With the Lakers' scheduled to tip off against the Mavericks tonight to start the 2012/13 season, general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com about the team's roster, its second-round picks, and his thoughts on the Thunder trading James Harden. Here are a few of the highlights from the conversation:
On how the team decided which players to keep on its 15-man roster:
"In conjunction with our coach (Mike Brown) and (executive VP of player personnel) Jim Buss, we hashed it out. There is a strategic approach to what you do involving (positions and salary), and amongst the three of us this is where we ended up. I wouldn't think Robert Sacre (being on the roster) is a surprise to anybody; he certainly showed that he deserved an extended look. On the other hand, he's gotten more of an opportunity than anyone else because of the injury to Dwight (Howard), and if you talked to some guys that have been here, they'd say they wish they'd had that opportunity. With that said, they've been here almost 28 days, and we feel like we know them pretty good. We're not always right, and we had to make decisions, and by and large the decisions have to be done at the end of camp."
On the decision to carry the maximum 15 players, including two second-round picks:
"As a later second-round draft pick like (Darius) Johnson-Odom, that's the lowest number that you can be paid of anybody in the NBA. When you look at our payroll, which is approaching $100MM, as a percentage of payroll, it's really not that much. On the other hand, I don't expect ownership to expand payroll, and these contracts do have some flexibility to them in the fact that they are not guaranteed. (Sacre and Johnson-Odom) are going to have to continue to perform at a high level, but for the time being, it gives us some roster flexibility going forward."
On using the Lakers' D-League affiliate to develop Sacre and Johnson-Odom:
"I'd hope with the D-League coming up soon, we'd be able to put one or both of our second-round picks in that situation. You used to be limited to sending a player down three times, but they can go an unlimited number of times now. You could have them practice with the Lakers every day and then still have them play in every D-Fenders game. We intend to take advantage of the new rule with one or both of those players. It's a good development for us, and you're starting to see some more synergy with the D-League and the NBA."
On how the Harden trade will impact the rival Thunder:
"On the surface, the Thunder had a team that was very successful as a group, as a unit. There's a piece of that group that's moving on, so you might take something from that. At the same time, I think by adding Kevin Martin they have a piece that they can use, that's going to get minutes, and he can certainly score. They picked up a lot of (draft picks), plus a kid (Jeremy Lamb) we all liked in college. So you can argue that this year there may be a ding to their chemistry because they'd been together for three years, but Martin could fit right in and Lamb could have a (positive) impact."
On whether any Lakers stood out in training camp:
"I think you saw some flashes of good play from Jodie Meeks, both with his shooting and the other things he can do like get to the bucket to draw fouls and play defense. I think Devin Ebanks had a good preseason and continues to develop. Sacre has been a pleasant surprise. And with Antawn Jamison, I've seen no decline in his athleticism, which you wonder about when you get older guys."