Mitch Kupchak defends Lamar Odom trade
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to reporters Monday for the first time in a week, discussing the Chris Paul trade that was nixed by the NBA, the Lamar Odom trade that was vetoed by Lakers fans and the ever-tightening financial vice surrounding free-spending NBA teams.
Lakers fans and players did not applaud sending the popular forward and a 2012 second-round pick to Dallas for a 2012 first-round pick and a traded-player exception worth $8.9 million.
The deal was officially announced Sunday, the third day of training camp.
"Lamar was sent to Dallas because he requested to be traded," said Kupchak, who referenced Odom's frustration with being involved in the blocked Paul trade. "In this case, he couldn't get over the fact that something like that could took place. I was hoping that things would change in a day or two but his representative called me on Saturday and said that's not going to change."
The Lakers moved surprisingly quickly to trade Odom. Kobe Bryant made a trade demand in May 2007. He's still here.
"I wouldn't lump Kobe and Lamar into the same category when talking about those same two situations," Kupchak said. "Yeah, we could have said, 'Lamar, we're not going to trade you,' and waited to see what was going to happen in the next week or two, but we chose not to do that.
"The window to make a deal in this environment where you really can get back flexibility, it goes away in the snap of the fingers. So to have waited two or three weeks would have just prolonged an environment with Lamar when he's not at practice and would have sucked energy away from the team. We might not have had a better opportunity."
Odom never said he would have stopped attending practice if he wasn't traded, according to Kupchak.
Kupchak said the rest of the Lakers' foundation would probably be here for a while.
"We think we have three of the best players in the NBA — Andrew [Bynum], Pau [Gasol] and Kobe. We expect to have them all season," he said.
Of course, there's wiggle room with the word "expect." Expecting to have them and definitely having them are two different things.
But wouldn't Odom have been a useful piece in a Dwight Howard trade offer?
"There was no big deal available to us when we made this decision," Kupchak said.
He then insisted the Lakers weren't done looking for ways to improve.
"We are pursuing big deals right now," he said without naming specifics.
There were no guarantees, though. There never can be when trades are the topic.
Bryant didn't hide his displeasure with the Odom trade, especially because the versatile forward was sent to the same team that obliterated the Lakers in last season's Western Conference semifinals.
Kupchak countered that the Lakers made trades in the past with teams in the same conference, if not the same division. He pointed out a deal with Phoenix involving Cedric Ceballos and Robert Horry.
"We're not afraid of doing a trade with somebody in your division," Kupchak said. "We look after our team first and then if you meet that [other] team down the road, hopefully you're going to win that game."
Odom was on the books for an $8.9-million salary this season and $8.2 million next season, a total bill of $34.2 million, including a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax.
Kupchak did not specifically say Odom was dealt to decrease the Lakers' bills, but he acknowledged a tougher climate for teams with a high player payroll. The new collective-bargaining agreement begins to penalize luxury-taxed teams even more heavily in the 2013-14 season.
The Lakers had an NBA-high payroll of $91 million last season and paid an additional $21 million in luxury taxes. Their taxes would more than double in 2013-14 if their payroll remained the same. After trading Odom, the Lakers have a payroll of about $83 million.
"Understanding the landscape and the collective bargaining agreement as I do, I would be very surprised if in three years, the extra punitive tax doesn't materially affect what teams do," Kupchak said. "You're seeing it now. Have you seen the guys that are being waived and being 'amnestied'?
"Everything we do is not solely connected to the player and his talent. There always are other considersations. Other considerations are financial considerations in the next two years, yes. You can look around the teams that were in the Finals and see who they signed back and didn't sign back. You can start seeing effects right now."
Dallas did not re-sign center Tyson Chandler, though the Mavericks obviously obtained Odom from the Lakers.
The Lakers do not plan on using their "amnesty" provision to waive a player in order to be free of luxury-tax penalties for that player's salary, Kupchak said, although the Lakers could also use it before next season.
Kupchak discussed the Lakers' failed attempt to land Paul, a highly publicized veto by the NBA carrying a couple of days' worth of news last week. Kupchak said the league's action was "completely unexpected."
"I'm not sure it's ever happened before. We did the best we can to express our displeasure and to date there's been no change."
In the blocked three-team trade, Odom was ticketed for New Orleans and Gasol for Houston.
— Mike Bresnahan
Photo: Mitch Kupchak. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press.