The Lakers roster is strong enough for the team to have legitimate playoff aspirations, GM Mitch Kupchak contends, as USA Today’s Sam Amick writes. “The goal every year, of course, is to win the championship,” Kupchak said. “I’m really hopeful that we can be fun to watch, and certainly win a lot more games than we won last year. I don’t know why hopes of a playoff position shouldn’t be in the picture. That’s kind of where it stands.” Still, Kupchak was more guarded than he was a year ago, when he declared that the expectation for last season’s squad was to win a championship, observes Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. The Lakers instead finished a franchise-worst 21-61. See more on the purple-and-gold:
- Kupchak downplayed the idea that co-owner Jim Buss will resign from his job as the team’s executive VP of basketball operations if the Lakers don’t make the Western Conference Finals by 2017, a standard to which primary owner Jeanie Buss has said she’ll hold her brother. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News has the details. “If he felt that way and I agreed, we would’ve traded our picks for veteran players,” Kupchak said. “But we didn’t.” Jim Buss has seemingly tried to soften the parameters of his pledge that he’d step down if the Lakers aren’t contending by the end of the 2016/17 season.
- The GM sees D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle as starters for the future, and he also expressed high hopes for Roy Hibbert, who’s on an expiring contract, as Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times relays. “Hibbert is young enough to be included,” Kupchak said. “If Roy has a good to great year, and we can bring him back at 28 years old, I don’t know why he can’t be part of that core.”
- Lakers players are impressed with what they’ve seen from Brazilian rookie Marcelo Huertas during voluntary team workouts, and the point guard has a legitimate chance to make the opening night roster, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Huertas signed a contract with no guaranteed money, and while the Lakers have plenty of flexibility with only 12 fully guaranteed deals, the team is open to offloading one of those full guarantees if someone on a non-guaranteed pact proves a better player, Kupchak said, as Pincus notes in his piece.
- Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson thinks it’s possible Kobe Bryant will play for a team other than the Lakers in 2016/17, as we detailed earlier.