New Lakers head coach Byron Scott thinks current roster can be competitive

Byron Scott said he agreed to coach the Lakers next season. AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Byron Scott said he agreed to coach the Lakers next season. AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t exactly hit the home runs they were hoping for in free agency after going after superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and ultimately losing out to Cleveland and New York.

But the roster additions they were able to make, which include Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis, were enough to have new head coach Byron Scott excited. Continue reading

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NBA Draft: Prospects like how Lakers constructed workouts

Lakers pre-draft workout at Toyota Sports Center Wednesday June 4, 2014. Aaron Gordon, Univ of Arizona, left, and Doug McDermott, Creighton, talk after workout       Photo By  Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

Lakers pre-draft workout at Toyota Sports Center Wednesday June 4, 2014. Aaron Gordon, Univ of Arizona, left, and Doug McDermott, Creighton, talk after workout Photo By Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

The cuts and bruises emerging all over Aaron Gordon’s arms told the entire story.

They symbolized the competitiveness surrounding the NBA pre-draft workouts the Lakers hosted Wednesday at their practice facility in El Segundo. The physically battered images revealed how the 12 prospects that worked out believed they had something to prove amid a backdrop that entailed Lakers championship banners and retired jerseys greeting them on the practice facility’s walls. The individual matchups brought out qualities that could not be measured through vertical jumps, bench presses or interviews.

Once it was all over, all of the prospects were left smiling that the Lakers’ pre-draft workout set them up for potential bragging rights. For Gordon, he admired his dinged up arms after going head-to-head against Creighton senior Doug McDermott.

“A little scratches here or there,” Gordon said. “That was a really good player. He was the leading scorer in college for a reason. He knows how to score the basketball.”

Yet, even if McDermott averaged a league-leading 26.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting, he remained highly aware of the knocks on his game surrounding his athleticism. So with Gordon considered one of the country’s best defensive forwards, McDermott found value in proving he could score with relatively similar frequency as he would in Pop-A-Shot.

“He got a little blood,” McDermott said about Gordon with a smile. “It was a good matchup. He’s good player and phenomenal athlete. It was a tough matchup for me, but I think he’ll be a heck of a pro. I think it helped both of us out. He hasn’t gone up against a guy that shoots like me and I haven’t gone up against anyone that is as good and strong as him. I think it was a really good first day for both of us.”
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Mitch Kupchak calls coaching search “ongoing,” has blank canvas with NBA Draft

LA Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak will be the leader of the Lakers’ search for a new coach. Some of the pieces . (File photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze)

LA Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak will be the leader of the Lakers’ search for a new coach. Some of the pieces . (File photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze)

There Mitch Kupchak stood on the practice court, the Lakers general manager watching draft prospects closely as they wrapped up workouts at the team’s facility in El Segundo.

Days before, Kupchak had stayed in his office fielding in-person interviews as part of the Lakers’ two-week long coaching search. This has marked plenty of busy days for Kupchak recently with developments evolving by the day. But he hardly seemed willing to shed much insight on where the Lakers’ stand with filling the head-coaching position left vacant since Mike D’Antoni resigned a month ago.

“The coaching search is ongoing,” Kupchak said on Wednesday. “We’ve interviewed several candidates. We’ll interview more. Other than that, there’s nothing to add right now.”
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Mitch Kupchak staying optimistic about draft, patient about coaching search

Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak during a press conference held at the Toyota Sports Center, El Segundo Calif., Friday, April 18, 2014. (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak during a press conference held at the Toyota Sports Center, El Segundo Calif., Friday, April 18, 2014. (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

For his next trick, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak will somehow try to accelerate the team’s rebuilding process with one hand tied behind his back and the other hand holding very few poker chips.

The Lakers received a sobering dose of news by receiving the seventh overall pick in next month’s NBA Draft, adding more misfortunes amid a season full of them.

“It wasn’t bad luck,” Kupchak said Wednesday on a conference call. “We could’ve dropped down to number nine. We were hoping to get lucky, or worse case, stay where we were. It could’ve been worse.”

The Lakers’ seventh pick likely deprives them of landing a top prospect, such as Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins as well as Duke’s Jabari Parker and Australia’s Dante Exum. But Kupchak disagreed with the recent suggested from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who said about his sixth pick, “I don’t think anyone’s going to come in and change the face of our franchise right out of the gate.”

“We think drafting at number seven, there will be a good player available there,” Kupchak said. “Maybe Danny is talking about a guy who changes the face of the organization from the get go. But you can’t evaluate these things until later when you look back on it.”

Still, the Lakers will also likely face challenges dangling such a pick in a trade, such as one for Minnesota’s Kevin Love.

“The higher the pick the more value it has,” Kupchak said. “But a sixth pick or a seventh pick certainly has value.”

Kupchak invoked last year’s rookie of the year candidate in Portland guard Damian Lillard, who was selected sixth overall. Recent seventh-pick selections include Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Detroit’s Greg Monroe. Kupchak plans to start bringing in players for individual workouts. The Lakers interviewed with Kentucky forward Julius Randle and Oklahoma City guard Marcus Smart last week at the NBA pre-draft combine.

“It depends,” said Kupchak, before mentioning the possible discrepancy between the likely younger top prospects at the top of the draft versus the more experienced ones selected afterwards. “You do have to work with a younger player and those are the guys that get drafted the highest. Whether as a freshman or sophomore, it may take a year or two.”
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Lakers extend Mitch Kupchak to multi-year deal

The Lakers have plenty of unanswered questions, ranging from Mike D’Antoni’s coaching status, who they will draft with their first-round pick and whether Kobe Bryant will ever fully recover from his fractured left knee.

But the Lakers took care of one issue that they hope will prove an instrumental part of their rebuilding. They signed Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to a multi-year deal, a move made to ensure he wouldn’t enter lame-duck status next season in the final year of his contract.

Kupchak has overseen four NBA championships since succeeding Jerry West as the Lakers’ general manager for the 14 years. He has served an executive role since retiring as a player in 1986.

With the Lakers’ 145-130 loss Tuesday to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center ensuring they will finish with the worst season in franchise history since moving to Los Angeles 54 years ago, Kupchak’s extension reflects the Lakers’ trust he will help restore the team back to championship prominence.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Mitch Kupchak says Mike D’Antoni has “done a great job”

Lakers Heads Coach Mike D'Antoni stalks the sidelines. The Lakers played the San Antonio Spurs in a regular season game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. March 19, 2014 (Photo by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers Heads Coach Mike D’Antoni stalks the sidelines. The Lakers played the San Antonio Spurs in a regular season game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. March 19, 2014 (Photo by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Here’s an assessment surrounding Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni that is rarely uttered on the airwaves.

“I think he’s done a great job,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in an interview with this newspaper.

The Lakers’ 125-109 loss Wednesday to the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center marked just one of many losses has entailed an injury-riddled roster. But even with the Lakers (22-45) destined to miss the playoffs for only the fifth time in playoff history, both Kupchak and Kobe Bryant showed sympathy for D’Antoni.

“It’s been tough on him,” Bryant said Wednesday on The Dan Patrick Show. “The two years that he’s been here, he’s been dealing with so many injuries left and right. He hasn’t really gotten a fair deal, fair shake at it since he’s been here.”

Bryant offered a non-committal “I don’t know,” on whether D’Antoni should stay. But what about Kupchak?

“I don’t want to get into that with those kind of questions,” Kupchak said. “He’s done a great job and dealt with a year last year when he was here part time and a ridiculous amount of injuries this year.”

D’Antoni has gone 62-77 through nearly two seasons with the Lakers. But the Lakers don’t plan on evaluating him until after the season ends.

“I don’t sit around and look into hot chocolate and say, ‘Aw, I don’t know,’” D’Antoni said. “You just do your job, you do the best you can and hope you get some breaks along the way.”

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Mitch Kupchak believes Phil Jackson will enhance Knicks’ culture

Lakers Q&A: NBA TV, CBS & Turner Sports analyst Grant Hill assesses Lakers needs for NBA draft

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Mitch Kupchak believes Phil Jackson will enhance Knicks’ culture

Mitch Kupchack, Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson at a Time Warner event to honor the late Jerry Buss in Los Angeles. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Mitch Kupchack, Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson at a Time Warner event to honor the late Jerry Buss in Los Angeles. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

The crowd rose up and expressed their appreciation for Phil Jackson.

This scene has played out countless times at Staples Center where Lakers fans have belted out “We want Phil” chants in hopes he could coach the purple and gold again to championship prosperity. But the latest episode took place nearly 3,000 miles away in New York where fans greeted him with applause when the Knicks hosted the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, marking Jackson’s first game as the franchise’s president of basketball operations.

“I’m excited for him. It sounds like it’s a great opportunity and they made a heck of a commitment to him,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told this newspaper, referring to the Knicks granting Jackson a five-year contract worth a reported $60 million. “He doesn’t want to coach. His mind is sharp and did want to stay involved with basketball. This is a great opportunity for him. I think he was bored, too.”
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Pete Carroll congratulates Phil Jackson on apparent role with New York Knicks

Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson talks to the media about the Lakers at a Time Warner event to honor the late Jerry Buss in Los Angeles.  Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson talks to the media about the Lakers at a Time Warner event to honor the late Jerry Buss in Los Angeles. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Everything Pete Carroll has done has seemingly turned into gold, including leading USC to a 2004 BCS national championship and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII this past season. Now Carroll has incidentally turned into an NBA insider, tweeting perhaps preemptively that Phil Jackson has accepted a position with the New York Knicks.


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Mitch Kupchak pleads patience with rebuilding process

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak tried preaching patience. Nick Ut - Associated Press)

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.”
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Mike D’Antoni: GM Mitch Kupchak will do all he can to improve the Lakers

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.

 

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