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Mitch Kupchak said it's unlikely the Lakers will make a trade before the deadline

February 17, 2011 |  8:17 pm

Turning around to face Jerry West, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak couldn't resist joking that he needed some advice on how to handle the team's loss Wednesday to the league's worst team in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But following West's statue unveiling outside Staples Center, it's clear Kupchak is taking an even-handed approach to the team's personnel after the Lakers (38-19) sputtered into the All-Star break losing their last three games after winning the first four games of a seven-game trip.

The first question, of course, involves whether the Lakers would make a trade before the Feb. 24 deadline.

"I think it's unlikely," Kupchak said. "But there's eight days to go. All of the general managers are here in Los Angeles [for All-Star] weekend and there will be a lot of yapping. There will be a lot of guys moving off to the side and there will be a lot of phone calls. You make phone calls and you take phone calls. That's what we do. I stand by what I said that it's unlikely, but I don't think any general manager can stand here and say there will be absolutely no changes in eight days, in particular at this time of year."

Even with Kupchak maintaining his options, his rhetoric sounded mild compared to his contention to The Times' Broderick Turner and's Scott Howard-Cooper that he "may have to look into a trade."

The Lakers have a $91-million payroll, which would limit their options because a heavy contract would spur more luxury tax worries. But that hasn't stopped the reports from circulating that the Lakers may deal certain players. Soon after a disputed report revealed that Ron Artest wanted to be traded, ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucherreported the Lakers unsuccessfully tried trading Artest to the Charlotte Bobcats for either Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson. ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussardalso reported the Lakers were in preliminary talks with the Denver Nuggets about possibly dealing Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony, an assertion the Lakers immediately refuted to The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Turner.

Kupchak wasn't asked about any specific deals, but he made it clear that any suggestion he needs to infuse the roster with younger and quicker talent is misguided: "You'll probably end up with players who make more mistakes and maybe won't help you when the playoffs begin." He declined to dissect individual performances, but acknowledged his displeasure with the team's recent play: "You can go through every starter from the last five or six games to perhaps the top rotation of eight players and say we're disappointed with the way they're playing. I don't think they'd disagree." And he also established his position that he'd prefer trading for a player that would bolster the Lakers' title contending chances this season than acquiring a long-term prospect.

"Dr. Buss wants to win now," Kupchak said. "I don't think that's out of the question. It's my job to look to the future a little bit. We have a coach who wants to win now too. I don't think that's going to change."

Whether the Lakers' roster changes remains to be seen. That all depends on how the Lakers' respond to their loss to Cleveland and, of course, what other teams have to offer and at what price.

"Let's see where it leads," Kupchak said. "Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can climb up.... You knew they were ready for us and it was a home game and it's not unusual to get beat. I can stand here and say that, but we should've won the game. Let's see where it leads."

So is it rock bottom?

His response: "To date."

--Mark Medina

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