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Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

Category: Mitch Kupchak

Kobe Bryant deserves better communication from Jim Buss

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In the middle of the night, Kobe Bryant often sees something on film and texts Mike Brown a thought or a question.

The Lakers coach texts right back.

Moments after stewing about the Lakers trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant visited Mitch Kupchak's office. The general manager maintains the meeting remained jovial and involved more than just why the Lakers traded their most valuable reserve.

Soon after the Lakers' 103-92 victory Monday over the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant spoke at an informal meeting. Just like they do during practice and games, his teammates' ears perked up.

Unfortunately for Bryant, executive Jim Buss hasn't extended the same courtesy. He didn't heed any of Bryant's suggestions during this offseason's coaching search for Phil Jackson's replacement. Buss didn't even alert him ahead of time the Lakers would hire Brown. The same can be said about Odom's departure, the franchise's direction and pretty much any imaginable topic. The silence has remained so rampant, Bryant revealed in an interview with the New York Post's Peter Vescey in December that he couldn't recall the last time he spoke with Buss.

It shouldn't be that way. That's why Magic Johnson suggested in a conference call that Buss should personally meet with Bryant, who "just wants to be informed as a leader and future Hall of Famer and a guy who has brought five championships to the Lakers."

"He wants more communication, probably like he did when [former coach] Phil Jackson was there and he worked well with Mitch," Johnson said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "I don't think Kobe feels he has that type of relationship or the communication has been there with Jim. What probably has to happen is they need to sit Kobe down and sit Jim down. Dr. [Jerry] Buss was the master at taking you to lunch or taking you to dinner and going over what he was thinking and what he wanted to do with the team. Jerry West was good at that as well. Kobe, Mitch and Jim just have to get on the same page and things will be OK."

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Lakers reportedly interested in Ramon Sessions

The Times' Mike Bresnahan explains why the Lakers struggle against the Charlotte Bobcats--Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers remain interested in acquiring Cleveland point guard Ramon Sessions.

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan explains why the Lakers struggle against the Charlotte Bobcats.

--The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell reports that Gerald Henderson, D.J. White and newcomer Reggie Williams will play Tuesday against the Lakers.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding argues that Metta World Peace's move to the starting lineup is a good idea.

--Fox Sports lists Lakers forward Josh McRoberts as one of the 10 best NBA enforcers.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky argues that the Lakers shouldn't pursue free-agent guard Gilbert Arenas.

--Hoops Hype's Roland Lazenby wonders if Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak will stay.

--Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe remains concerned about Kobe Bryant's minutes.

--The Daily News' Elliot Teaford focuses on the Lakers' struggles against Charlotte.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell talks to trainer Gary Vitti about various team injuries.

--Silver Screen and Roll's Actuarially Sound wonders why the Lakers have struggled with rebounding.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano wonders why the Lakers aren't lowering Bryant's minutes.

--Lakers Nation's Nadya Avakian says Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are key to solving the Lakers' consistency issues.

--Laker Nation's David Brickley, Jason Riley and Kevin Figgers debate numerous Laker topics.

Radio interview

I talk all things Lakers with ESPN Radio 1430's Guy Haberman in the audio file below.

Mark Medina on ESPN Radio

Tweet of the Day: "The @blakegriffin dunk tonight over Perkins made me realize that he's one of the best in-game dunkers in @NBA history." -- MagicJohnson (Lakers legend Magic Johnson) 

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "I can see Sessions. But I was under the impression that the Lamar exemption was to be used in trades for major new talent. If Ramon Sessions is the difference between a ring or the lottery this season, sure, trade exemption well spent. I think people in the Arenas camp weren't so much in love with Arenas as they were with the 'can get for vet minimum' factor. If we are blowing the trade exemption on stuff like Sessions, I would propose that we are better off saving the money, or blowing it on somebody who we can trade for a draft pick.

I appreciate hearing about stuff like how Sessions or other players would contribute, but please. At least acknowledge that the two aren't entirely comparable. I don't say this as someone who wants us to get Arenas, at least at the expense of somebody else. I say this as someone who thinks the two aren't mutually exlusive, and frankly they might both be a bad idea, but.... I mean, you ignore the fact that we could get Arenas AND Sessions with practically the same expense." -- Phred Phredphredington

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Gerald Henderson and the Charlotte Bobcats have given Kobe Bryant and the Lakers fits, not to mention a losing record, recently. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Kwame Brown inspired more than just Andrew Bynum

Kwame Brown

Every time Andrew Bynum throws down a lob, blocks a shot or bullies a defender in the lane, just remember that none of this might have been possible without one significant former teammate.

Kwame Brown. 

"I taught him everything he knows," Brown recently told The Times' Mike Bresnahan. "I'm one of the better defenders in the league, and we played against each other every day in practice. I told him if you can score against me, you can score on anyone."

Now, it's tempting for Laker fans to cue the laugh track. They probably just remember all the muffed passes and dunks he provided with the Lakers for 2½ seasons before he was sent to Memphis as part of the Pau Gasol trade in February 2008. But perhaps Brown does deserve some credit. After all, he's proved instrumental for the team beyond just playing a role in Bynum's development. Consider these examples:

1. Kobe Bryant — Forget about his amazing talent and drive. Bryant averaged a career-high 35.4 points in the 2005-06 campaign because of Brown's presence. Don't let the box score fool you. Bryant's career-high 81 points Jan. 22, 2006 against Toronto may look impressive, but don't overlook the three points Brown provided on one of five shooting. Toronto simply picked its poison by opting to limit Brown in the post rather than trying to stop Bryant from dropping bucket after bucket.

Don't underestimate Brown's connection with Michael Jordan, either. Jordan remained fascinated with Brown's so-called potential and selected him No. 1 in the 2001 NBA draft. It's likely that Jordan passed down some of his basketball wisdom to Brown, who in turn shared it with Bryant. Even if Brown could never catch any of Bryant's direct passes, it certainly forced the Black Mamba to sharpen his facilitating skills.

2. Pau Gasol — Had Brown not been such a valuable trade chip to the Grizzlies, there's no way El Spaniard would have wound up in Los Angeles. So it's only fair that Gasol shares at least one of his titles with Brown. After all, it would've been inevitable that Brown would've collected a Larry O'Brien trophy had he remained with the Lakers, anyway. Gasol should also thank Brown for prompting his teammates to elevate their play after his departure. With such a void left on the Lakers' frontline, they needed to support Gasol any way they could. 

3.  Mitch Kupchak — His reputation as a general manager remained flimsy and at times even earned Bryant's scorn. But once Kupchak traded Brown, everything subsided. Now, Kupchak has been credited with putting together the pieces that ensured three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and back-to-back titles. To show his gratitude, Kupchak should offer Brown a front-office position.

RELATED:

Kwame Brown takes partial credit for Andrew Bynum's success

Kobe Bryant senses change in pecking order for Gasol, Bynum

Lakers should still covet Dwight Howard over Andrew Bynum

— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Andrew Bynum, right, says he and Golden State's Kwame Brown used to talk about cars and go bowling when both were members of the Lakers. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press; Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

Lamar Odom would've gotten over initial trade shock

Lamar OdomLamar Odom's frustration level remained on boil. The Lakers didn't provide enough time to let it cool.

Odom acted too emotionally after learning the Lakers tried to trade him in a deal that would've landed them New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul. The Lakers reacted the same way. 

Odom overestimated in thinking the Lakers wouldn't trade him under any circumstances. The Lakers underestimated the importance in shipping him only if he represented part of a package for a blockbuster deal. 

So where does that leave the Lakers? On paper, they traded Odom and a second-round draft pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and an $8.9 million trade exception. In reality, the Lakers lost one of their best reserves, locker-room favorites and most versatile forward without a logical plan in sight and with an angered team in shambles.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak met with a small group of reporters Monday at the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo. In the 32-minute interview, he stated the Lakers are "pursuing big deals now." But after logging between 14 and 18 hours every day for the last 17 days, according to a team spokesman, Kupchak also acknowledged the Lakers don't have anything imminent.

Kupchak's rationale behind trading Odom reflected concern that future deals would've simply involved taking undesirable players to match salaries. But having Odom until a blockbuster trade opportunity arrived would've helped the Lakers at the negotiating table. Having Odom until that happens would've helped the Lakers on the court. Instead, they lack a key reserve and trade chip because of one stupid reason.

"The fact remains it wouldn't have taken place if he didn't ask for a change," Kupchak said of Odom. 

Since when do the Lakers accomodate trade requests?  

"They didn't listen to me when I asked," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said boastfully about his infamous trade demands four years ago.

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Mitch Kupchak: Lakers 'pursuing big deals right now'

Lamar Odom/Mitch Kupchak

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.

Mitch Kupchak

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Mitch Kupchak defends Lamar Odom trade

Kupchak
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.

First, Odom.

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."

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Lamar Odom trade: Lakers reach a crossroads

Racing to assemble a championship roster, the Lakers' front office finds itself at a crossroads.

Which way the team goes will quickly determine whether General Manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss will give the Lakers a more solid foundation or cause them irreparable damage. The Lakers just traded versatile forward and locker-room favorite Lamar Odom and a 2012 second-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round pick and an $8.9-milliion trade exception. Will this just save the Lakers nearly $18 million in salary and luxury taxes? Or will it help the Lakers land Magic center Dwight Howard or in some other way prove to be a cunning move?

The trade prompted Kobe Bryant to fume, "I don't like it," saying the Lakers appeared to receive nothing in return for last season's sixth man of the year. But in his next breath, a composed Bryant gives Kupchak a vote of confidence.

"We got to let Mitch do his job," Bryant said. "Mitch has proven himself through the course of the years that he can build a great team. We have to have all trust that he's going to do that. That being said, it's still hard to see one of my friends and one of our great players go somewhere, especially that team, seemingly for nothing. Whether they have something else going on, that's on them to decide. But it's tough."

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Five ways to handle Lakers' reduced practice schedule

If it were up to Lakers Coach Mike Brown, the team would always practice with full intensity.

But there are several variables that will keep this from happening. A compressed, 66-game schedule, the Lakers having at least one set of three games in consecutive nights and a veteran-heavy roster makes this ideal impractical. Still, the Lakers showed last season that their idea of resting their bodies to concentrate on a title run was flawed. There are various nuances the Lakers should follow.

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Lakers can't let limited payroll inhibit risk-taking

Just like everyone else consumed with NBA basketball, Lakers forward Matt Barnes listens to the trade rumors.

Not all of them. He says he only cares about whether a rumor involves the Lakers. But unlike the average NBA fan, he has -- and is willing to share -- some insider knowledge, particularly when it involves any possibility his former teammates Dwight Howard or Baron Davis could join the Lakers.

"I've talked to both of those guys and they want to be here," Barnes said Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "We'll see what happens."

We sure will. But don't start pre-ordering Howard or Davis Lakers jerseys just yet. The Lakers face an unfortunate reality: A $91-million payroll, increased luxury taxes and increased revenue sharing suddenly make General Manager Mitch Kupchak worried about finances. 

"Based on our financial structure, we would be very limited in what we can do with our team in terms of free agency in the next two weeks," Kupchak said.

Fair enough. Last year, the Lakers could offer free agents a five-year, $32-million contract. This year, they can only offer a mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million, as well as a veteran's minimum of one year and $1 million. Short term, the Lakers may only need to address low-hanging fruit, such as formally cutting ties with Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff, likely letting Shannon Brown go, exercising $788,872 team options on Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and signing rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. 

But as the Lakers begin free agency on Dec. 9, they can't let such scenarios inhibit their risk-taking. It's a no-brainer to pursue Howard, but it involves much more creative structuring of deals than when picking up peripheral players. It's a no-brainer to pursue Chris Paul once free agency hits next season, but why wait when he's reportedly demanding a trade to New York?

Kupchak may feel confident that the Lakers can win a title with the current roster, but playing it safe could hurt the team's long-term future once Kobe Bryant's and Pau Gasol's contracts end after the 2013-14 seasons.

Of course, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has thrived on risk-taking. But as an avid poker player, he knows that doesn't always require having the most chips. It also requires doing the most thinking. 

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Mitch Kupchak always worries about Metta World Peace

The mere mentioning of Metta World Peace solicited amused smiles and boisterous laughs among Lakers Coach Mike Brown and General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Brown continuously joked about how he's going to adjust to addressing the Lakers' player formerly known as Ron Artest. "I might just call him Metta or Met," Brown said Friday at the team's practice facility in El Segundo. "I don't want to call him Peace because he may think that's grounds for him to be able to leave practice." But underneath the smirks and the jokes stood the reality that the Lakers remain wary of World Peace.

Kupchak continued delivering punch lines when I asked if he's particularly concerned with World Peace's focus entering the 2011-12 season. "We've had concerns the moment we signed him," Kupchak said when Artest agreed to a five-year deal, worth $33 million, in the 2009 off-season. "That's not changed. I don't think it's greater or any less. I think it's the same."

But what isn't the same is whether the Lakers simply tolerate World Peace's goofy antics or view it as the triggering point in waiving him via the so-called amnesty clause. The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported that's a strong possibility, particularly after this season. And particularly with the Lakers' desire to upgrade their roster without significantly going over the luxury tax, cutting ties with World Peace may become an unavoidable reality.

Granted, labeling Ron Artest's poor 2011-12 season as evidence he's distracted not only seems lazy, it makes him a scapegoat because the Lakers suffered far more serious problems last season than World Peace missing break-away dunks, hoisting ill-advised three-pointers or posting a career-low 8.9 points per game. Worrying about his focus level also misses the point because it's never directly correlated to how World Peace plays basketball.

Kupchak gets that part in the Lakers' need to tolerate World Peace's behavior at some level because the payoff can be high, such as strong defensive performances, a surprise tip-in in the Western Conference Finals or a key three-pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. But World Peace needs to understand he doesn't have the same platform to entertain as he once did following his significant role in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Right now, his name change may solicit laughs from Brown and Kupchak. But it will no longer appear amusing should World Peace's poor play persist.

RELATED:

Metta World Peace needs to understand flimsy job security

Concerns about Ron Artest's distractions miss the point

Ron Artest striving to maintain balance with devotion to basketball and rap music

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

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