Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did an interview today with KSPN-AM (710). Here’s some of what he said, all of it addressing contract talks with free agent Lamar Odom:
“I’m not quite sure how it’s going to play out right now. We’ll have to just wait and see, but we would like to have some closure soon. I think they would, too. You’d kind of like to know where you’re going to be. Our options if we don’t sign Lamar back would be limited, so if we’re not going to have him back we would like to look at our options and try to fill around the team we have at this point in time. So, the sooner the better, but I’m hopeful it doesn’t drag on too much longer.”
Question: Is there a deadline in place?
Answer: “I think that deadlines are never really constructive or productive unless it’s a last resort kind of a thing. We’re not there right now. You know, the playing field has kind of leveled out a little bit. I think both people, in terms of the organization and Lamar, they’re aware of what their options are, so everybody deserves a little time to work through the issues. But once again, things like this can’t continue to drag on forever. At some point in time, you have to know where you stand individually as a player and, of course, we need to know what our team is going to look like as some point in time. So, I’m not going to say there is going to be a deadline, but I think we’re working towards a conclusion.”
Q: Are you worried Portland is interested in signing Lamar?
“I think Lamar has options. Certainly, Portland is a team that has options beyond what the other teams that are over the (salary) cap. They have cap room. I don’t know what Portland’s plans are. I don’t know if they’re talking to Lamar or not. I really believe Lamar wants to be in Los Angeles, and it’s a process he has to play out with his representative on a daily basis, asking questions. What are my options? Where do we stand? Let me think about this. It’s a process. It’s not something that takes five or 10 minutes. I think Lamar is in a position where he kind of knows what the landscape looks like. He just needs some clarity and he needs to work through the issues. That’s all.”
Q: Do you take a step backwards if you don’t re-sign Lamar?
A: “I don’t know. It’s certainly possible. We’ve been in situations as an organization where we’ve had to make tough basketball business decisions. About five years, Derek got an offer that just didn’t make sense for us in terms of trying to field a competitive group and make good decisions. And last year it happened with Ronny Turiaf, who just got a wonderful offer from Golden State. So those kinds of things happen. As an organization we seem to be able to work our way through it and put ourselves in a position to compete. I think that began with Dr. (Jerry) Buss, when he bought the team in the last 1970s. He has the ability to recognize what’s a good decision, what’s a good acquisition and when also to fold and say, ‘Listen, you’ve got to take that deal. We can’t match it. And we’ll figure out a way to replace you and, hopefully, keep this team competitive.’ And we’ve been able to do that; his history, since he’s owned this team, has been pretty good.”
Q:What do you do if you can’t re-sign Odom?
A: “You always have a contingency plan. That’s how we ended up with Ron Artest. Going into free agency we felt we had a better than even chance that we could keep this group together; that was Lamar, Shannon (Brown) and Trevor (Ariza). When you go into free agency, it’s really a beast. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out. A lot of times, you have to do a 180-degree turn within 24 hours. You have to have a backup plan. We did have a backup plan, to have Ron. We didn’t know he would be available. We knew he would be a free agent, but I think due Yao Ming’s injury, Houston decided not to get aggressive with Ron Artest because they might be in a position where they might have to re-build if Yao Ming misses the season. We didn’t know if that would happen. We put our calls in and lo and behold, the next day when the negotiations with Trevor didn’t go the way we had hoped, there was Ron Artest. So, yes, we do have contingency plans, but you’re not going to find a Lamar Odom at the end of August sitting around waiting to be signed by the Laker or anybody else. Those types of players, they’re commodities. We’ll do the best we can and we’ll move on, but there is no replacement for Lamar Odom.”