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Category: Mitch Kupchak

Mitch Kupchak believes Magic Johnson would be successful Dodgers owner

The ball rests firmly in Magic Johnson's hands, and it appears he's on the verge of performing something of epic proportions.

And for once, this has nothing to do with one of Johnson's many no-look passes. It has everything to do with Johnson's intention to buy the Dodgers. Somehow Johnson found a way to enhance his Los Angeles legacy when he's already provided enough of a foundation already. 

When Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak heard the news Thursday at the Lakers' practice facility, he unflinchingly said, "He would be a great owner." The reasons go beyond winning five NBA championships and winning over L.A., though that's part of it. Johnson's proved through his business ventures with the Lakers, Starbucks and Detroit City Partners that he brings the same enthusiasm and competiveness as an owner as he did as an NBA star.

"I know he's sitting on a pile of cash, which is maybe why I take his calls as often as I do," Kupchak joked about Johnson, who sold his 4.5% ownership stake of the Lakers last October. "He's been incredibly supportive as an owner. Never once during our conversations did he say, 'Mitch, this is what you should do.' We talked basketball. He would make suggestions and he would ask me what I thought."

RELATED:

Magic Johnson talks about possibly owning an NFL team or the Dodgers

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Derek Fisher juggling labor negotiations and training

There Derek Fisher stood in the Lakers' practice facility hoisting jumpers and practicing free-throws.

On the surface, it seemed to be an ordinary routine. In reality, it signified a much more pleasant scenario than what's consumed him this off-season. Instead of wearing his practice jersey Friday at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo, Fisher has mostly spent this summer in New York in suits negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement as the National Basketball Players Association president.

The new labor deal isn't expected to be ratified until sometime next week. Fisher joked about the lacking sense of finality when he and Coach Mike Brown talked across the court. Brown put a finger to his lips, alluding to the team's restrictions to speaking with players before the NBA lockout formally ends. In turn, Fisher remarked he doesn't want to say anything with several cameras focused on him. With Fisher conceding the negotiating process has proved to be an "exhausting ordeal," he clearly sees the finish line. 

"It's nice to get back into this particular gym and thinking about basketball again," he said. "But until it's done, it's not done. But I'm looking forward to starting camp next week."

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said, "I don't worry too much about Derek" and his conditioning level. Brown called Fisher "one tough of a gun." But it's indisputable that Fisher will face more uncertainties in the next few weeks beyond labor negotiations and fitting in time to train. With Brown featuring a more traditional offense than the triangle, it's possible Fisher's role could diminish. When asked whether he envisions Fisher remaining the starter, Brown simply said, "Possibly. When we get to camp and everything shakes out, I'll have a better feel." 

But for now, Fisher will soon put basketball matters aside and return to New York sometime next week to continue negotiations. 

"I've always worked hard at everything I've done," Fisher said. "That's no more different than this time. It's a little more challenging approach to things. But I found a way to get it done."

RELATED:

Derek Fisher should still be named starting point guard

Bond between Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant key in the Mike Brown era

How can the Lakers upgrade at point guard?

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Mitch Kupchak says Lakers will be 'very limited' in free agency

Mitch Kupchak

The Lakers roster that takes the floor at Staples Center on Christmas could look a lot like the one that shows up when training camp starts a week from Friday.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday during a media conference at the team's training facility in El Segundo that he would be "very limited" as far as bringing in free agents. Depending on whether shooting guard Shannon Brown decides to re-sign with the team, the Lakers could target a guard and forward in free agency but have limited options to acquire them.

They can use the so-called mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million as well as a veteran's minimum of $1 million, leaving the Lakers hoping that quality players will want to come to Los Angeles for other reasons besides money.

"We're hopeful there's a player out there who's made money in his career and is on the back end and is looking at a championship, or a player who is developing," Kupchak said. "That's harder to do."

Kupchak said he did not anticipate that Theo Ratliff or Joe Smith would be returning to the roster, but he confirmed that he had been in contact with Brown's agent. The Lakers can exercise team options on second-year players Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and must decide whether to sign second-round draft picks Darrius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

Kupchak almost sounded resigned to losing Brown, who has been a free agent at the end of each of his seasons with the Lakers and has explored more lucrative offers elsewhere.

"My guess is, you can only continue to do that for such a period of time where it doesn't make any more sense," Kupchak said, "so I would think this year he would look for and probably get a package that's financially much more attractive than we could offer under the present rules."

Morris, Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes were among the Lakers who stopped by the team's training facility for informal workouts Friday. Coach Mike Brown briefly hailed Fisher from across the court before smiling and putting his finger to his lips, a nod to the fact that coaches are not supposed to speak with players before the NBA lockout formally ends.

With only 16 days to hold practices before the Lakers' opener, the coach said he would try not to overwhelm his players. And what would he call Metta World Peace?

"I might just call him Metta or Met," Brown said. "I don't want to call him Peace, because he might think that's grounds for him to leave practice."

We'll have more later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Ben Bolch

Photo: "We believe in this group," Mitch Kupchak says of the current Lakers roster. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

Mitch Kupchak: 'We believe in this group' (Web links)

Mitch Kupchak--The Times' Mike Bresnahan talks to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who expresses confidence in the team's current roster and acknowledges that he wants to "shore up our depth chart." Bresnahan also sizes up some of the current free-agent class.

--CBS Sports' Ken Berger reports that Lakers executive Jerry Buss finally has dropped his opposition to trading center Andrew Bynum "for the right deal." That’s code for "a deal for Dwight Howard," and it’s clear from those familiar with Howard’s thinking that he’d like to join the Lakers.

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr analyzes who was to blame for the NBA lockout.

--Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe contends that the Orlando Magic should pursue Bynum.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky wonders if Bynum will be able to get the larger role he seeks.

--Fox Sports' Bill Reiter prefers discussing trade rumors than the NBA lockout.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne says Bynum needs to grow up.

--ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Chad Ford report that the Lakers will most likely waive Luke Walton via the amnesty clause.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell talks to Kupchak, who acknowledges that he wants to upgrade the team's backcourt.

--Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore remains skeptical that Shannon Brown will re-sign with the Lakers.

--Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears reports that Chris Paul's agent informed New Orleans officials on Wednesday that his client will not sign a contract extension and wants to be traded to the New York Knicks.

Tweet of the Deal:"Watching Synergy on Bynum reinforces my impression that he is not a very smart defender. Willing, but not smart." — ZachLowe_SI (Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day:"I am not sure why on earth they would want [Shannon Brown] back except for one thing... Baby Buss does not want to spend money so bringing him back is an excuse to fill the roster with low paid players... I can not think of any other reason that Mitch would even bother to call him other then to say bye bye." -- Marty Susman

— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

Shaquille O'Neal's book blames exit from Lakers on Mitch Kupchak

Shaquille O'Neal

The name-calling continues. 

Most of the excerpts surrounding Shaquille O'Neal's book focused on his clashing with Kobe Bryant. It followed with brutally honest remarks about LeBron James' playoff struggles and belittling comments about Dwight Howard. O'Neal reserves the harshest criticism, however, for Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

O'Neal speaks of Kupchak in only six pages of the 281-page "Shaq Uncut: My Story," co-written by Jackie MacMullan, slated for a Nov. 15 release. But that's enough prose to label Kupchak as the main culprit behind Shaq's hasty departure from the Lakers.

According to the book, Kupchak promised to grant Shaq a contract extension following the 2003-04 season and not to discuss their contract negotiations publicly. Once the 2003-04 season ended, however, O'Neal was disturbed by an apparent interview in which Kupchak revealed the Lakers' plan to hold onto Bryant while keeping their options open with O'Neal.

"That was it. That was the end of me in a Lakers uniform. Mitch broke our agreement. How could I trust him again?" Shaq writes in the book. "For months, I kept waiting for Mitch to come to me and say, 'Shaq, you're getting older, we need some new players. Mr. Buss doesn't want to pay you and Kobe doesn't want you here.' But that conversation never happened. So that was when I demanded a trade. I couldn't trust Mitch anymore and it was clear Kobe was now the one with all the power."

That sounds both simplistic and inaccurate. O'Neal's trade to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick wasn't the result of just one interview by Kupchak. O'Neal's clashes with Bryant were inescapable. Phil Jackson, whom Shaq writes about in a respectful tone in the book, was let go after the Lakers' 2004 NBA Finals loss to Detroit. And Shaq didn't exactly remain on Buss' good side. During an exhibition game in Honolulu, Shaq loudly yelled to Buss to "pay me." Skeptical of O'Neal's injury history, work ethic and $30-million-a-year asking price, Buss also remained reluctant to grant him an extension. 

Still, Shaq says, he no longer felt any support from the Lakers' front office once Kupchak succeeded Jerry West  after the 1999-2000 season.

"Once you deal with someone like Jerry West, you better come up with someone pretty special to keep my attention," O'Neal writes. "Unfortunately, Mitch wasn't that guy for me. We never got along. Mitch looked out for two people: himself and Jerry Buss. The rest of us were afterthoughts."

RELATED:

Shaquille O'Neal book details mistrust with Kobe Bryant

Shaq answers Kobe Bryant: 'I don’t need to work out'

— Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected] Follow the Lakers blog on Facebook.

Photo: Shaquille O'Neal writes that he never felt any support from Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Mike Brown, Mitch Kupchak volunteering during Lakers' canceled home games

Mike Brown

Instead of preparing game plans, Lakers Coach Mike Brown will prepare food to senior citizens. Instead of assembling a roster, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak will assemble care packages for the homeless. Instead of the Laker girls nailing down their dance routines, they'll be nailing down their beach clean-up efforts.

Laker fans, concession workers and the players themselves may lament the NBA cancelling the first two weeks of the season and possibly even more. But for every home game the Lakers miss during the NBA lockout, Laker employees will out in full swing at various community events as if they're campaigning for political office. 

No doubt, the Lakers' initiative involves trying to curry favor with a general public already frustrated they can't attend the Lakers' home games against Oklahoma City (Nov. 1), New Orleans Hornets (Nov. 6), San Antonio Spurs (Nov. 9), Denver Nuggets (Nov. 11) and Detroit Pistons (Nov. 14). But it's never exactly a bad thing to help organizations, such as Volunteers of America, the LA Food Bank, Heal the Bay, US Vets and UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital. After all, the Lakers may have plenty of time on their hands before having to focus on their day job.

Related:

Poll questions surrounding NBA lockout

Owners, players need to negotiate differently

New CBA could hurt the Lakers

--Mark Medina<

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown will perform community service during Lakers' canceled home games. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / October 5, 2011

Mike Brown laying groundwork for 2011-2012 season

Every time Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak looks out his office window, he sees the team's practice court.

There, Mike Brown and his coaching staff are usually laying down a foundation for their offensive and defensive sets, for whenever the 2011-2012 season starts.

"They're on the court every day," Kupchak said. "We don't have much going on right now, so it's nice to see a court lit up and people on it."

It's hard to quantify what that work will mean until the season starts. Who knows whether Magic Johnson's optimistic prediction that Brown is "going to do an outstanding job" will pan out? After all, the Lakers' coaching staff can't contact any players. Kupchak has to wait for the league and the players union to reach a new collective bargaining agreement deal before scouring potential free-agent and trade scenarios. More important, who knows how the Lakers' veteran-laden roster and Brown will work together?

Brown has plenty of reasons, however, to view the offseason as "very productive."

Continue reading »

Mike Brown jokes Quin Snyder 'sold his soul to the Tarheels'

Sweating in light blue North Carolina gym shorts, Lakers assistant coach Quin Snyder ran laps around the team's gym at El Segundo shouting words one would never think a former Duke assistant coach would say.

"I'm a Tar Heel born born/I'm a Tar Heel bred/and when I die, I'm a Tar Heel dead/So it's Rah, Rah, Car'lina-lina"

Or so says Lakers Coach Mike Brown, who jokingly suggested North Carolina alums Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Lakers assistant coach John Kuester demanded Snyder go out of his comfort zone if he wanted to join Brown's coaching staff. 

"I'm waiting for Quin to try to sue Mitch, and throw John's name in there too," Brown joked during a red-carpet appearance this week at Best Buy for its NBA2K12 release. "It's embarrassing to say he did do it. I know it's going to be heartbreaking news for all you Dukies out there.... He definitely took one for the job."

Continue reading »

NBA lockout: Negotiations resume today

Adam Silver, David Stern discuss the NBA lockoutyt
--NBA.com's Steve Aschburner says he believes that meetings scheduled today and Friday between the NBA and the players union indicate some progress in the labor negotiations.

--The New York Times' Howard Beck notes that both the NBA front office and the union have maintained silence about what's going on at the meetings.

--The Sporting News' Sean Doveney reports the NBA owners are willing to miss the preseason.

--Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin breaks down what the Lakers need to do next season to win a championship.

--The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman talks to Jerry West about the pressure John Elway faces in running the Denver Broncos.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin and Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski report that Kobe Bryant will eventually put up a Twitter account.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky and 710 ESPN's Dave Miller debate how the Lakers will adapt to Mike Brown coaching the team.

Continue reading »

How can the Lakers upgrade at point guard?

6a00d8341c506253ef014e89569edb970d-320wiThe consensus on how to make the Lakers better next season involves addressing the point guard spot.

Former Coach Phil Jackson suggested it in his final exit interview when he said the Lakers need to add "more speed" to their veteran-laden roster. Former Laker Robert Horry clamored for it when he acknowledged at the ESPYs that Derek Fisher's "age has caught up to him." And team General Manager Mitch Kupchak has tabbed the position as the off-season's No. 1 priority.

But as we all found out growing up, just because you put something on a holiday or birthday wish list didn't always mean our parents listened. Likewise, just because we want to buy a beach house, drive a sleek convertible or take an extended vacation around the world doesn't mean it's going to happen.

On the Lakers' end, they face plenty of constraints. No one knows what the next collective bargaining agreement will look like and how much the Lakers can draw from their mid-level exception. They are coming off a season that featured a $91-million payroll, and their core players are locked into long-term contracts. In other words, the Lakers aren't going to be able to add an All-Star point guard at the flip of a switch. But here are some options on how they can address their point guard needs.

6a00d8341c506253ef014e611163e9970c-800wiSave up for Deron Williams or Chris Paul.

As most Laker fans have noticed when consulting these various free-agent profiles, the options are pretty limited. So as much as it's necessary for the Lakers to address their point guard needs, it's  unrealistic to expect them to suddenly bolster it. Instead, the Lakers would be better off working with what they have and then gear up for when Williams and Paul become free agents after the 2011-2012 season, presuming neither sign extensions with their current teams. Both players are starved for a championship. Both show elite point-guard skills. And both have much respect for Kobe Bryant.

This approach won't solve the Lakers' problems right away and could keep the team from winning a title next season. But making a push for a trade or a free agent this year might do more harm than good. It would require the Lakers to give away some of their resources for a short-term gain at the expense of a long-term investment. Any slight upgrade at point guard this year still may not result in an NBA title, and it would give the Lakers less positioning power to go after Williams or Paul next off-season. Because of how highly coveted they are and the salary Williams ($16.4 million) and Paul ($16.359 million) would command for next season, the Lakers would have to be tight with their finances this year.

It would be shortsighted, however, for the Lakers to simply unload salaries much like the New York Knicks did in making an unsuccessful attempt at LeBron James, because it would put them in a weaker position to win a title in the future. Andrew Bynum will have a team option in 2012-2013 for $16.1 million, but I highly doubt the Lakers would let him go unless they could get Dwight Howard. Lamar Odom enters next season with two years and $17 million left on his contract, including a team option in the 2012-2013 season worth a partially guaranteed $8.2 million, giving the team some possible wiggle room there. But other than those two scenarios, the Lakers would have to make small tinkerings to ensure they're financially in a position to get either Howard or Paul.

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