 52 before a buzzer-beating put-back from Landry put L.A. up two heading into the fourth.

FOURTH QUARTER NOTES:
- The third triple from Landry got the lead back for L.A., at 57-56, after Henson continued to play well for Milwaukee. Yet the Lakers starters would be returning shortly, and they’d had little trouble controlling the game. Would it continue towards a win?
- Indeed it would. A key defensive play from CDR and resulting and-1 from Sacre secured the lead in the final moments, with a 72-68 final score line vaulting the 3-1 Lakers into the semi finals.

Sacre finished with 16 points and eight boards, Landry 18 points and six boards, and Douglas-Roberts seven points with his game-best +14.

Summer League: Player Breakdown

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersThe NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas provides a terrific opportunity for young – or unheralded – players to show their skills to a captive audience of league executives, who are certainly paying close attention.

To get a better idea of what the players composing L.A.’s roster have showed thus far, we spent some time with Clay Moser, the team’s head advanced pro scout and an assistant coach on the summer league staff.

During the NBA season, it’s Moser’s job to travel ahead of the team and evaluate both individual players and opponent schemes, so this task was right up his alley. Below is a transcript of our conversation about the 14 players wearing purple and gold in Vegas:

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles LakersCHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Chris is a guy that’s certainly had some outstanding performances at the NBA level, and a nice year in the D-League last year. He’s been really good for us here despite hurting his ankle in our first game, and I know that bothered him in the second game. He bounced back and played really well in our third game. We’ve talked to him about trying to be a leader, body language and interaction with referees and that sort of thing because his playing ability speaks for itself, and he’s made a real, concerted effort. He’s been really good. He does a lot of things really well but nothing particularly great. He’s a decent three-point shooter and a good mid-range player but not a great shooter or mid-range player. He’s a willing defender, but not a great defender. Everybody liked him last year in (Lakers) training camp.

ELIAS HARRIS:: He’s a really nice young player with great size, good athleticism that we think can play at least three positions in the NBA. He shoots the ball better than what he’s shown here in Las Vegas, and he can also get to the basket. We’d like to see him rebound with a little more tenacity. But he’s a nice kid, takes coaching and certainly is deserving of a camp invite in the fall whether it’s from us – and I can’t speak to that* – or someone else.
*Moser noted that Mitch Kupchak and his front office staff will make all of those decisions, and that he’s simply saying Harris and other players on the roster have the talent to get camp invites from an NBA team.

LAZAR HAYWARD: I put him in the category of a game changer from this perspective: he’s a non-traditional type of player, and when he comes in he’s a whirlwind of activity. Sometimes that goes in your facor, and sometimes his over-aggressiveness, over-pursuit of the ball, over-helping can hurt you and sometimes it can help you. In this particular setting, it’s helped us tremendously. He’s been great, he’s fun to be around and very coachable. He turned our second game against Portland in the second quarter almost single-handedly with steals and deflections, and then he made some shots on top of it. He has been on NBA rosters and is another guy who will likely be in training camp with somebody.

LESTER HUDSON: He’s played really well, and has shot the ball well in the second two games as our starting point guard despite a slow shooting start in our opener. He makes the defense pay if they make a mistake, and is a willing defender. Lester’s an extraordinarily strong human being, just built like a brick house. He doesn’t have the greatest quickness in the world for his position, but he’s been on an NBA roster and has had solid D-League time; expect to see him in a camp somewhere.

TRAVIS HYMAN: Travis didn’t get in the third game, but had an outstanding camp before we came to Vegas. We feel bad for Travis because he has not played as well as his camp indicated he would. He’s an excellent passer with a terrific low-post game who can shoot the ball with either hand, block a few shots and rebound. We’re disappointed he has not played like he did in camp, because he was terrific.

MARCUS LANDRY: He’s leading us in scoring, and that without shooting a terrific percentage from three even though that’s what he does best. We actually don’t know what position he plays. Nobody does. For us, he’s really played anywhere from a 3 to a 5. Mike and Dan had him in New York with the Knicks and I had the very distinct pleasure of coaching him in the D-League for 50 games with Reno three seasons ago, and we played him at all five positions. His best position is probably the four, even though size wise that’s a tough place for him. But he can defend most 4′s because he’s very strong, and he’ll make extraordinary basketball plays. He’s just a winner, in my opinion. He’s a great kid. We think he’ll be in a camp somewhere, as well. He’s been way too good here for that not to happen. He needs an exact fit, I think, but is a good enough basketball player to be (at the NBA level).

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland CavaliersROBERT SACRE: Robert is a work in progress. He is a worker who accepts coaching and tries very, very hard. We’d like to see him increase the tempo at which he plays the game so that it catches up with the NBA style of play. But he certainly keeps himself in good shape, his body fat is extremely low, and he plugs away at it every day. I’m not sure you’ll see improvement by leaps and bounds, but rather in baby steps day to day. But at his size, you can afford to make a long-term commitment to him. It’s the old adage in basketball that bigger guys take longer to develop than small guys and I think Robert fits into that mold. He’s a great kid, very coachable.

D.J. SEELEY: He’s another guy we’re a little surprised he hasn’t played better since he’s gotten here, because he had a great camp … but he has had a hard time getting the ball to go in the basket in Vegas. He’s really a combo guard who, size wise, would be best served to make the transition to the one, so that’s an adjustment for (a ton of players). It’s not the ideal spot because we have other guys on this roster that are in between the one and two. He’s a better player than what he’s shown, but he is a guy who’s going to make a living playing basketball somewhere for as long as he feels like doing it.

JOSH SELBY: Obviously a big-time recruit that went to Kansas and has not yet found his rhythm at the NBA level. He’s extremely talented, unbelievable with the ball in terms of probing the defense; he has a real nice rhythm and knack to the way he does things. But he has also not gotten untracked here. He’s not shot it well, but particularly in the first two games, we did feel he actually played well but it didn’t look like it on the box score. In terms of how he ran the team and defended, the things that don’t show up, we felt like he did well. Talent wise, he belongs in somebody’s camp in September.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Idaho StampedeMICHAEL SNAER: He plays with a real intensity, and he plays at NBA speed right now. He has that kind of athleticism, he runs the floor, he’ll attack the basket and is a decent shooter that will get better and better as time goes on. He’s very coachable and has gotten better since he got here, and is a guy that will get in and rebound for his position. He’s another guy I can’t see not being in camp in September.

DREW VINEY: I think his place in domestic pro basketball would be as a sniper, a poor man’s Steve Novak, if there can be a poor man’s Steve Novak. We feel he’d need to be a guy that plays with no conscience, and if he misses his previous five shots he thinks the next 15 will go in. He needs to get rid of the ball quickly, just let it fly. He’s improved as a defender since we’ve had him in training camp and in the little bit of time he’s gotten at summer league has adapted to the physicality of the game better than he did in on day one. Nice kid.

MITCHELL WATT: Mitchell is a really good athlete who runs the floor, has nice size and is probably a true power forward. Another guy that played much better in camp than he has here for whatever reason. He started our first game but hasn’t been quite able to get it rolling. However, he’s another guy who can play ball for money somewhere in the world. He’s another great kid who’s easy to be around.

JORDAN WILLIAMS: He hasn’t gotten a lot of time since we’ve been here, but we also know that he had a fairly significant double-double playing for the Nets at one point. He’s capable and gets to the glass well, but in my opinion, he needs to develop something signature about his game that sticks. At this moment, I’m not sure he possesses that. He’s a good all-around player and great kid.

RENALDO WOOLRIDGE: Great, great athlete. Probably the best pure athlete we have on the team, but he’s going to need some time to grow in the professional game. He has a typical small forward body in the NBA, but needs some time to learn the X’s and O’s, defensive rotations and positioning, and things along those lines to get to the next level.

Summer League: LAL Beat LAC

blog_130715huddleHello and welcome to Summer League in Las Vegas, where the Lakers drew the Clippers in their third game after splitting their opening two contests.

We took some notes from a courtside perch at the Cox Pavilion for the edification of those interested in potential 2013-14 end-of-roster hopefuls*:
*Robert Sacre, a rookie last season, is the only member of the Summer League roster currently under contract.

FIRST QUARTER NOTES:
- The early standout was Chris Douglas-Roberts, who scored seven points in the first three minutes, already surpassing his individual totals from the first two contests (In related news: CDR was plagued by an ankle injury he suffered in Game 1). After a nifty finish at the room and two free throws, Douglas-Roberts drained a triple to make it a 10-2 Lakers lead.
- After that hot start, the Lakers cooled considerably, and the Clips took advantage to take a 21-18 lead out of the first. Among those watching from the bench: second round pick Ryan Kelly, the No. 48 overall pick in June’s Draft, sitting as he recovers from foot surgery (the Duke product says he’s close to full health).

SECOND QUARTER NOTES:
- Sacre was pretty quiet inside, missing his only shot attempt, but he did hit all four of his free throws. He’s moving his feet a bit better than last season, but still struggles to keep up at times. In fact, one reason he took those four free throws is he didn’t get the ball up quickly enough, instead loading up to brace for contact.
- Marcus Landry (five points, three boards) and Lester Hudson (eight points, four boards, two assist) were effectively active, while sub Michael Snaer used his nine minutes to notch seven points with five boards, including a hammer dunk early in the second, and two of three free throws to close the half when he drew a foul with 0.02 on the clock. As such, the Lakers took a 42-40 lead into the tunnel.

THIRD QUARTER NOTES:
- With Dan D’Antoni implementing as much of his brother’s system as possible in the limited time frame with new players, one obvious focus is the 1-in, 4-out method that encourages ball movement and flow on offense. The key is having a mobile 4 man that can still guard power forwards on the other end, and Elias Harris was playing pretty well in that slot. His eight points and two assists helped L.A. build a 48-43 lead halfway through the third.
- CDR continued to show some nice skills on offense, reaching 11 points on a pair of free throws, the Lakers improving to 14 o 16 at the stripe compared to the modest 6 of 11 from the Clips, those eight points on the line the difference in the game with 2:47 left (52-44 LAL).
- Marcus Landry stepped up late in the quarter to score four straight points, and Lazar Hayward added two free throws in the final minute to cap a 6-0 run allowing the Lakers to match their biggest lead of the night at nine, 58-49, heading into the fourth period.

FOURTH QUARTER NOTES:
- L.A. was getting to the hoop with ease throughout the evening, a trend that continued in the fourth when two Douglas-Roberts assists got Landry (13 points) and Harris buckets at the rim, allowing a 65-53 lead halfway through the fourth.
- All but Sacre hit double figures among the starters, who pretty easily controlled things down the stretch as they had throughout, the lead swelling to as many as 21 points when Sacre scored off the fourth CDR assist. The drive-and-kick game was working all night, as either CDR, Landry or Hudson broke down the defense before scoring at the rim or finding a teammate, while consistently active D kept the Clippers at bay.

The final: 77-65, Purple and Gold. Landry had 16 points on 12 shots, Hudson 13 with nine boards and four dimes and CDR 12 with four assists of his own. Harris added 12 points and four boards.

Ultimately, the Lakers had little trouble aside from a slow close to the first quarter, allowing a 2-1 record that likely will secure a top 10 seed in the brand-new bracket style playoffs instituted by the NBA for this summer.

Podcast: Person on Princeton, Vegas

Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person occupied the head coach seat for the franchise’s summer league squad in Las Vegas, overseeing a group that ended up going 1-4.

As Person explained, winning may always be a goal, but it’s not the primary reason the Lakers send players to Vegas.

Among the major focal points in Sin City was putting in elements of the Princeton offense that Mike Brown and his staff could potentially implement for the senior squad when training camp starts in October.

“It was a set out of the Princeton that we tried to operate out of,” said Person, acknowledging that it took a while for the players to adjust. “Summer league is to test things out to see if it’s something you might want to do in the fall. There’s experimentation to possibly run that offense.”

We asked Person to provide a general overview of the Princeton offense.

“It’s a true read and react offense based on footwork, ball fakes, the way the defense is guarding the offense,” Person explained. “It’s a lot of reads, and the reads for that offense have to happen in the moment. If you don’t react in the moment, you lose that timing to make the defense pay for their aggression and lack of positioning.”

In addition to Princeton chat, Person evaluated the individual performances from players like Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Christian Eyenga at summer league.

Take a listen by clicking the purple play button below:

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

Summer League Gallery: Vegas

Lakers.com spent four days in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, enough time to catch L.A.’s draft picks from the past two seasons with some extra credit along the way:

Lakers.com manager of new media Ty Nowell starts the trip by checking his camera at LAX so we can shoot video in Vegas. Nonetheless, I complain about the extra time we’ll have to wait at baggage claim upon landing.

This airport tray for laptops and personal belongings at the security line featured a french bulldog that is apparently owned by Mark Cuban. This is more meaningful because Ty made my own french bulldog into a desktop background (see below) with the Lakers 2011-12 schedule.

Lyla is a pretty big Lakers fan; she always likes to hear the voices of Bill Macdonald and Stu Lantz on the TV.

With Darius Morris warming up in the foreground for L.A.’s first game, GM Mitch Kupchak chats with his former boss Jerry West, who is sitting next to his son, Ryan (a scout for Kupchak). One of the best things about summer league, for reporters at least, is the easy and immediate access to front office executives.

The fountain show at the Bellagio is always aesthetically pleasing, and for many recalls the famous Oceans 11 scene. L.A.’s summer league crew wasn’t feeling similarly euphoric, however, after being blown out 91-50 in the opener by a talented Golden State squad.

The Lakers played better basketball in their second game, an 84-72 loss to Sacramento during which we focused on No. 55 pick Darius Johnson-Odom and his potential to help the senior squad on defense. While finished the story, we enlisted the help of a buddy to find the best burger/shakes place in Vegas, and he recommended Holstein’s at the Cosmopolitan. As you can see from Ty’s “Campfire Smores” shake (a warm up to “The Longhorn” burger [Beef Patty Topped With Texas Smoked Beef Brisket, Whiskey BBQ Sauce, Creamy Cole Slaw & Dill Pickle]), it was awesome.

The obvious highlight of the trip. No explanation necessary.

The hotel at which the Lakers stay in Vegas is close to the corner of Koval Lane and Flamingo Road, a.k.a. where 2pac was shot and killed in 1996. It’s still sobering driving by, just like it is driving through Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles, where Biggie Smalls was shot. Of course, both rappers remain in heavy rotation in NBA locker rooms.

L.A. suffered another blow out loss in their third contest, falling 106-56 in a disjointed effort against Miami, but on the bright side, this gave us some time to catch up with Kupchak on Steve Nash and more.

Assistant coach Chuck Person’s team bounced back with a better Game 4 against San Antonio despite a 92-81 loss. Darius Morris was terrific, making all nine of his field goal attempts en route to 24 points in just three quarters of action.

Before recording a podcast with us, hoops legend Bill Bertka – L.A.’s Director of Scouting/Basketball Consultant – put in some serious work at the hotel fitness center. There’s nobody more fun to talk to about basketball than Bertka, who’s rightfully revered in the NBA universe.

There’s no basketball relevance to this Marilyn Manson picture in the Hard Rock Casino, unless you want to compare L.A.’s first and third games to the feelings it evokes. But the Lakers did manage to get some positivity from a team standpoint thanks to a 75-69 win over the Clippers in their fifth and final contest. Even though winning games isn’t the primary goal of the Lakers in summer league since they’re simply looking to develop players for the senior roster, getting the one at least kept songs like “Beautiful People” off iPhones on the plane ride home. You know, if any of the players had any Manson on their playlists … OK they likely don’t. But you get the idea.

Alas, we’ll be back in Vegas for an October 19 preseason game against Sacramento. Thanks for following along, folks.

Lakers Beat Clips to Close Summer League

For the first time in L.A.’s last two trips to Las Vegas, the Lakers came out with a victory by defeating the Clippers 75-69 on Thursday, snapping a nine-game losing streak that began in the summer of 2010.

Several Lakers played a hand in the victory: Christian Eyenga scoring 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting; Darius Morris nearing a triple-double with 11 points; nine assists and eight boards, Australian Julian Khazzouh scoring 16 points (four three-pointers); and Andrew Goudelock adding 12 of his own.

Big men Robert Sacre and Reeves Nelson combined for 19 rebounds and four blocks and did the proverbial dirty work to help hold the Clippers down despite former Laker Adam Morrison’s 22 points.

The Lakers had struggled considerably in two of their first three games, if competing better in the second and fourth, but Thursday’s was certainly the best all-around effort. The team had been plagued by a lack of cohesion and ball movement, as several players looking to make the senior squad in training camp figured out how to play with one another in balanced fashion.

The three-point line was collectively kind as both teams hit 8 of 17 bombs, with Khazzouh’s four leading the way and Goudelock adding two and Morrison three. Overall, LAL hit 43.8 percent from the field and LAC 43.9 percent, while turnovers were close as well (15-13 LAC).

Several of the game’s highlights were provided by Eyenga, whose slashes to the rim both in transition and in the half court resulted in three hammer dunks, all eliciting roars from the fans in Sin City. The Lakers coaches have been impressed with Eyenga’s work ethic in the offseason – nobody spent more time at the team’s facility – and were surely pleased to see a strong overall game after he’d been hot and cold in the first four contests.

The team is set to return to Los Angeles on Friday morning, with many hoping to get a call to come back to L.A. for October’s training camp with guys named Kobe, Pau, Steve and Andrew.

Podcast: Bill Bertka from Vegas

In his 44 years in the NBA, Lakers Director of Scouting/Basketball Consultant Bill Bertka has forgotten more about the game than most have ever learned (this is a time when that cliche actually works).

Bertka is revered around NBA circles, from front offices and coaches to the players. Most recently, Steve Nash was thrilled to chat with Bertka when entering the team’s office for the first time.

Always a fan of watching and helping develop young players, Bertka never misses the summer league, which brought him to Las Vegas last week. From his hotel room, Bertka touched on the summer league roster, but talked to us mostly about more meaty basketball items.

Among the topics: what would the best possible basketball team look like (Bertka used to fantasize with Pat Riley about a team featuring Magic Johnson at all five positions); what’s the best way to play basketball and how has the game changed from his earliest days in the NBA; the rise of athleticism and decrease of post play; and more.

To listen, click below:

Morris Shines in Summer Loss to Spurs

The Lakers dropped their fourth consecutive summer league contest on Tuesday afternoon against the Spurs, 92-81, but got a strong individual game from point guard Darius Morris to highlight a better all-around team effort.

In three quarters of action, Morris did not miss a shot from the field, connecting on all nine of his attempts, plus six free throws to hit a Lakers summer league high 24 points with his team-high four assists. L.A.’s summer league coach Chuck Person opted to rest Morris in the fourth, letting rookie Darius Johnson-Odom and second-year guard Andrew Goudelock get some extra minutes.

The Lakers would get as close as six points with two minutes to play before Spurs wing Kawhi Leonard, who starts for their senior squad alongside Tim Duncan and Co., proved too much with his game-high 27 points and eight boards.

L.A. got 14 points and seven boards from 60th pick Robert Sacre in his 26 minutes, but it was Morris who took the game ball, showing some of the promise that helped make him the 41st selection in the 2011 Draft.

A big point guard at 6-4, Morris led the Big 10 and ranked fifth in the country in assists during his sophomore year at Michigan. He put on a good deal of muscle in his rookie year that he showed off while finishing through traffic in the paint on Tuesday.

He told us after a 50-point blowout loss to Miami in the team’s third game that he was disappointed with his performance in the first three contests, and wanted to respond against San Antonio with the kind of game he’s capable of playing.

Morris knows that, of course, Steve Nash and Steve Blake are ahead of him on the team’s depth chart on the senior squad, but treated the Nash acquisition with excitement, as he’s eager to learn tricks of the trade from one of the best to ever do it.

Still just 21 years old, Morris has plenty of room to grow, and – at least until training camp – one more contest to show L.A.’s brass how far he’s come in a year.

Game Notes:
- Christian Eyenga added 13 points and four rebounds with a block in 30 minutes of action.
- Andrew Goudelock played only 18 minutes, scoring seven points on 3 of 7 field goals, including one of his patented floaters.
- Reeves Nelson provided some terrific energy off the bench towards a game team-high +13 while he was on the court. He grabbed three boards with a block and five points in his 15 minutes.
- No. 55 pick Darius Johnson-Odom grabbed four boards in his 13 minutes, and continued to play solid on-ball defense on the perimeter.
- After shooting in the 20′s against Miami in a 50-point loss, L.A. shot an impressive 51.7 percent from the field, but allowed 47.8 percent to San Antonio, who made five more three pointers than L.A.’s one in seven attempts.

Lakers Drop Third Straight in Vegas

After a much-improved effort in Friday’s second summer league loss to Sacramento, the Lakers fell back to their poor form from an opening loss to Golden State by being blown out 106-56 by Miami on Monday in Las Vegas.

Darius Morris and Christian Eyenga combined for 25 points, but needed 29 shots to get there, symbolic of an 18 for 68 (26.5 percent) shooting performance by the team that had L.A. trailing by double figures just five minutes into the game.

While beating teams featuring lottery picks like Harrison Barnes (GSW) and Thomas Robinson (SAC) and second year players like Klay Thompson (GSW) and Norris Cole (MIA) isn’t necessarily an expectation for L.A., Chuck Person and his staff have been looking for better energy and effort.

This because several of the players — from Christian Eyenga, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock to rookies Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre — have a chance to fight for either minutes on the floor or a place on the team once training camp starts in October.

L.A. did do some good work on the offensive glass, grabbing 12 boards to Miami’s four to win the board battle 37-34, but that was about the only bright spot on the stat sheet.

From an individual standpoint, Eyenga used his athleticism to get to the rim, but struggled to finish, hitting only 3 of 12 shots, while Morris continually probed the paint but also failed to convert most of his attempts, making just 4 of 17. One can usually count upon Goudelock for some scoring, but he too struggled, hitting only 2 of 10 field goals.

The 7-foot Sacre had just one rebound in his 32 minutes to go with nine points, while Johnson-Odom turned the ball over five times, masking some good on-the-ball defense, though he did match Morris with three assists.

L.A. has two more chances to get a win in Vegas, first against the Spurs on Tuesday and finally against the Clippers on Thursday, the five aforementioned players all looking to show the team’s coaches and brass that they have more to offer than has been shown thus far.

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.