Shortly before the announcement that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery (according to NBA.com) and faces a six-to-nine month road to recovery, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak spoke to reporters and fielded questions about his thoughts on Kobe, Mike D'Antoni's decision to give him heavy minutes, and what's next for the Lakers heading into the playoffs. Kupchak also mentioned that Kobe was in good spirits before the operation and has his sights set on returning in time for training camp in November. Here are some more of the highlights from the transcript (via NBA.com):
On the idea of possibly amnestying Kobe:
"That’s not even something we’ve discussed. From my understanding without going into great detail, that’s not something that gets to the fall. I think that's something that happens in July, so that’s not something that takes place next year. That’s the furthest thing from my mind right now."
On Mike D'Antoni's decision to give Kobe extended minutes as of late:
"…I don’t think Mike is at blame here one bit. Certainly everybody can second guess looking back on it now and say maybe you should have done something different. But even if you take Kobe out of the game, there are a lot of times where he’ll just get up and put himself back into the game. Just because you say you’re out of the game doesn’t mean he’s going to come out of the game or going to stay out of the game."
On whether or not Kobe could have been convinced to sit:
"At a certain level, when you’re talking to players, these guys are different and Kobe is at the top of the list when it comes to being different. They’re wound up differently and they’re cut differently. When you’re at the top of your profession, you just look at things differently. His message to me was: ‘Mitch, I hear what you’re saying, but we have to get in the playoffs. I’m playing and there’s nothing you can do about it."
Asked if Phil Jackson could have said no to playing Kobe heavy minutes:
"Kobe is no different under Phil (Jackson) than he was under Rudy (Tomjanovich) than he was under Mike (Brown) or under Mike D’Antoni."
On Dwight Howard's importance moving forward:
"It’s not just Dwight. Everybody’s going to have to raise their level of play. He’s the main guy. Certainly a lot will fall on his shoulders. When we get Steve Nash back, a lot will fall on his shoulders. Last night, Pau was one of our best players, too. I’m not going to say that it’s all on one person’s shoulders, but everybody has to carry a little bit more right now and Dwight is one of them."