Mitch Kupchak Q & A with Reporters
On Monday afternoon, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak invited several reporters who cover the team into the war room to discuss what's been a crazy couple of weeks in Los Angeles and around the NBA in general. Kupchak explained why the team traded Lamar Odom, discussed the organization's continued interest in pursuing "big trades," said that no matter what he plans on adding pieces to the roster and more.
Below is a summary, including several direct Kupchak quotes and some further explanation:
- Let's start with Kupchak's overall bottom line/state of affairs: "If we can figure out a way to improve this team, we will do it. There's no guarantee that anyone will be here with the exception of Kobe, because he has a no trade clause."
Q: On L.A. still actively pursuing potential "big" trades:
Kupchak: "We are pursuing big deals right now. That has not changed. More than one big deal. But there could be more than one big deal that involves players other than the two you're thinking about.
- Kupchak was asked what brought about the shift in looking for big deals, when he's maintained this offseason that the team could win as was constructed. His simple answer: "Opportunity." To go further, once all of the teams were finally cut loose to talk to players/agents and the like, and figured out what the rules were, things began to present themselves.
- All big trades or small trades have the same goal for Kupchak: "A team that can be better than the team that got beat in the second round last year."
Q: On if the roster is worse than it was last season at present day:
Kupchak: "We're trying to improve our position (from last season). I think if we had gone to the Finals or won the Finals, you could say that we've taken a step back. But we got beat in the second round. Losing Lamar and not having Shannon Brown is a blow in terms of talent for this team, but it's not like we're breaking up a championship team … We will look to add to this mix."
Q: On the proposed trade from last week presumably involving New Orleans and Houston:
Kupchak: "There was never a trade that was announced, but clearly we were working towards something with other teams that we thought would result in a trade. It was disqualified by the NBA. (That was) completely unexpected … unique circumstances with the (Hornets) being run by the NBA. We did the best we could to express our displeasure, and to date there has been no change."
Q: On Odom being sent to Dallas:
Kupchak: "Lamar was sent to Dallas because he requested to be traded. That's not to say that we wouldn't have done something down the road. But the timing was such, and it's all tied into what took place last week, the unfortunate circumstances of Thursday and Friday. Lamar is probably more sensitive and emotional than most people, in particular our players, and that's a plus more than it's a minus. But in this case, he couldn't get over the fact that something like that took place. We were hoping that things would change in a day or two, but his representative called me on Saturday and said it's not going to change, and requested that (Odom) be traded. We worked together to find a spot that would give us the most flexibility going forward. There are a lot of teams in the NBA that would take a player like Lamar and you could probably do it in a day, but you'd have to take back players, and you might not like the players you were getting back, and there might be long (financial) commitments going out. That's not something we were interested in doing. All that does is handicap us going forward. To find a slot where you can just create complete flexibility and get back a pick (is unique).
- Kupchak went on to explain that it's the organization's philosophy to look after the Lakers first and foremost in a trade, and think less about with whom they're making the trade, even if it's in the team's division. He cited having traded within the division before (like Cedric Ceballos and Phoenix in the 1990's), and the team isn't "afraid of that." Taking precedence was the window in which a deal could be made, in which complete flexibility was a big key for L.A.'s future plans. Also, Kupchak was worried about energy being sucked away from the team with the "environment" that existed due to Odom's trade demand.
- Kupchak said that the Odom trade was "well thought out." He didn't deny that teams haven't gone through such a frenetic environment before due to the massively compressed time frame between when the CBA was ratified and the start of the season, but the Odom decision, he and Dr. Buss and Jim Buss collectively felt, needed to be made. Were they to wait a month or two to make the numbers work, find a team that had an exception, was anything but a guarantee. The key to making future moves is being flexible.
- The players are well aware that the roster could very well change tomorrow, or at any point of this season or in the future. Kupchak explained that while he felt badly about trade rumors some players had to deal with (particularly Pau Gasol), everyone understands that the players are paid a lot to play, the coaches to coach and management to manage.
- Kupchak does not anticipate using the team's amnesty clause for this season. They plan on carrying it forward to future seasons.
Q: On speaking to Kobe Bryant yesterday in his office:
Kupchak: "I spoke to Kobe, and he was going through to our PR department and he sat down. It was unplanned. We talked in general – how was the summer. (Odom) may have come up briefly, and our response was, 'This is something that he wanted to do and we had an opportunity to do it." That said, Kupchak said he understood and would expect why players would miss Lamar and be upset with him being moved. "You go to war with a guy like lamar for 6-7 years, win two championships and go to the Finals three times, you're going to feel that you miss the guy." You feel for the whole group.
Kupchak spent a few minutes explaining the unprecedented times around the league right now. "I would anticipate that everybody in the NBA would look at that pegged arrangement in two years and not try to put their team in jeapardy. There might be a team or two out there - I'd be surprised - that would say, 'Hey it's OK for us to go into an area like that.'"
- But with that said, Kupchak explained that Dr. Buss has always expressed a willingness to pay for players if it's worth it. In short, Kupchak wouldn't rule anything out into the future, even with certain tax implications.Dr. Buss wants to know that the money is going to be well spent, and will then sign off on potential deals and trades. Kupchak couldn't really get into how the differences in luxury tax dollar penalties could impact that mindset into the future, as so much is yet unknown about what the roster will look like.