We had a chance to talk with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak this afternoon at the press conference announcing Kobe Bryant as the league’s MVP. Kupchak, as he has all year, refused to gloat or pat himself on the back for the dramatic turn of events this season has brought for the Lakers fortunes. As always, he was disciplined and diplomatic. But his responses are still interesting.
On Kobe saying he wants to be a Laker for life:
“It’s nice to hear he’s happy with the group of players that’s surrounding him. It’s even more happy to see that we have the best record in the West. And it’s most profound to hear that he wants to be a Laker for the rest of his career.”
On taking the high road through Kobe’s criticisms:
“I just have a job to do. I’m the caretaker of this organization and I’m in charge of looking out for its future. So I have to look at things a little bit differently than the fans and media do.”
On his expectations before the year:
“I thought we could win 50 games last year, I thought we could win 50 games this year. But I’m not going to say I thought we’d have the best record in the West this year, nor would I say that I thought Kobe was going to be the MVP this year.”
How close did he get to trading Kobe?
“That’s something I really don’t want to revisit. There’s been a lot of talk about it, and it’s really not worth bringing back to life right now.”
On when the shift in Kobe’s attitude took place:
“That’s something you’ll have to ask Kobe, but the one comment that stood out for me was when Andrew Bynum got hurt, he came out and said that we were a championship caliber team with Andrew and to me, that signaled that there was some satisfaction he felt with the team around him.
On scouting Kobe out of high school:
“We had two workouts and his workouts were special. But you don’t know a kid well enough to know if he’s going to work hard every summer, or how he’ll develop mentally as the years go on. But in his workouts, you could tell he was a special player
“We saw bits and pieces of it in summer league, before he even became a rookie. Just his skill level, his athleticism. We knew we had an especially talented two-guard, but you don’t know how they’re going to progress from 17 to 19. Just with Andrew Bynum, we knew we had a center who was 17 and we liked his skill set and his size, length and his hands, but the hard part is to project what they’re going to be like in two or three years.
Q: Who was the one that said, `We got to have this guy?’
A: Jerry West. Jerry West.
One Kobe’s work ethic:
“He said it best himself. HE doesn’t consider it working. He always seems to be a step ahead of technology, in terms of what’s best for his body.
“Ten days or so ago, he had a bad shooting game against the Nuggets and he came into the facility an hour early. I looked out in my window, which overlooks the court and just watched him shoot for an hour by himself. He just shot and shot and shot. He was soaking wet by the time practice started. He’s always been that way. What he did two weeks ago is no different than eight of ten years ago.”