Mitch Kupchak Post-Deadline Presser
After the trade deadline passed on Thursday, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak addressed assembled media members at the practice facility to discuss the trade of Steve Blake, the organization’s goal moving towards the future and much more. Below is a transcription of his comments:
Q: On the thought process trading Steve Blake, while acquiring MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore:
Kupchak: Steve Blake has been here almost four years and as a person and player, we loved him, but our shortage of point guards about amonth ago led us to Kendall Marshall. With Kendall and Jordan (Farmar), and of course Steve Nash is back there and Steve Blake, it really got to the pointwhere we needed to free up some time in the backcourt to look at Jordan andgive Kendall the time that he’s earned, and let’s review and evaluate where we are with those two players. The other part of it is we got back two young players that are developing – one that’s been in the league for three years, the other for two years and (with) varying levels of ability and skill. So really, when you look at the deal – at least how we looked at the deal – those two components.
Q: On if the financial relief was a bonus in the trade:
Kupchak: With this organization, that kind of relief is not really a big number. But as I’ve said many times before, the financial aspect of what we do is not something that is not taken into consideration because it is.
Q: On if he was surprised more dealsweren’t made at the trade deadline considering how much time is put into this time of the year:
Kupchak: You could see by the number of deals were done – I think we’ve heard most of the deals and I don’t think there are going to be deals coming in in an hour or two from now – not many. I’m not exactly sure why that is, certainly no blockbusters and it is difficult to make a deal in this league. The owners are very competitive, the general managers are very competitive, it’s not one GM in an office talking to another GM, which is kind how it was 20-25 years ago. Now everything is (on) speaker phone, there are probably 8-10 people in an office listening, running numbers, giving opinions. Owners are very active, there’s so much more at stake than there was 30 years ago. It’s a big business. Everybody’s looking out for their own self-interests and everybody has an opinion, so consequently, it’s tough to make a deal – any kind of a deal.
Q: On his hopefulness to acquire a draft pick in any deal:
Kupchak: Draft picks are assets. You always want to get a draft pick. There are only three ways to improve a team: through a trade, through a draft or through free agency. I’m not sure we believe we have 10 years to do this through the draft so we’ve hoarded our cap space, we’ve tried to be diligent with it and how we’ve spent it and we do have a lot offlexibility going forward. We have our pick this year, which is a valuable pick in a draft, right now, that looks like a good draft. Now we won’t know it’s a good draft until five years from now when you look back on it. So we do have those components in place, but it is difficult with the new collective bargaining agreement, with all the restrictions on the cap and the sign andtrade and associated guidelines that picks have become more valuable than ever. It used to be you could get a second-round pick pretty easy. Now they’re almost as hard to get as a first-round pick.
Q: On if he feels next season the Lakers will have a team that could make the playoffs and possibly contend for a championship:
Kupchak: Well, next year we’re going to have Kobe (Bryant), who will be healthy and we will have a good draft choice and we’ll have dollars to spend on free agents, so it depends who we can get this summer. I don’t think we’ll use our cap money to patch together a team for next year. We’re looking to bring something to Los Angeles … it may take one year to build, but I don’t know. But because we have a lot of money this summer doesn’t mean we’ll spend it all – we’ll spend it wisely. If we can’t, then we’ll do the best we can this summer and we’ll look maybe to the next summer. We don’t know how that’s going to play out right now, we don’t know who’s going to be free, who’s going to opt in, who’s going to opt out, so there are a lot of unknowns. But all you can do is be in position and we feel we are positioned well for opportunity.
Q: On if there is a possibility the team resigns Pau Gasol:
Kupchak: Absolutely it’s an option. Yes, absolutely.
Q: On if it’s more difficult to bring in a free agent to Los Angeles with the team not doing so well:
Kupchak: With this organization and the support we get from this city, I think this will always be a destination for players. We do have to compete with the guidelines that players can get paid for salaries, whetherit’s a max player or a player that can get a bigger raise with his home team, so that’s a challenge. But we’ll always be in the hunt because of the franchise, the ownership, the legacy and the city itself. Los Angeles, our fans, our support here, that’s an advantage we’ll always have.
Q: On if he believes getting Kobe Bryant back on the court this season will aid in bringing free agents to Los Angeles knowing they’d be seeing a healthy player:
Kupchak: We’re hopeful he can get back on the court and do that. We’re not going to push him to get back. I don’t see why you would. We’ve made a commitment to him for two more years and I just don’t know why we’d do that. If he feels he’s ready and he’s in shape and he gets the doctor’s approval, then there’s no reason why he couldn’t do that. We had Gail Goodrich in town the last couple days and he had the same injury like 30 years ago, and I think it was his first year in New Orleans and he came back relatively quickly in nine months and that was 30 years ago. So there’s really no reason why anybody should speculate as to whether Kobe can get back next year at ahigh level. I think a bigger challenge is age. But he’s shown over the years that he can adjust his game to his age. He’s just changed. You watch the Laker channel, Time Warner, and you’ll see games from eight, 10, 12 years ago and the way Kobe played and the goatee and the haircut, and you look at him today before the injury and it’s a completely different player. So I think that’s a bigger challenge to him. Based on what I saw the last week before he injured his knee, I was completely confident that the Achilles injury would have noplay in his effectiveness.
Q: On if he feels this is a turning point for the franchise because there was so much success under Dr. Jerry Buss:
Kupchak: What this team went through this year is really no different than what we went through the year after we traded Shaquille (O’Neal). It was the exact same thing. Now I think because Dr. Buss was alive and there was a different level of trust because he had been doing this 25 years, I think people may have been more patient. I think it’s natural when you lose an owner like that for people to say: ‘What’s going on?’ But you have to trust the organization. Everybody’s on the same page. We have a plan and I can’t guarantee we can execute a plan in six months, 12 months or 18 months, but we’re well positioned. And the organization has chosen to follow Dr. Buss’s legacy, which is to win championships.
Q: On why the team elected not to make moves just to get under the luxury tax:
Kupchak: The organization is not motivated by saving ‘x’ amount of dollars. There’s a strategic reasoning why you might want to do that because at some point you have to get underneath or else you’re exposed to the repeater tax. But the repeater tax, I don’t think going forward, will be a big issue for us for the next year or two. We were more concerned with making a basketball deal. Yeah, if you can make a basketball deal or two basketball deals, which means you’re getting back a player you like and a pick, and you go below the tax threshold, that’s something we would’ve liked to have done. Quite frankly, we did have an opportunity to go below the tax threshold, but there were no basketball components, and that’s unacceptable with this organization. If we could’ve gotten picks or players that we felt good about going forward, then we would have done that. But we did have opportunities to go below the threshold, but we didn’t.
Q: On what he’s seen from Steve Nash this year and how he fits in with the team’s plans for the future:
Kupchak: Obviously it’s going to be a challenge. At the appropriate time, we’ll sit down and talk about it, but it’s really his decision. He’s under contract to play basketball next year. There’s a lot of moving pieces in something like this. For us to sit down and try to influence one way or the other, it’s not ethical, and it’s his decision. Ever since he broke his leg, it’s been one thing after another, and this year has been a really, really tough year for him. But he’s in the gym every day, he’s flying back and forth to his trainers, he looks great, he’s trying, he’s working hard. You can’t hold anything against a guy that works that hard and wants it that badly. So we’ll see as the weeks go on if he can come back and play and then we’ll see what the summer brings.
Q: On making the decision to spend money on a free agent – whether it be this summer or next summer – what, more than anything, will the organization be looking at when making that call:
Kupchak: One thing you don’t want to do is make a bad decision with your money. We have a lot of money and what we don’t want to do is make commitments to players for long periods of time that may put your team in the middle of the pack. You’ve used up your flexibility and at the end of the year, you’re 41-41, or you get 46 wins, 43 wins. Then you’re middle of the pack, you’re not giving the people in Los Angeles what they expect, we’re not bringing to the table what we expect to bring to the table. So that’s what you don’t want to do. You want to use your money wisely and get players that can help you win at a high level.