Kupchak Talks Dwight, Recruiting, Improvement

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that his "hopeful" and "optimistic" feelings about the team's chances to re-sign Dwight Howard haven't changed since the season ended, even as rumors have proliferated about the big man's willingness to go elsewhere. Kupchak also spoke about front office dynamics, confirming he and Jim Buss are the primary decision makers, and the exodus of all but one of the team's assistant coaches. The transcript of the Q&A is worth reading, particularly for Lakers fans, but we'll note a few particularly intriguing passages here: 

On his pitch to Howard:

"We would try to do what the other teams will do, which is convince him that this is the spot for him. I think we have an advantage in that he's played here for a year. I'm biased — I think this is the best city to live in with the best fans in the NBA. There are certain things that you remind him of or talk to him about, and you hope that it plays in your favor."

On the Lakers' recruiting advantages:

I do think we have advantages. Historically, this organization, via ownership beginning in 1960 has fielded competitive teams. We think the city sells itself, and we have a very passionate, wide fan base. It's also very competitive, the rules have changed a little bit, but we do have financial flexibility a year and a half from now. It can be used a lot of different ways. You don't just have to focus on free agency; you can take a contract. If a player doesn't fit into someone's roster from a salary perspective — maybe due to the repeater tax, for example — maybe you find a guy that way. There are a lot of ways you can use the space that we will have, and we're looking forward to having that flexibility.

On the difficulty of improving a taxpaying team that has only a late second-round pick:

It's a challenge. Even in the lottery, there's a likelihood that a player is not going to help you that year. Often times, the higher someone is drafted, the more likely he is to help you that year. With a veteran team, it's hard to say that a player drafted in the mid-second round will make an impact next year. Assuming our team next year is similar to the team it was this year, and also understanding that we have several free agents, probably the best way to improve this team would be through free agency, and even that's limited. Hopefully you can use your mini mid(-level exception), but most of the time it will fall towards the (veteran's) minimum contracts, and you want to make good selections there. But you're not going to get really good, productive young players at a minimum salary. You'll end up getting the older player who's had a good career that's looking to contend for a championship, like Antawn Jamison last season.

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