Below is a Q&A excerpt I had with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on the state of the team. You can read the writeup here. You can read the entire interview below.
How would you evaluate the Lakers’ personnel at this point?
Steve is injured as we are with key players and going through a coaching change. It’s really not fair to judge the group. Having said that, I was hopeful we would weather the industry bug a little bit better. There were a couple three or four games that I think we could’ve or should’ve won despite being injured. In short, that’s probably where it stands.
Dec. 15 marks the first day teams can trade players they signed in the offseason. Once that date happens, what course of action, if any, do you plan to take?
It’s one of several dates that general managers are aware of. It depends on your mindset. If you’re happy with your team, then the date doesn’t mean much although you will probably get calls anyway. If you’re not happy with your team, you’ll make calls. It’s one of several dates that we’re aware of. You have to the cutdown date in early January and the trade deadline date [on Feb. 21]. So it’s the first of a series of dates you’re aware of.
What mindset do you currently have?
I can’t answer the question. I can’t sit here and say I’m happy with our record. I don’t think that’s a stretch for me or any Laker fan to say that. But that’s just stating the obvious. Getting back to the original question, I’m not sure how you assess this team until you get key players back. I hope they’ll be back soon.
Given the long-term injuries to Nash and Steve Blake, is there any consideration on adding another point guard?
Going into training camp, we thought we had too many ball handling guards. We had Nash, Blake, [Darius] Morris and [Chris[ Duhon. Here it is in December and I’m happy we had four. I’m happy we have four. Right now, Duhon is starting and Darius is backing him up. I don’t know where we’d be if we had four ball handling guards. I don’t anticipate losing our first and second string ball handling guard within a couple of days of each other. You go down the depth chart and luckily we have two more guys. If we didn’t, we’d probably have to go out and find somebody.
Do the Lakers plan to keep Pau Gasol for the entire season?
That’s always been the plan.
Will Gasol stay the entire season?
That has always been the plan. Nothing has happened to change the plan.
Is it true you told Pau’s representatives that if his play didn’t improve, you’d entertain offers from other teams?
I’ve read the reports. I wouldn’t share information that I’ve had or conversations I’ve had with other general managers or representatives with players. I wouldn’t share that publicly. But I’ve seen the reports. I don’t know where half the report stuff comes from.
How much does the thought process with Pau involve wanting to see how he plays once he’s healthy from his knee tendinitis and see how he plays with Nash?
I’m curious to see how the team gets through the next two or three weeks until Steve gets back. Once he gets back, then I’m curious to see how he fits in with everybody.
How would you evaluate Mike D’Antoni thus far?
I think it’s the same answer. It’s really hard to evaluate how somebody has done. We all get judged by wins and losses. I know he’s not happy with the record he’s had since he’s been here. I’m not sure what the record is since he’s been here.”
Well, there’s been clearly an uptick in the tempo of the game and that’s something we were looking for. We’ve seen some progress in some of our players that were not as productive before he got here. For example, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison. I’m very encouraged that the depth of the our team once we get Nash and Blake back will be improved.
How confident do you think that will happen?
What would you say to any fan sentiment that looks at the Lakers’ start under D’Antoni as evidence that Phil Jackson would’ve been the better candidate to replace Mike Brown?
We’re very comfortable with the coach we have and we’re happy to have him. We’re looking forward to getting a healthy group of players back. Then we will see how good we are. That’s what we’re looking for we are right now.
After all the moves you made this offseason, to what degree are you surprised the beginning of the season has turned out this way?
This is a labor of hard work and dedication of people working together with players and coaches There’s going to be some ups and downs and some big-time bumps in the road. A lot of character is going to be tested. We’re being tested right now. In this league, when you have 30 competitive teams, winning games and winning a championship will never be easy. It will never come easy
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