A GM usually isn’t on solid footing near the end of his team’s third straight season with a record worse than the year before. Mitch Kupchak breaks the mold, having just signed an extension that will keep him under contract with the Lakers for at least three more seasons. Kupchak isn’t the only one who makes basketball decisions for the team, with co-owner and executive vice president Jim Buss having final authority in that realm. Kobe Bryant, who signed his own extension through 2015/16 this past autumn, has seemed to have plenty of influence, and while the superstar reportedly wants to see the team make a coaching change, it doesn’t appear as though Kupchak is listening. The GM spoke to Sam Amick of USA Today shortly after the team announced the extension, and we’ll share a few highlights of Amick’s must-read piece for Lakers fans here:
On Bryant and his frustration with the team’s approach:
He had that one outburst, but I think he got caught up in all the sensation of the moment — is Phil [Jackson] going to stay or is he going to go? He wants the same thing we want, which is to win as much as possible as soon as possible. I meet with him. [It’s] not on a regular basis, but in the last two or three months we have met several times, and he gets it.
On whether Bryant will have input on the decision whether to retain Mike D’Antoni:
We won’t consult with him. Our decisions going forward — we’re not going to do knee-jerk stuff. We’ll let the season end, and take some time. We’ve got a lot of injuries and surgeries to sort through. That’s a lot to accomplish.
On whether the team has made its decision on D’Antoni, and the summer ahead:
No. No. In fact, I told Jimmy [Buss] let’s get to the end season, take some time off … then review the season. Look at our roster. I mean we have a plan. We’ve aligned our contracts in such a way where we’re at a position where we’re not financially stuck. But there’s a lot we don’t know. We don’t know where we’re going to get our pick. Are we going to be sixth, are we going to be eighth, are we going to be two or three? We don’t know. We know who may be a free agent, but we don’t know for sure until June 30.
On internal discussions about bringing Phil Jackson back to the Lakers:
Well I don’t know when the most recent one was. We discussed a year or two ago about how could we — and this was Jimmy and I and I know he may have discussed it with his family — and it was open for discussion. And it was kind of a standing understanding, but I think Jeanie [Buss] said it best two weeks ago. At the end of the day, there was no position for a person of his stature.
On rebuilding the Lakers:
Our goal is not to go 41-41. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to be considerably better than that. And maybe we can do it in a year, or maybe it takes two or three years, OK? Any of those scenarios would be wonderful scenarios. I mean there have been teams — seven or eight teams in the NBA who have never even been to the Finals of the NBA and they’ve been around 30 or 40 years.