Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to several reporters via conference call from his office on Wednesday morning, discussing both Tuesday's draft lottery and the team's ongoing coaching search. Below is a transcript of the conversation:
On receiving the seventh pick and if he thinks there is anyone in the draft who can change the face of the franchise at that spot:
I wouldn’t say it was bad luck. We were hoping to get lucky, but as you know we could have dropped down to number nine, too. We were hoping to get lucky, or at worst case, stay where we were, but it could have been worse. As far as what [Boston Celtics Executive] Danny [Ainge] said, that’s up to him. We think drafting number seven, there is going to be a good player available there. Maybe Danny is talking more about a guy that changes the face of an organization from the get-go, but you can’t really evaluate these things until years later when you look back on it. Damian Lillard is a great example. I don’t think anybody thought walking through the draft that he would turn into the player [he is] as quickly as he did, but looking back on it is a heck of a selection. We will be able to get a good player, and we are hoping that three or four years from now we can look back on it and he is even a better player than we thought.
On the impact a player selected seventh overall can make:
Well, it depends. Most of the players in the draft for the last 15 to 18 years have been young, developing players and some of them make a contribution quicker than others. There are certainly a couple of guys that played more than two years. There is a kid that played four years that might make a contribution quicker. I’m not saying he would be someone we would consider or not consider at seven. My point is, typically – and we have kind of gotten used to it over the years – you do have to work with the younger player and those are the guys that get drafted the highest, whether they are freshman or sophomore, it may take a year or two.
On if a player selected seventh can be a starter on the Lakers right now:
Right now. We only four guys under contract right now.
On how the lottery occurring affects the offseason moving forward:
It is another piece of information. It doesn’t really get us any further along in hiring a coach, but it is another piece of information. Right now, the day after the lottery, it doesn’t really affect our approach to the offseason beginning July 1st.
On when he will become more immersed in the search for a head coach:
I would say we actually – and I’m sure names will come out within the next couple of days – but we have started our process and we intend to continue the process in terms of talking to potential coaches. Whether they are informal or formal interviews, we will do both. I would not anticipate hiring a coach in the next two or three weeks, but we will interview several, more than three or four, probably.
On if the process of searching for a new coach has begun:
Yes, we have begun.
On the variables the front office is measuring in potential coaching candidates and whether they want to pursue a veteran coach or a young coach:
I think right now, our interviews will be formal in terms of sitting down and talking for a couple of hours, but at some point, we will probably have to sit down and talk a second time. I think that is where we are right now, at the beginning of the process. Whether it is a veteran coach or a rookie coach, that is not something we are prepared to comment on right now.
On the talent evaluation process at the NBA Draft Combine:
The combine has really evolved over the years, and probably the most useful information out of the combine is really the interview process and the testing and the medical/physical process. There is very limited basketball activity, and the guys that did workout, really none of them are “lottery players,” at least last week. Based on workouts going forward, maybe somebody can jump in there but right now that quality of player, and that is not to say the other guys at the combine that did work out won’t be in the NBA and won’t be drafted perhaps in the first round, but as you know most of the “lottery guys” did not play.
On if they will focus on the drafting in the seventh spot or continue to look at other options:
We started last night calling and trying to set up workouts with probably everybody on our board in the top 15 to 20. Some of those guys don’t think they are going to be there at seven so they won’t come in. There is nothing we can do about that. But some guys that are drafted later, and you may say ‘well why bring in a guy that might go 20?’ Well you never know, number one, and number two, you have the opportunity to develop a relationship with a player. Why not do it? So that started last night.
On if the NBA playoffs are a factor in the timing of a possible coaching hire:
Right now it is not a factor, but like I said I don’t see the process ending in the next two or three weeks. It depends how the process goes. We may want to open it up and consider other people.
On if other teams head coaching vacancies or hires have impacted the Lakers coaching search thus far:
On if drafting at seven influences whether to keep or trade the pick:
It stands to reason that the higher the pick, the more value it has, but a six pick or a seven pick, which is where we ended up certainly has value. We will evaluate that between now, the draft and July 1st.
On if there is extra value financially in players on rookie contracts:
Well, that is one of the benefits of having draft picks, that there is a salary scale going forward. If it is a first-round pick, you can basically pencil in four years of salary. Then the fifth year, if he signs a one-year deal, you pretty much know that [the player’s salary]. So really you have salary-certainty for five years on a first-round pick. The second round is a little bit different. Yeah it [salary certainty] is a factor, but it is not really that much of a factor with us because we have only one pick this year. Yeah, we know what that pick is going to make, but we still have to field a roster of seven to eight more players.
On if the coach hiring process will be different:
I think, clearly, it will be a longer process for obvious reasons. I assume you are alluding to our last hire, Mike D’Antoni, which really took less than a week. This process will be considerably longer for a bunch of different reasons. Number one: We have a lot more time. Number two: We don’t really know what our team looks like and there is no urgency right now. It will be a more deliberate process.
On if there are particular offensive and defensive philosophies the Lakers are looking for in a coaching candidate:
I wouldn’t use the word philosophy, but we have a player on our team right now who is proven in this league. Offensively, he can score and that certainly is a consideration. Obviously I’m talking about Kobe [Bryant]. He is under contract for two more years and we think he is a very integral part of this team. We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach will really get the most productivity out of him, whether it is scoring the ball or playmaking or the threat that he may score. That is probably a primary importance right now.
On how he thinks Kobe Bryant will be used offensively in the next two years:
We haven’t seen much of him in the last year. He has been over here working out and he looks good. Over the years his game has changed from really a game where he was pretty wild and athletic and at times out-of-control in the early part of his career. I would say for the last seven or eight years, he has become more deliberate and, of course, he has gotten a little bit older. I think you will see a lot of him posting up, I think you will see him with the ball in his hands making plays. [At the] end of games, he is going to have the ball in his hands, he is going to get a call, he is going to make free throws. The Kobe today is different than the Kobe 15 years ago, and I don’t think that’s a secret. I think Kobe knows where on the court he will be most effective, whether it is playmaking, being a decoy, or scoring the ball, and I think we know where those places are.
On if hiring a coach currently employed by another team is a possibility:
Why wouldn’t it be a possibility? We don’t have a timeline. If we had a timeline for tomorrow or Friday, or the weekend, then I would say that is remote. But I mentioned earlier, this is going to go on at least two or three weeks. I’m not anticipating what you just mentioned being a part of the process, but we will just monitor how it plays out with the teams that are out there and see what the playing field provides and make decisions accordingly.
On if a candidate for head coach will need to have previous coaching experience:
Not necessarily, but if I have to say we were leaning towards the type of a coach we would want, I would say there would be experience involved, certainly at some level, but not necessarily. It’s just too early in the process.