Mitch Kupchak On Kobe, Draft, Trades

Kobe Bryant has signaled to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak that the 2015/16 season will be his last as an NBA player, as the GM relayed Thursday in a radio appearance with Rick Fox and Jared Greenberg on SiriusXM NBA Radio (audio links), and as Baxter Holmes of passes along. Bryant hasn’t ruled out playing beyond next season, Holmes notes, and said in March that he would probably hold off on a decision until after the 2015/16 campaign is through. Still, if there’s a free agent who would hesitate to sign with the Lakers because he’s worried about the presence of Bryant for one or more seasons, that free agent “should go someplace else,” Kupchak said. The GM said on the radio with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd (audio link) that it “looks as though” the Lakers will keep the No. 2 overall pick, but he also made it clear that it’s not a foregone conclusion, as Holmes writes in a separate piece. Kupchak had much more to say in his radio spots, as Holmes transcribes. Both pieces are worth a read for Lakers diehards, but we’ll hit the highlights here:

On Kobe Bryant:

“He’s on the last year of a deal. There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be. He’s indicated to me that this is it. A year from now, if there’s something different to be discussed, then it will be discussed then. I talk to him from time to time … and he is recovering. He’s running. He’s getting movement and strength in the shoulder. We expect a full recovery, but yeah, he’s much closer to the end than to the beginning.”

On the strength of this year’s draft class:

“I do think that there are four or five players that are very, very good, and when you look back on [the draft] 10 years from now, I think they could all be All-Stars. But I don’t think there’s anybody that next year will lead a team to champagne in June. If that does happen, particularly with us, then we’ll have to get lucky in the offseason, particularly with free agency. Kobe is going to have to come back and be very healthy, which I understand he’s on track for. But I don’t think right now that there’s anybody who can make that kind of difference right away.”

On whether perimeter players have become more important than big men:

“You could argue that. The jury is still out, but you could argue that, and there’s no doubt that the game that’s being played today is very different from the game that was played eight to 10 years ago. It’s the three-point shots, the drive-and-kick [style]. Now, the teams that have had great success still have centers. San Antonio, they’ve done pretty well with a center there. Memphis has a great center. Although they didn’t advance this year, they have an excellent team. Golden State, they don’t use their center to score points, but they still have a 7-foot, 7-foot-1 guy. So you still need size in this league. You need a rim protector. A guy that takes space. A guy to pass the ball to run the offense through.”

On the value of moving up to the No. 2 pick in the lottery:

“Let’s just say there was a team that had the fifth or sixth or seventh pick, and they wanted to go to No. 2. In that area of the draft, just to move up two or three or four slots, normally, it’s hard to do. And the price that that team would pay would be high, because they’ve targeted a player that they really want. Obviously the other team would know that, and they would have to pay for that.”

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