GM Kupchak Discusses Bryant's Injury
Q: Opening statement:
Kupchak: It seems there’s a light at the end of the tunnel because right when (players) get back it seems like we’ll have a roster ready to go at some point in time, and then another guy gets injured. To the credit of the guys on the team since Day 1, they’ve fought through the injuries. Since the Memphis game, I think our record is 26-12, and we’ve had significant injuries since that game – and they’ve continued to push and push. I commend the group. Last night’s injury was certainly another setback and devastating in its own way. But I’ve got complete confidence that this group can win the next two games and get into the playoffs.
Q: On talking to Kobe before surgery:
Kupchak: I did. I went over and visited about an hour-and-a-half ago. He was in great spirits. He actually gave a message to me to pass onto the guys on the team – most of which I cannot share with you right here. But it was a positive message as you might imagine and very motivational. His spirits were good, certainly remarkably different than last night. His eyes were red and he looked a bit downtrodden, but today I thought he was pretty good. He was ready for the surgery. He’s proactive in all ways. You wouldn’t expect him to wait a week or two. Certainly last night when I got the phone call that he wanted to do it today, I wasn’t surprised.
Q: On paraphrasing Kobe’s message to the team:
Kupchak: As I said, it’s a motivational type thing. ‘We’ve been working for this all season long, we’ve been through adversity with guys getting injured, don’t give up now, we can still do it.’ Something like that …
Q: On the position Mike D’Antoni is in leaving Kobe in the game:
Kupchak: Why wouldn’t he have been in the game at that time?
Q: On the knee injuries earlier in the game:
Kupchak: Guys, you’re talking about different things. If you’re talking about the tweaks, that happens to players in every game. They get up, shake it off and continue to play. If you’re talking about the minutes thing, that’s another story. I spoke to Kobe about 10 days ago about the 48-minute thing and playing a lot of minutes and said: ‘I have concerns.’ At a certain level, when you’re talking to players, these guys are different and Kobe is at the top of the list when it comes to being different. They’re wound up differently and they’re cut differently. When you’re at the top of your profession, you just look at things differently. His message to me was: ‘Mitch, I hear what you’re saying, but we have to get in the playoffs. I’m playing and there’s nothing you can do about it.’
Q: On if the coach is supposed to tell Kobe to sit down:
Kupchak: Yes, but we’re trying to get to the playoffs. You can’t predict an injury just like we couldn’t predict Steve Nash was going to break his leg in Game 2 of the season. Maybe if we had a 10-game lead going into the playoffs you can rest guys and he wouldn’t have gotten injured last night, but that’s not the case.
Q: On if Mike D’Antoni is responsible for playing him too many minutes:
Kupchak: No, I don’t think Mike is at blame here one bit. Certainly everybody can second guess looking back on it now and say maybe you should have done something different. But even if you take Kobe out of the game, there are a lot of times where he’ll just get up and put himself back into the game. Just because you say you’re out of the game doesn’t mean he’s going to come out of the game or going to stay out of the game.
Q: On if Phil Jackson could have said no to playing him so many minutes:
Kupchak: Kobe is no different under Phil (Jackson) than he was under Rudy (Tomjanovich) than he was under Mike (Brown) or under Mike D’Antoni.
Q: On if Kobe will be ready by the beginning of next season:
Kupchak: Speaking to him this morning, that certainly was his goal. I think it’d be aggressive to think he can be ready by training camp. I think that’s a realistic goal for him (November 1) based on what he was talking about this morning.
Q: On what they need from Dwight Howard now:
Kupchak: It’s not just Dwight. Everybody’s going to have to raise their level of play. He’s the main guy. Certainly a lot will fall on his shoulders. When we get Steve Nash back, a lot will fall on his shoulders. Last night, Pau was one of our best players, too. I’m not going to say that it’s all on one person’s shoulders, but everybody has to carry a little bit more right now and Dwight is one of them.
Q: On the possibility of amnestying Kobe:
Kupchak: That’s not even something we’ve discussed. From my understanding without going into great detail, that’s not something that gets to the fall. I think that's something that happens in July, so that’s not something that takes place next year. That’s the furthest thing from my mind right now.