SANTA BARBARA — The optimism seemed as sunny as the climate out here. It always appears that way whenever a new NBA training camp begins.
But for the 2016-17 campaign, there marked a few things that left Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak in high spirits. He relished the potential team bonding the Lakers could form as they begin the first week of training camp at UC Santa Barbara. Kupchak also sounded intrigued how the team’s young core could develop under Luke Walton’s guidance and without Kobe Bryant looming in the shadow. Kupchak centered his evaluation for the upcoming season more on development instead of wins and losses.
An ominous cloud looms over the Lakers, however. Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss said in 2014 he would step down if the Lakers do not become a Western Conference contender in three years. Lakers president Jeanie Buss has often said she would hold the front office accountable with unspecified changes if that does not happen.
All of which perpetuates uncertainty on if Kupchak’s focus on development could conflict with Jeanie Buss’ focus on results.
“I’m not in a position to debate the stuff you talked about,” Kupchak said on Tuesday at UC Santa Barbara. “I’m not sure what was said with certainty. From my point of view, we’ve created a team that has a lot of young talent that can grow into really good NBA players that can leave an imprint on this league. I think we’ve surrounded them with older veterans to help us win games. I’m excited about our coaching staff.”