Lakers promote Glenn Carraro to assistant general manager

After leaving the position vacant for the 2011-12 season, the Lakers promoted Glenn Carraro to assistant general manager, the team announced Thursday afternoon. Carraro served as the Lakers’ director of basketball administration and also as general manager of their developmental league team, the D-Fenders.

Carraro, who has been in the Lakers’ front office since 2000, replaces Ronnie Lester, whose contract was not renewed last summer. Carraro was the D-Fenders’ assistant general manager from 2006-10. In his first season as GM, they won a D-League leading 38 of 50 games.

“Glenn has done an excellent job in every position he has had in the organization and he’s become a valuable part of our staff,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “This is a well-deserved promotion for him and I expect he’ll do an excellent job in his new position.”

Lakers final grades: shooting guard Kobe Bryant

Today’s report card …

Kobe Bryant continued to fight the good fight against his advancing age and a group of younger players eager to knock him from his lofty perch as one of the game’s greats. He finished second in the scoring race at the age of 33. He regained some of his explosiveness after undergoing a knee procedure last summer in Germany. He couldn’t get the Lakers past the second round of the playoffs for the second seasons in a row, however. He hasn’t spoken publicly since their ouster by the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, declining an exit interview in favor of a private lunch with Mitch Kupchak instead.

Grade: A

Lakers final grades: coach Mike Brown

Today’s report card …

Mike Brown faced an impossible task in his first season as Hall of Famer Phil Jackson’s replacement. He didn’t get a full training camp because of the lockout and didn’t get enough practice time to install his game plan either. He didn’t get Chris Paul after the NBA vetoed a multi-team trade and he also didn’t have Lamar Odom. So, he gets a free pass this season. it won’t be the case next season. The pressure will be on him to produce.

Grade: Incomplete

Lakers final grades: GM Mitch Kupchak

Today’s report card …

Mitch Kupchak did the right thing by trying to acquire point guard Chris Paul from New Orleans, no question. It wasn’t his fault NBA commissioner David Stern nixed the deal. It wasn’t Kupchak’s fault Lamar Odom demanded a trade after his name surfaced in the Paul deal. Odom turned out to be poison for the Dallas Mavericks and his NBA future is up in the air. Kupchak made a smart move to jettison Derek Fisher in favor of Ramon Sessions at the deadline, dumping Luke Walton’s bloated contract in the process.

Grade: A

Q-and-A with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak

Here are excerpts of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak’s exit interview with reporters Wednesday:

Question: How did the failed Chris Paul trade set the tone for the season?
Answer: “I’m not going to look at what could have been and make blame as to why we got beat in Game 5 in the second round. Certainly, that period of time resulted in one of our players (Lamar Odom) being moved, the Sixth Man of the Year. Another of our players (Pau Gasol), understandably so, had to deal with the uncertainty up until the trade deadline. It was not the way you wanted to open the season. It was tough enough as it was for any NBA team to put together a season. Every team had to deal with something. That certainly is not a reason why we got beat (Monday night).”

Q: What kind of changes do you see with the roster?
A: “There will be some change. We’ve got a group of players who are free agents. Ramon (Sessions) has an option in his contract. He can extend it or he can opt out. I have no idea what he’s going to do. So that could be an additional free agent. There will be quite a bit of activity July 1, looking at who we can bring back and the marketplace.”

Q: What did you tell Pau Gasol?
A: “I wouldn’t share with you want I told him exactly. I don’t expect he’ll ever be the same based on what took place this year. I thought, personally, he did the best anybody could do being professional, saying the right things, being a good teammate, having a really good season. He’s the consummate teammate, and the consummate professional. What took place, is hard for a player to deal with. I’m sure there’s some trust that’s not quite the same. He understands and our exit meeting with him was very good. I think he and I are on the same page. I have not met with ownership. I’m not sure what direction the team is going to go. So there really wasn’t anything additional to share with Pau or with you people with what take place between now and the draft or July 1 or post July 1.”

Q: Have you thought what this team might have been like if you had given the Lamar Odom situation more time to work itself out without trading him?
A: “No, I haven’t. Based on the way it played out I’m not sure it would have been any better with us than with the team he went to. I don’t have anything else to go by. Certainly, if the events of that month didn’t take place and there were no trade rumors, maybe it would have been different. He had a great year the year before. I don’t know that. I thought, quite frankly, he would be in Dallas and have a great year, and I thought he might come back to haunt us.”

Q: Can you clarify what issue you meant when talking about Gasol?
AL “The trust issue. That’s all. When there are pretty intense trade rumors, it’s shocking to a player. I know how I felt. So, that’s all. It didn’t impact his play this year. It will not impact him going forward.”

Q: How would you grade management’s performance this season?
A: “We get graded on the success of the team. That’s how it is in this franchise. I know a lot of franchises are happy to get to the first round or advance beyond the first round. We certainly did no worse than we did a year ago. But we’re disappointed. That’s not how we grade ourselves, getting to the second round. We thought going into the season and even up to a week ago that we were one of three or four or five teams that could contend for a championship. It’s really hard to get into a position in this league, with 30 owners who are very competitive in different market sizes, different rules, contracts that are already in place that now have to operate under different rules, it’s really hard to get into apposition where you really feel going into training camp, hey, we have a shot at it. And we felt we did. To watch the semifinals, it’s a disappointing feeling.”

Q: Is there are difference in how you deal with ownership now?
A: “The last two or three years? No, there’s been no difference. Five, six, seven years ago, I dealt more directly with Dr. (Jerry) Buss. Maybe even a little longer than that. Over the last five or six years, the three of us (Kupchak, Dr. Buss and Jim Buss) have been working very closely together. My relationship with ownership right now really isn’t any different than the last two or three years. It hasn’t changed this year versus two or three or even four years ago. But when I took the job in 2000 to maybe 2007, it was a little different. but not in the last two or three years.”

Q: How much more difficult will it be to operate under the new collective-bargain agreement as you attempt to improve the team?
A: “There are quite a few restrictions. The rules are different. Penalties are more punitive. Options or assets or avenues to improve the team with the exceptions with the last CBA (including mid-level and veterans exceptions) are not the same as they are today with teams that are beyond the (salary) cap. I don’t see us being below the cap any time soon. So, the only way to improve our team last 10 years is through exceptions and via trade. The exception route is severely limited right now.

Q: With more punitive luxury tax system (starting in two years) make it harder?
A: “Absolutely. I can’t see us avoiding the tax. Dr. Buss, under the current circumstances, has always willing to pay the tax. But if you just look at the levels of the tax in a year from now, you can see the tax being paid a year or two ago or even this year is dramatically different two years from now. It’ll have to be a consideration, and I know every club in the league is aware of it as well.”

Q: Do you see this team being more aggressive in making changes via trades?
A: “Why not? Sure. When you lose. … We went through it last year, and we didn’t do anything last year other than at the trade deadline. When you lose, before you think you should have lost, you have to open up all opportunities.”

Q:What about Andrew Bynum’s future with the team?
A: “The only thing out there right now is that he’s eligible for his present contract to be extended. Yes, we intend to do that. We have until mid-June or late-June to do that, and that’s Step 1. Anything beyond that we’ll discuss internally and proceed if that’s the course we’re going to take.”

Q: Kobe Bryant praised your after the Lakers lost to Oklahoma City for your ability to remake the team’s roster, how has your relationship evolved?
A: “I look at that as pressure. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Kobe and I have a great working relationship. We’ve been together now since he came here as a 17-year-old young kid playing video games. Now it seems like he’s been here forever. Our relationship doesn’t transcend what you would expect people who have been working together for that many years. It’s not like we’re dinner partners. I just make it a point to try not to get too close to anybody because it’s a business. I want to keep it professional. I try to be straightforward and honest with the players as best I can. Sometimes it means saying nothing rather than saying something that might not be true. So, it’s comforting to hear he has that kind of confidence. I think what he’s also saying at the same time is that he has the same confidence. I think that he’s saying is, ‘I believe in the organization,’ which includes Dr. Buss and Jim Buss.”

Q: Any specific needs this team must have?
A: “We have to see what plays out with this whole free agent thing. I haven’t sat down with ownership to know what their thoughts are. I think we did address our primary need with the in-season to get a ballhandling guard who’s young and we think has a bright future (Sessions). But he has the ability to opt out and we don’t know where that’s going to lead us. Our frontcourt is a good front court. Off the bench, our third player would be Josh McRoberts, so you always have to add another player or two to our frontcourt. Two of our small forwards are free agents (Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks), so we have to add a player at that slot as well. So, barring a dramatic change to our roster, I think those are the areas we need to address.”

Q: Do you have a better sense of the kind of players Mike Brown needs to win?
A: “I think we all have a better feel. But I’m not sure going into the season with the shortened training camp and two preseason games that he had all the information he needed about our players going into the season. If you have four weeks and then you have two or three weeks before the start in terms of pre-preseason … there’s a real good period for coaches to get to know players and vice versa. None of that existed. One day no basketball, the next day open gym and the day after that training camp started. I think even our coaches know more about our team than they thought prior to the start of the season.”

Q: What are your thoughts about being here going forward? Your name has been linked to several general manager openings. Are you confident you’ll be here?
A: “I am. If I weren’t here, Dr. Buss would get probably 50 phone calls from present and former general managers that would love to have this job. And that’s because it’s the best job in the league.”

Q: What are your thoughts on Mike Brown’s first season as coach?
A: “I thought he did a fine job considering everything that took place this year. Certainly, going into the season, he could not expect a lockout. He did not expect Lamar Odom to be traded. Clearly, he thought he could look down at the end of the bench and the Sixth Man of the Year would be coming into the game to play. So, those things were beyond his control. There was limited practice, limited training camp, limited preseason games, two midseason trades, losing a veteran like Derek Fisher. Under those conditions, I think he did a fine job.”

Mike Brown on his first season as Lakers coach: I feel like I could have done better

Here’s what Mike Brown had to say when asked to grade his performance in his first season as Phil Jackson’s replacement as the Lakers’ coach:
“I feel like I could have done a lot better. The toughest part is, and I’m not using this as an excuse because everybody had the same time (but) it was tough because you didn’t have time to practice the way you normally would. I know there were a lot of thigns I felt rushed on. To give myself a true evaluation would be hard. I had a great staff. They helped out a lot. They did well. Could we have done better? Yeah, we could have done better.”

Pau Gasol doesn’t get any clarification on his status with the Lakers

Pau Gasol said his exit interview Wednesday with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown was very positive and encouraging, but didn’t include any thoughts on whether he will remain in purple-and-gold after they tried to trade him last December. He said the trade rumors last season were disconcerting, but he still wants to be here and to chase a third NBA championship.

Here’s more from Gasol: “I wish I could have clarification right now, they can’t give it to me. They had to talk to management. We didn’t talk too much about the future. We talked about this year. We talked about how things went. It was really positive.

“It’s kind of early. If they knew it would be good to know. But I understand we just finished playing two days ago. Things don’t work that easily. At some point, I won’t worry too much about it. It’s something I’ve been through already this year.

“If something does happen, it does. If it doesn’t, I’ll be happy to be back next training camp ready to go and have a more peaceful year and focus on our goal to win a championship.”

Answering questions in English and Spanish, he also said of his talk with Kupchak and Brown:

“It was a nice conversation. I told them it was hard for me at times. I’ve never had to search for offense on the teams I’ve been on. They’ve always been given to me. To have to search for them, I have struggled at times with that. But, obviously, we have certain players who are also very good contributors. You have to make sure you combine all those weapons and make sure they work at their best.”

Andrew Bynum: I want to be a Laker

Andrew Bynum isn’t worried about a possible offseason trade from the Lakers, but he acknowledged it could happen. He also said he won’t push for a contract extension, but wouldn’t say, no, if the Lakers pick up the phone to initial talks with his agent, David Lee.

“I don’t expect to hear my name as a possible trade (chip),” the 7-foot Bynum said after his exit meeting Wednesday with general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike Brown. “Anything can happen. Obviously, I want to be a Laker, but you never know what’s going to happen.”

Bynum also said playing the 2011-12 season without a significant injury was one of his personal highlights. He said he would probably visit Germany to have the same blood-spinning treatment on his knees that Kobe Bryant had last summer. No date has been set, but it would probably happen in September.

In addition, Bynum said his relationship with fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol was strengthened this season, which paid off for both of them.

“We’ve grown a lot on and off the court,” he said. “There was a lot more passing between us. Always had the luxury (of having two 7-footers on the same team). When we both play and bring that energy, it’s tough on other teams. It’s tough for teams, it really is. We have to produce. We have to win. The last few years have kind of been tough on us.”

Mike Brown expects assistants back next season, including Ettore Messina

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

Lakers coach Mike Brown said Monday night he expects all of his assistant coaches, including Ettore Messina, to return for next season. He also said he expects one or more to receive interest from other teams with head coaching vacancies.

Messina spent his first season in the NBA on Brown’s staff after coaching for many seasons in Europe, including with the Italian national team and the Spanish club team Real Madrid. Brown said he has a place on the Lakers’ bench for as long as he wants it.

“I have to talk to Mike and Mitch (Kupchak, the Lakers’ general manager),” said Messina, who has an option on his contract for next season. “I would (like to be an NBA head coach), but it is something that’s out of my control. The good thing is I have the security to go back to Europe to coach. That’s my security blanket.”

Brown said he wouldn’t be surprised if Messina, John Kuester, Chuck Person and Quin Snyder receive offers elsewhere. Kuester coached the Detroit Pistons for two ill-fated seasons before being fired and joining Brown’s staff.

Trail Blazers aren’t interested in Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak for GM job … yet

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

The Portland Trail Blazers have not asked for permission to speak to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak about their opening for the same position, team spokesman John Black said before Game 4 on Saturday night.

An Internet report last month suggested the Trail Blazers had a strong interest in speaking to Kupchak about their GM vacancy. They have not asked the Lakers to speak to him as of Saturday evening, however.

Kupchak has a multi-season contract with the Lakers and publicly, at least, has not expressed any interest in leaving for another job despite persistent rumors that he was unhappy with team executive Jim Buss over offseason cost-cutting moves.

The Lakers did not renew the contract of Ronnie Lester, Kupchak’s longtime assistant, last summer and trimmed the scouting staff. The trade of Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a draft pick also was viewed as a money-saving measure.

Dallas sent the Lakers a first-round draft pick and an $8.9-million trade exception.

Kupchak, a former Lakers player, has served as a team executive for 25 years, including 12 as general manager. He took over for Jerry West for the 2000-01 season, and guided the Lakers to championships in ’01, ’02, ’09 and ’10.