Kupchak in trading mood?

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said today that the team’s recent lackluster play might force him to make a trade. He told a reporter from NBA.com: “Regarding a trade, I may have to. I’m not saying that I’ve made calls today or I’ll make them tomorrow. But I just don’t think that we’re playing as well as our talent level should allow us.”

He also said: “I try to be as objective as possible, but I’m concerned that our performance is not living up to our talent level. Our record is certainly OK. But we’ve lost a bunch of home games. We’ve lost a couple of big games at home. And to me, those are red flags.

“I’m not convinced it’s lack of talent. I think it’s there. Our team is very similar — certainly our starting five is exact — as the team last year. Yes, we’re a year older. But it’s not like our guys are 34, 35 or 36. They’re all between 29 and 31 or 32. I think we’ve added a couple players that may make our roster even stronger, with Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. … You don’t age off the charts in one year when you’re 30 or 31.”

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Bynum sits, Jackson gets sarcastic

Andrew Bynum did not practice today because of soreness in his left knee, but hopes to play in Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets. Bynum sat out the season’s first 24 games after undergoing surgery to mend torn cartilage in his right knee July 28. He scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds during the Lakers’ loss Sunday to Boston.

Meanwhile, Lakers coach Phil Jackson joked his way through a heavy barrage of questions about the state of the team in the wake of its losses Sunday to the Celtics and Friday to the Sacramento Kings. He jokingly mentioned the word “suicide” when asked what the Lakers needed to change in their approach to their next game.

“Suicide?” a reporter asked.
“Yes, suicide,” Jackson responded, smiling.
“You’re going to drink some Kool-Aid?” the reporter asked.
“We’ll drink the Kool-Aid,” Jackson said, laughing.

When the same reporter asked Lamar Odom about suicide, the Lakers’ backup forward and All-Star candidate smiled and then shook his head before saying, “No, no, no. There’s no coming back from that. That’s it. I’m not committing suicide.”

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Celtics 109, Lakers 96

The Lakers gave up 109 points today to a team that scored 71 points Friday against the Phoenix Suns. Think about that for a minute. It probably means Jerry West was right about the Lakers. They’re not a good defensive team by any measure. The Celtics, who went into the game averaging 98.7 points, shot 60.3 percent. Paul Pierce had 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting. Kobe Bryant scored 41 points on 16-for-29 shooting, passing the 27,000-point mark for his career with a 3-pointer late in the third quarter. Next: Houston on Tuesday at Staples.

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Half: Lakers 54, Celtics 50

There was some emotion and a little blood in the first half today at Staples Center. The Lakers showed some aggression, which had been missing in their loss Friday to the Sacramento Kings. Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics supplied the blood. He got cracked in the head accidentally and had to retreat to the locker room for repairs midway through the second quarter. The game featured a scoring battle between Kobe Bryant, who scored 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting, and Boston’s Paul Pierce, who had 16 on 5-for-10 shooting. Everyone else had a struggle. Bryant is six points away from 27,000 for his career.

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Kings 100, Lakers 95

The Lakers paid for their out-of-sync play during the first three quarters in tonight’s loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant scored 38 points on 13-for-27 shooting after he had 21 on 8-for-11 shooting in the first quarter. Shannon Brown added 17 points in a reserve role and Andrew Bynum scored 12. The Lakers trailed by as many as 20 points late in the third quarter and got as close as 98-94 in the closing minutes. Their comeback fizzled, however. DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points for the Kings.

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Half: Kings 59, Lakers 55

As much as they said they weren’t looking forward to Sunday’s rematch of the NBA Finals, they couldn’t help themselves against an inferior team. The Lakers? Yes, but the Boston Celtics, too. Neither was in top form tonight. The Lakers trailed the Sacramento Kings after failing to play anything resembling tight defense. Meanwhile, the Celtics were getting kicked by the Suns in Phoenix. The Lakers and Celtics meet Sunday at Staples Center for the first time since the Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 7 of the Finals last June. Kobe Bryant scored 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting for the Lakers tonight.

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Kobe passes Olajuwon

Kobe Bryant’s breakaway dunk with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in the first quarter of tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings gave him 13 points in the period and propelled him past Hakeem Olajuwon into eighth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He needed 12 points to catch Olajuwon, who had 26,946 points in his Hall of Fame career. Fans saluted Bryant with a standing ovation when they were told of his feat during a timeout with the teams tied at 23-all with 2:49 left in the first quarter.

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Phil sailing into retirement?

Coach Phil Jackson was asked before tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings about which players he might vote for as backups for the All-Star team. He declined to say, then spoke about some of the ways some teams try to sway (read: bribe) coaches to pick players. He talked about receiving gift boxes with bottles of wine and trips to Cabo San Lucas after the season then added with a wry smile, “Actually, I’m waiting for a boat.”

Perhaps the better to sail off into the sunset after his final season of coaching the Lakers.

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Kobe Q-and-A

Kobe Bryant did a rare thing Thursday afternoon and spoke at length on a number of subjects, ranging from the Lakers’ improved play to a desire to send Phil Jackson into retirement with his 12th NBA championship. Here’s are some of the highlights:

Question: Are the defensive adjustments becoming clearer? Are you executing better?
Answer: “Yeah, we’re doing a much better job. We’ve done a good job of it for the last few weeks or so, and we just continue to get better.”

Q: Are you seeing the team performing better as a whole?
A: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Q: You always talk about the process of going through a season. Is keeping the process interesting a challenge, or is there something you point at to keep it that way?
A: “Not really. I think it’s just the will to get better. That’s always interesting. That always makes the game interesting. And then just continue to have an infinite curiosity about the game. I think that keeps it fresh.”

Q: Since Andrew Bynum came back to the lineup, your ballhandling duties increase with Lamar Odom starting on the bench, does that change anything with what you want to do coming down on offense at all?
A: “Not necessarily. My responsibility is to be a threat, and that entails many things — scoring the ball, or penetrating, or whatever it is. It’s to be a primary threat, and try to make life easy for the rest of my guys.”

Q: Your shooting efficiency has gone up. Anything from that with the ballhandling duties? Is it getting set up better, or just as the season goes along, you want to ramp up?
A: “No, it’s just getting better, becoming a better player. Fifteen years in, you never stop trying to get better. So I continue to make improvements.”

Q: What kind of advantage do you get from having Andrew and Pau Gasol in there at the same time, with that extreme length?
A: “I think offensive boards is something that gives us a huge advantage, because we get more cracks at it. For a team that’s as potent offensively as us, to get get second and third opportunities is a big difference. The length that they have does that for us.”

Q: This game coming up (Friday against the Kings), there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth on the all-time scoring list. Could you talk a little bit about that time you spent working with him, and what you gained out of it?
A: “I learned a great deal, obviously, just the details of the post game, and recognizing double teams and how to deal with those. Hakeem is incredibly smart and extremely competitive, and for him to take the time to kind of welcome me into his home and show me different things is a tribute to his greatness.”

Q: His footwork was off the charts, wasn’t it?
A: “Oh, yeah. In my opinion, he’s the best post player ever. With all due respect to (Kevin) McHale, Hakeem was phenomenal.

Q: “You look up the list and there’s only one more guard on there, and that’s Michael Jordan. Does it say something about the history of the game that you do have big men at the top?
A: “I mean, yeah. Typically big guys have been the ones to dominate the game and dominate the ball. For the most part, the game goes through them. The bigs on that list are obviously all-time greats. I guess there’s a couple little guys that are feisty, me being one of them.”

Q: Phil keeps reiterating that this is his last year. How much of a loss will that be?
A: “You’re asking me a question now about something in July? It will be a sad day, but I’m sure I’ll get together with him and go fly fishing or something at some point.

Q: Does it add any incentive to the season for the team?
A: “Yeah. Yeah. For me, especially, because we’ve been together so long. I want to make sure I do everything in my power to send him off the right way.”

Q: Hakeem’s attention to detail, how did that distinguish him from other players?
A: “Well, it’s always the attention to detail that separates the great players from the greatest of players. It’s no different with Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and Michael and any of the others. It’s the attention to detail that separates those guys.”

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