State of the Lakers

We sat down with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to discuss what he expects from Kobe Bryant off the Achilles injury, how he evaluated Dwight Howard's season and what the franchise's message is to Howard ahead of free agency.

Kupchak detailed why he expects Bryant to be "as focused and driven as ever" on the basketball floor next season, saying he was "amazed" at the optimism and fortitude from the shooting guard who's been with the Lakers for half of his life. At the same time, as a GM building a roster, Kupchak acknowledged that the franchise always has to look ahead to the future. Kupchak said that as with Jerry West, Magic Johnson and so on, everything comes to an end at some point, and the franchise has to plan accordingly.

That is, in part, where Howard comes to mind for Kupchak. Perhaps Howard's most staunch supporter throughout a difficult 2012-13 season, Kupchak said he didn't expect Howard to play through the back injury until January, and felt like he got much better as the season went on.

"All in all, taking into consideration the season, new players and most importantly the injury that he had, I think he had a great season and just didn't get enough credit for it," said Kupchak. "Dwight is in a category of the great; he's over his back injury and there's no reason he can't play seven or eight more years at that position, and there's no doubt in my mind (that) if he does, he's in the Hall of Fame, and those players are just hard to come by."

Kupchak was then asked to relay his main message about why the Lakers want Howard to return to Los Angeles: "He's our future."

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