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Mitch Kupchak Talks Howard, D’Antoni, Lakers

With Dwight Howard's free agency less than six weeks away, the All-Star center has been making headlines lately, with one report suggesting he was intrigued by the Rockets and Mavericks, while another indicated he expressed displeasure and frustration with head coach Mike D'Antoni to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.

Kupchak himself spoke to Mark Medina of about the latest reports on Howard, the big man's free agency, and a few other Lakers-related topics. Here are the highlights from the Q&A with the Lakers GM:

On the report that Howard voiced his displeasure with D'Antoni:

"Criticism of a coach did not come up [in Howard's exit meeting]. Our coach did not come up. In terms of the way the season went and our talent, group and players and how they think in general, I would venture to say most of our players felt this was a frustrating season and that they didn’t get to show their talents as much as they would have liked to…. Pau [Gasol], Steve Nash and everybody felt the season didn’t go the way they wanted to. I think in general they all felt that there are ways to utilize their talent better going forward. That would include Dwight in that group."

On Howard's relationship with D'Antoni:

"I don’t want to start nitpicking. There are 13 guys on a team. The eight guys who don’t start don’t like the coach and the five who do start, there are usually two or three that aren’t happy either for one reason or another. I would venture to say at one point during the season for every player, they have a problem with the coach. But being around as long I’ve been around, it doesn’t bother me when I hear at some point a player didn’t see eye to eye with a coach. Players don’t have to like coaches. They just have to play hard. In L.A., our coaches get evaluated on wins and losses and not whether our players like them or don’t like them. It doesn’t matter."

On Howard's free agency:

"A player a has a right to be a free agent. It bothers me that there seems to be some media attention and criticism early in the process about Dwight and the coach and Dwight and free agency. Don't get me wrong. The sooner he makes his mind up, the better for everybody. That's my take on it. But he can't sign until July 10th anyway. I told him when he first got here, 'I'm not going to bug you. I believe this is the place for you. When you make your mind up, let me know.'"

On whether he's still confident that Howard will re-sign:

I’m optimistic…. We can’t get outbid. The city is a rabid Laker city. It extends from San Diego to Santa Barbara. When you’ve traveled with us, when you go to arenas on the road, there are three or four thousand Lakers fans in every arena. Our following is huge. The loyalty of the fans is huge. Players love the lifestyle, like a lot of people do to live in Southern California."

On whether the Lakers have a contigency plan if Howard signs elsewhere:

"That’s what we do. We plan years in advance. That’s what we have to do. Coaches go day to day. Management has to look a year, two or three down the road."

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