Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke Thursday for the first time about his delayed exit meeting with superstar guard Kobe Bryant, who decided against talking about the 2011-12 season immediately after the Lakers’ playoff ouster in May.
Kupchak and Bryant met for breakfast earlier this month.
“It was very relaxed and there was no agenda,” Kupchak said. “It was really just to sit down and re-acquaint and talk a little basketball. What are you doing this summer? How do you feel? … What are your feelings going forward? It was all very positive.”
Kupchak declined to go into specifics, however.
“He’s been around a long time,” Kupchak said of Bryant. “There aren’t too many postseason interviews that he hasn’t dealt with. It’s been the agony of going out in the first round and then the joy of winning a seven-game series (in 2010 over Boston).
“So he’s kind of used to the ups-and-downs of exit interviews.”
Asked if there was a plan in place for life without Bryant, who turns 34 on Aug. 23 and has only two more seasons remaining on his contract, Kupchak said simply, “I don’t know how you plan for it. We don’t look forward to the day he’s not around.”
Kupchak repeated his belief that the window for further titles with Bryant as the Lakers’ leader had not closed. Kupchak said the core group of Bryant and 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum could contend next season without major changes. Trades could be impossible to pull off this summer, if the run-up to the draft is any indication.
“I think if this group is kept intact, and we’ve got some work to do with existing free agents, I don’t see why we can’t be in the hunt next year,” Kupchak said. “All you want in this league is a chance to be in the hunt. If you’re one of five or six teams at the end of the year that have that feeling, that, ‘Yeah, we can do this. We’re playing our best basketball.’ That’s all you can hope for.”
Despite failing to made a deal in order to move into the first round in the draft, Kupchak said he would continue to pursue trades during the offseason, adding, “We’ll try to hit a home run. The draft is the beginning of the offseason. You continue to pursue trade possibilities and then (Saturday), you pursue trades and free agency.”