Mitch Kupchak: Lakers 'pursuing big deals right now'
Amid the vague responses and uncertainty regarding Mitch Kupchak's 32-minute interview with a small group of writers Monday at the Lakers' practice facility, he concluded the chat this way:
"Where we are today and what we’re thinking," Kupchak said, "this afternoon this could change 180 to what I told you today. That’s how dynamic and quickly things are going."
Kupchak's interview, which can be heard in its entirety below, reveals several nuggets regarding the Lakers' recent front-office work.
1. Kupchak "expects" to keep Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum for the rest of the season. But the only one who's truly "safe" is Bryant, considering that his three-year, $83.5-million contractincludes a no-trade clause. So for that to even remotely be a possibility (which it very highly likely isn't), Bryant would have to want to be traded (which he doesn't). Kupchak said the team is pursuing unspecified "big deals right now" although he maintained nothing is imminent.
2. Kupchak acknowledged that trading Lamar Odom was partly a business and emotional decision. Kupchak's version: Odom met with him Friday and demanded a trade. "He couldn’t get over the fact something like that took place," Kupchak said. But after that hearing Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz, requested a trade again on Saturday, Kupchak believed that Odom's play would've suffered.
Even after it was brought up that Odom's suffered more tumultuous things in his life, Kupchak said only that it was "possible" he thinks Odom would've eventually cooled off. Kupchak maintained he wouldn't have immediately dealt Odom if he hadn't requested a trade. Had Pau Gasol acted in the same manner, Kupchak said he would've tried trading him.
3. Kupchak argued that waiting to trade Odom was too risky.Regardless of whether Odom requested a trade or not, Kupchak acknowledged he might have traded him later down the line. But Kupchak feared any deal would involve the Lakers absorbing players' contracts that he wants. He argued that having the $8.9-million trade exception and a future first-round draft pick gives the team "more flexibility" with whom they want to sign.
4. Kupchak doesn't plan to use the amnesty clause before Friday. Top candidates include Metta World Peace (three years, $21.5 million) or Luke Walton (two years, $11.46 million), but teams that don't use the provision by Friday have to wait to till next season to use it. Kupchak's thinking as of Monday morning leaned toward not using the amnesty provision yet. Of course, that could change.
5. Kupchak remains mum about the NBA's nixing a trade last week that would've sent New Orleans guard Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Odom to the Hornets. But when he was asked if he remains "hopeful" the Lakers can get Paul, Kupchak simply said, "I answered it earlier when I said there’s several big deals out there we’re still pursuing." He prefers in general terms building a team around a center and a point guard. Kupchak also hinted that other players could be involved than were originally reported in the three-team deal between Houston, New Orleans and L.A.. Reports indicated the deal would sent Paul to the Lakers, Odom to the Hornets and Gasol for Houston. In turn, Houston would send Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first round pick to New Orleans.
6. Kupchak maintains Bryant remains happy.Bryant looked irritated and said "I don't like this" regarding the Odom trade. But according to Kupchak, the two met Sunday without touching much on the Odom trade. Bryant remained mum about it too, saying he still has confidence in Kupchak. Take all this for what it's worth because I hardly believe this is how it played out.
7. Kupchak acknowledged a two-year window the Lakers want to get so that they avoid higher luxury taxes. The ratio increases after the 2013-14 season. "[Dr. Buss] has no problem paying for somebody. But it's show me how it is and then I’ll make that decision if I think it's worth it."
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Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom was traded to the Dallas Mavericks partly because he asked to be traded, according to General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times