The Lakers simply can’t concentrate on developing young players as they otherwise would because they need to give Kobe Bryant a “justified farewell” as he plays his final season, GM Mitch Kupchak contended in an interview with Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Kupchak expounded on comments he made in a recent meeting with season ticket-holders in which he said the team can’t fully move forward with Bryant still present, though he made it clear that the franchise has no reservations about giving Bryant his due. Kupchak argued to Holmes that the attention Bryant draws allows the young players to grow outside the harsh glare of the spotlight, calling it a “silver lining” to the situation, and the GM also insisted the team will be in better position to attract free agents this summer than it was last year.
“I think we’ll see enough [from the young players],” Kupchak said. “Yeah, I think we’ll see enough. I do. Kobe has been really good lately. He looks like he’s trying to fit in and play the right way. Yeah, I think we’ll see enough. Is it going to come as quick as you want? I mean, D’Angelo [Russell] is going to be 20. They all want it now, but it’s just going to take a year or two or three. But it’s certainly going to be a lot more attractive than what we had to offer last summer.”
See more from the Western Conference:
- Utah has an open roster spot after waiving Elijah Millsap on Tuesday, but while Jimmer Fredette, who’s eligible to sign with any NBA team, is still a fan favorite from his days at BYU, the Jazz signaled their lack of interest when they passed him up in this season’s D-League draft, tweets Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. The team doubts his ability to play NBA-caliber defense and doesn’t want to deal with the crush of local interest that signing him would entail, Genessy adds (Twitter link).
- Thunder coach Billy Donovan‘s decision to put rookie Cameron Payne in the rotation has helped a talented second unit to finally play up to its abilities, as Royce Young of ESPN.com examines. The process hasn’t been without hiccups, but Payne’s emergence is nonetheless one more selling point the Thunder have to use in their pitch to retain Kevin Durant this summer, Young writes.
- Others still on the draft board seemed to be more likely candidates for the Lakers when they instead picked Larry Nance Jr. 27th overall this past summer, but after starting him at power forward for a month, coach Byron Scott thinks the situation has flipped, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “If you were probably to re-do the draft, he’d be a lottery pick,” Scott said. “So obviously, we got a steal.”