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He's Mitchtastic! Part II

May 19, 2006 |  9:13 am

Here's the rest of Mitch's final conference, with my comments in italics.

—BK

On Kobe and USA Basketball:

"We talked a little about that in our exit meeting. They start towards the middle of July in Las Vegas and they travel quite a bit. They're in Vegas, they go to Korea, they go to Japan. And then once they're in Japan they make a stop or two before they finally get to the finals, hopefully, which is right outside Tokyo. (They have five games of pool play?) That's correct. I saw Coach Krzyzewski in Phoenix two days ago (this would have been around the first weekend in May), we talked for about 20 minutes about what his vision was for the Olympic team. How he hoped to play with the talent that he had on the team. With Jerry Colangelo lurking in the shadows and with Coach Krzyzewski's feel for players, I don't expect to see two-a-day practices that go three hours that players get burned out at. I expect to see a group of players that are going to practice hard, (but) I don't think they'll jeopardize their careers with overpractice and fatigue, and they have a certain vision for the type of basketball they'd like to play as well, which I think fits with what Kobe feels as well going forward."

Do you expect Sasha and Ronny to play for their respective teams?

"Well Lamar is (going as well). Lamar and Kobe for USA Basketball, Ronny would be for the French National Team, and Sasha would be for the Slovenian National Team. I think it's possible that all four of those players would be on their national teams this summer."

Was it hard for you and Coach K to talk? Duke and North Carolina?

"Not with this year's recruiting class at Carolina. (laughter) Actually, as you know, we interviewed him two years ago and I have a relationship with him. He's very easy to talk to."

//Here's the rest of Mitch's final conference, with my comments in italics.

—BK

On Kobe and USA Basketball:

"We talked a little about that in our exit meeting. They start towards the middle of July in Las Vegas and they travel quite a bit. They're in Vegas, they go to Korea, they go to Japan. And then once they're in Japan they make a stop or two before they finally get to the finals, hopefully, which is right outside Tokyo. (They have five games of pool play?) That's correct. I saw Coach Krzyzewski in Phoenix two days ago (this would have been around the first weekend in May), we talked for about 20 minutes about what his vision was for the Olympic team. How he hoped to play with the talent that he had on the team. With Jerry Colangelo lurking in the shadows and with Coach Krzyzewski's feel for players, I don't expect to see two-a-day practices that go three hours that players get burned out at. I expect to see a group of players that are going to practice hard, (but) I don't think they'll jeopardize their careers with overpractice and fatigue, and they have a certain vision for the type of basketball they'd like to play as well, which I think fits with what Kobe feels as well going forward."

Do you expect Sasha and Ronny to play for their respective teams?

"Well Lamar is (going as well). Lamar and Kobe for USA Basketball, Ronny would be for the French National Team, and Sasha would be for the Slovenian National Team. I think it's possible that all four of those players would be on their national teams this summer."

Was it hard for you and Coach K to talk? Duke and North Carolina?

"Not with this year's recruiting class at Carolina. (laughter) Actually, as you know, we interviewed him two years ago and I have a relationship with him. He's very easy to talk to."

It sounds like you're not planning on a whole lot of changes next year. Is that fair to say?

'"You cannot predict a major change. There's only two or three, maybe four teams that have significant cap room in the NBA. This is not a great year where you're going to see 8 [to] 10 stellar free agents available. So even if you had $10, $12 million  worth of cap room, there aren't a great number of players to spend it on. And the teams that have cap room are just three or four teams. The other 25 or 26 teams in the NBA are in the exact same boat we are, which is you're over the cap, you have a draft choice, you might have a second round pick, and you have your exceptions, which is a midlevel exception and a biannual exception. So we're in the exact same boat that 25 or 26 other NBA teams are in. In fact, I think we're in a better position. We're not approaching the tax, because once you get to the tax you're paying double for a player. So if you think a player is worth $4 or $5 million but you have to pay him $10, then are you making a good business/basketball decision? So we're not even approaching the tax this off-season, so we're in a position where we can spend our biannual, we can spend our midlevel, we can spend both. If we can make a trade and bring back more money that we take on, we have the ability to do that.

So we have those possibilities. We have a big window two years from now, which we may continue to decide to prepare for, or we may not if something does come up. None of our plans are etched in stone, but we do feel that we have a lot of flexibility with our roster and financially, and we're no worse off than 26 other teams in the NBA regarding the cap."

On balancing the big window two years from now with the present, and making an available move?

"To be honest, it's actually helpful when making a decision. Because when you make a decision you look at a player and it was helpful during the period of time prior to the trade deadline this year. We had a bunch of opportunities to take back a player or two players we could have made three or four deals. But it would have entailed using substantial salary next year and a couple of them would have put us in jeopardy two years down the road. And where we are today looking back on it, we're glad we didn't make those deals. You know, during the season you're not playing well, you have this feeling to improve the team, but to know that you may be giving up a big part of your future by making a deal like that, you give it actually a second thought, which is what we did, and we didn't do the deals and we're happy we didn't. We're very pleased with the group of players we have right now, and then we have all this flexibility this off-season and also going forward."

On balancing the need to bring in more experience with making sure the young players have enough court time to develop:

"Well I thought we had a great balance this year. Up until three or four days ago, I thought we had great chemistry. Even bringing Jimmy Jackson on if you watched him during timeouts and during practice, you'd watch him go to the players and whisper something in their ear or pull them aside and show them something. Aaron McKie didn't play a lot due to injury, but he had the same profound effect on our younger players and our less experienced players during the playoffs and during the season, even when he was injured. So you do have to have the right balance. You can't just have 10 or 12 really talented young guys, because it just doesn't work. They don't have a pecking order, they don't know where they stand, they're all trying to prove themselves in the league, they're all trying to get their next contract, they're all trying to prove that they belong. So a mix is really important. Aaron's going to be back next year, Jimmy's a free agent, we haven't had time to discuss it, but it's a factor. It's a factor getting the right mix."

On having both Chris and Kwame together on the roster, and some of the issues that presents:

"Phil and I haven't really discussed it. We spent a minute or two talking about it briefly this morning. The one thing that he did say to me was he's always had three centers on his roster. If Kwame is a center, which is what he's played the last month and a half, and Chris is a center and Andrew's a center, then we have three centers. There's nothing wrong with having three big players in this league. One player's not going to play big minutes, and the other guy's going to play three or four minutes, or he's going to have a mix of substitutions, there's going to be foul trouble. And who's to say that Kwame or Chris can't play some big forward? So at this time, we're comfortable with having a big roster."

Knowing what it takes to win a championship, is that something you see in the future for this core group?

"If we could have gotten past Phoenix, you can make an argument that hey, we can get to the conference finals. We'd have to get through the Clippers, but we lost two, we won two. So maybe we could have got past them, maybe we couldn't have. So now you're in the conference finals with this group. The group that we have is going to be back next year, they're going to be a little bit older, a little bit more savvy in terms of accomplishment, and experienced in terms of the playoff series this year. I think it's safe to say they'll be a better group next year. If we can make an off-season acquisition, I don't understand why we wouldn't be in a position to duplicate what we did this year in terms hoping to get past the first and second round."

And a championship?

"A championship run really includes a lot of experience and you don't see teams that average 23 or 24 years of age at one point in time during the season, our average age was 23.7, I think. You don't see teams that young getting to the finals. Do an average age of the San Antonio Spurs (or) Detroit Pistons and you get a better feel for what you're talking about. I wouldn't discount it a year or two down the road, and clearly that's our goal. But to say that we're going to be a championship contending team next year, I'm not prepared to say that although I think it's a possibility."

On what they hope to see from Bynum this summer:

"Well Andrew fell behind the eight ball a little bit in training camp when he got injured, and then when Chris Mihm went down and we were looking at giving Andrew a lot of time he got injured again. So his progress in the last month or so really fell behind. We've got four to five months off right now. He's going to have to get in the gym. We have a big summer program scheduled that's going to be almost three weeks, he's going to have to play every day and play a lot. I'm sure he'll go to Pete Newell's Big Man Camp in Las Vegas again. He'll have to be in this facility every day between now and the end of the summer. For a kid that just turned 18 years old we're very pleased with his progress, but he has to continue to work and he has to play."


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