Mitch Kupchak reiterates he’s not trading Dwight Howard

The Lakers enter the post NBA All-Star break with plenty of ground to cover.

So much that coach Mike D’Antoni believes the Lakers need to go 20-8 in their remaining 28 games just to make the postseason. Should that happen the Lakers would finish with a 45-37 record.

But the Lakers are strongly suggesting they won’t try to reach that point by making any deals before Thursday’s trade deadline at noon PST.

“It’s unlikely there will be an upgrade in the talent of this team,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “I just don’t see how that’s realistic.”

Kupchak also reiterated the Lakers won’t move Dwight Howard.

“That would be correct,” Kupchak said.

The Lakers have already carved out a $100 million payroll and are paying an additional $30 million in luxury taxes. Many presumed such a budget that landed them Howard, Steve Nash and a brevy of bench players (Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks) to complement Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace would put the Lakers into championship contention.

Instead, the Lakers (25-29) rank in 10th place in the Western Conference. They also trail the Houston Rockets (29-26) by 3 1/2 games for the eighth playoff spot.

Even with the talent, does this underachieving roster give Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni reason to believe Kupchak should try to address any needs?

“That’s something I’m sure he’s going to explore,” D’Antoni said. “You hate to say something that would reflect on somebody. He’s going to look at all the possibilities. But again, I remain convinced we have enough to do something right now. It’ll be pretty good.”

So far, the Lakers haven’t proven that. But it appears the Lakers’ playoff fortunes hinge on to what degree D’Antoni and his players will adjust to each other’s styles.

“We’ll continue to be on the phones and make calls and take calls and listen,” Kupchak said. “But I don’t anticipate anything dramatic taking place in the next few days.”


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