Mitch Kupchak believes Lakers will still attract top free agents

At a time when winning an NBA championship represented a normal season, the Lakers fulfilled their permanent mission statement through a pretty simple approach. With Los Angeles forever captivated with star power, the Lakers acquired plenty of superstars to satisfy that fix.

But the same organization that once showcased Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Shaquille O’Neal could not entice the NBA’s current marquee stars to join the Lakers’ storied history. The Lakers pursued LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony this offseason only to see James return to Cleveland and Anthony to stay in New York.

“We never felt it was realistic to think we would get one or two,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak recalled Friday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “But if you don’t try, you don’t know. We went all out to pursue both of the people you’re talking about.”

Both Kupchak and senior vice president of business operations Tim Harris took an overnight flight to Cleveland to meet with James’ agent, Rich Paul. Only a day before, the Lakers hosted a 2 ½ hour meeting for Anthony at their practice facility in El Segundo. Yet, that was not enough to sour James’ affection for returning to his hometown or for Anthony to give up a five-year, $124 million, more than the four-year, $95.9 million deal the Lakers could have offered under the NBA’s labor agreement.

“We came close,” Kupchak said. “But it doesn’t really matter that you come close.”

Meanwhile, the Lakers lost Dwight Howard in the 2013 offseason to Houston, while Pau Gasol left this summer to Chicago. It seems unlikely Kevin Love will become available in the 2015 offseason after Minnesota traded him to Cleveland, while Eric Bledsoe just signed a reported five-year, $70 million extension with Phoenix.

Yet, Kupchak strongly said the Lakers will not change their approach in trying to swing big again in the 2015 offseason. Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, Nick Young and Ryan Kelly are the lone players with guaranteed contracts that extend past the 2014-15 season, giving the Lakers with plenty of cap space next season to try to hit a home run.

“We think with the franchise, the city, our fan base and the exposure here, we have a lot to offer,” Kupchak said. “We’ll get somebody. At some point in time we will.”


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