Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak tried preaching patience. Nick Ut – Associated Press)
The Lakers usually come out of the trade deadline with a mostly intact roster geared for a championship run or a significant move destined to accelerate the rebuilding process.
This year, neither scenario happened.
The only move the Lakers made leading into the NBA’s trade deadline entailed sending Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for young, seldom-used shooting guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, a deal that saved the Lakers about $4 million in salary and luxury taxes.
That means Pau Gasol survived yet another trade scenario. Jordan Hill also remains here to stay despite the Lakers inquiring various teams about him. But here’s bad news for the Lakers: they mostly have the same roster that has spiraled into last place in the Western Conference. Even more bad news for the Lakers: they failed to collect any additional draft picks for this year’s star studded class or fall under the luxury tax threshold.
So after Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak concluded a busy stretch of phone calls before Thursday’s noon cut-off time, he outlined that the Lakers quest to return back to their championship luster will take some time.
“It’s reasonable to think that every now and then, or maybe once every 10 years, or maybe once every 15 years, you might have a bad year. OK?” said Kupchak, perhaps mindful of the Lakers’ 16 NBA titles. “And we are not having a good year. Our hope and desire is that next year will be a lot better than this year and we certainly have the tools to begin the process.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was fielding questions from reporters following practice Thursday in El Segundo. Since the Lakers are just 13-19 and losers of six consecutive games, it wasn’t surprising that possible trades were part of the discussion.
One that has been talked about is post Pau Gasol going to Cleveland for former Lakers post Andrew Bynum. There is no evidence that deal is even close to being done. But the Lakers’ situation does beg the question – does this team need to make a major trade of shake-up proportions to give it a chance to make the playoffs and do well in them.
D’Antoni replied to just such an inquiry.
“I’m not sure, that’s Mitch’s job,” D’Antoni said, referring to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “He’s going to look at everything possible and try to make us as good as possible. But there’s no magic dust out there. You just can hope and wish and I’m sure he’ll look at everything.”
In spite of all the injuries to Lakers guards – including Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Xavier Henry – D’Antoni insists there remains enough talent on the team to be successful.
“… We have enough to win,” he said.
The Lakers say Steve Nash has fully recovered from his back and hamstring injuries. But the Lakers plan to limit him both in training camp and regular season games. Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
The refrain played in the Lakers’ head after nearly every loss and every botched pass.
“If only Steve Nash were healthy.”
The Lakers thought this plenty of times considering Nash sat out a combined 32 games, first because of a fractured left leg followed by hamstring and back issues. Without him, the Lakers’ offense hardly resembled the Mike D’Antoni system that Nash ran with perfection through four seasons with Phoenix.
The Lakers no longer are worried about Nash’s health. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak described Nash as “100 percent” and has participated in the Lakers’ informal practices and scrimmages for the past four to six weeks. That’s good news for a team that became so saddled with injuries that Lakers trainer Gary Vitti described last season as “the toughest year for me” in his 30 years with the organization. But now that Nash has overcome his injuries, can he become the elite point guard that earned him two league MVPS and brought D’Antoni’s offense to life?
“I do,” Kupchak said. “We’re not expecting 35 minutes a game for Steve. But he is completely healthy right now.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on coach Mike D’Antoni: “we back him 100 percent.” Photo credit: Scott Varley, Los Angeles Newspaper Group
There’s not enough fingers to count the sources aimed toward Mike D’Antoni ever since he patrolled the Lakers sideline.
The restless fan base booed him, cursed him and constantly shared their preference for Phil Jackson becoming the head coach after overlapping injuries as well competing player and coach agendas contributed to first-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol griped about not getting the ball enough in the post, while Antawn Jamison stewed about not playing. Even Lakers president Jeanie Buss updated her recent memoir to share how the Lakers passing on Jackson “practically destroyed” her both because they’e been longtime companions and Jackson won five of his 11 NBA championships with the purple and gold.
One party has remained incredibly consistent, however, in their support for D’Antoni. For better or worse, that involves the people determining D’Antoni’s future with the Lakers.
“He has to realize, and I’m sure he does, that we back him 100%,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.
The smirk on Mitch Kupchak’s face widened at the mere mention of his name.
Safe to say Kupchak’s admission that “it’s a little surprising” that Shaquille O’Neal became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings seems a bit understated. That’s because O’Neal spent part of his eight years with the Lakers dismissively calling the Sacramento franchise the “Queens” before eliminating them from the 2000 to 2002 NBA playoffs en route to three championships.
“I think it’s great,” Kupchak said Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I think the ownership there has a lot of energy and excitement and made some changes.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak expressed uncertainty when Kobe Bryant would return from rehabbing a surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. Photo credit: Scott Varley, Los Angeles Newspaper Group
A smile bore on Mitch Kupchak’s face, suggesting eagerness for another season to start.
“What a treat!” the Lakers’ general manager greeted a larger number of media members Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. But one particular topic emerged that show the uncertainty the Lakers face when they begin training camp Saturday and beyond.
That involved Kobe Bryant, who continues rehabbing a left Achilles tendon that will keep him out for at least the beginning of training camp. The Lakers offered no update on whether Bryant ahs progressed from running on a weight-bearing treadmill at 75 percent of his body weight. Before his return, Bryant must run at full body weight and progress toward basketball-related drills.
That makes it unclear if he will return for the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers, or any of the team’s eight exhibition games through Oct. 25.
“I do believe he’ll get back and he’ll play this season,” Kupchak said of Bryant. “You won’t be able to look at him and say he’s hurt. He’ll get back on the court and will be healthy. But he is 35 and his game has been evolving anyway in the last two or three years.”