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Lakers GM says he can’t really evaluate team yet, plan is to keep Gasol

Dec 11, 2012, 6:01 PM EST

Mitch Kupchak AP

What is the identity of this Los Angeles Lakers team? What kind of team are they?

You don’t know. I don’t know. It’s pretty clear the players don’t know. With the roster and coaching and system changes, they have not found their footing yet.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t know either. He doesn’t like the record but he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News he doesn’t yet know what he’s got.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m happy with our record. I don’t think that’s a stretch for me or any Laker fan to say that. That’s just stating the obvious. But I’m not sure how you assess this team until you get key players back.”

Well, fans are assessing it by wins and losses. That’s the problem.

But Medina wisely was more direct — do you plan to keep Pau Gasol?

“That has always been the plan,” Kupchak said. “Nothing has happened to change the plan.”

Yet.

Kupchak seconded reports that it will be weeks before Steve Nash returns to the lineup. Which means a couple different tests are on tap for the squad.

“I’m curious to see how the team gets through the next two or three weeks until Steve gets back,” Kupchak said. “Once he gets back, then I’m curious to see how he fits in with everybody.”

The goal for the Lakers has not changed — they see themselves as title contenders. But even if the Lakers do get it together when Nash and Gasol get back and start to blend in, this start has made their path harder. At this point the Lakers are not going to catch Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Memphis in the standings, and likely not the Clippers (the Lakers are 5.5 games back). Which would have them as a five seed at best, playing every round of the playoffs on the road.

But that is the price for this start. And we haven’t seen enough of the Lakers to assess if they could climb that mountain or not.

  1. willardj - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    He can’t evaluate it 20 games into the season, but he can evaluate it 5 games in, enough to determine that Mike Brown should be fired.

    Why this clown has a job and yet millions of hard working Americans are forced to be unemployed or barely get by through minimum wage jobs boggles my mind.

    • somekat - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:33 PM

      Have to agree with the first part. He can’t decide now, but he could decide after 5 games? They’ve had more games under their belt now than they did prior to the last decision

    • mytthor - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      Any minimum wage workers out there able to build championship NBA teams? What a joke.

    • badintent - Dec 13, 2012 at 2:25 AM

      MItch ain’t no GM Jerry West .Getting Shaq was a pure $$$ pitch ( and no brainer) but this team’s bench is D-League at best

    • willardj - Dec 13, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      Kupchak has done nothing but ruin the Lakers since he became GM.

      First he ruins the Kobe Shaq combo by bringing in more egomaniacs (Payton and Malone). Then he gets rid of the better of the two in Shaq. Meanwhile, Shaq goes on to win a title in Miami.

      Then he could have easily gotten greatest point guard of the decade Jason Kidd in a trade for the injury-plagued Bynum but decides against it. Meanwhile, Kidd goes on to win a title in Dallas.

      He lucks out that Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza become stars in Phil’s triangle. He then lucks out in the Gasol trade, giving up a 2nd round pick and Kwame. This pretty much saved his job. As Kobe put it, “Kupchak now goes from an F- to an A+.” Phil Jackson, being the greatest American sports figure of the modern era, is able to use his mastery and lead this roster to two championships. Kupchak of course gets all the credit and gets to keep his job.

      He then signs the old, expensive, mentally fragile Ron Artest. Now they can’t sign any decent wing players because of his salary.

      He puts up a ton of money to get Nash, who would have retired if he didn’t sign, and to no one’s surprise he has lacked motivation to get back onto the court. Because of all the money they put up to Nash, they can’t build a decent bench.

      He lucks out again in the Dwight Howard trade. Again, it doesn’t take any real basketball knowledge to realize that trading away Andrew Bynum and getting Dwight Howard in return is a good move for the team. But then his lack of actual basketball intellect rears its ugly head when he decides to fire Mike Brown only a few games into the season in favor of the short-lived gimmick Mike D’Antoni.

      Then, over the past two years, he’s been constantly throwing around Pau Gasol’s name in trade talks. As a result, Gasol feels unwanted and his play is suffering. Kupchak did the same thing to Lamar Odom and look what happened to him.

      Just look at Kupchak in this picture. Looks like a combo between Lloyd Christmas and Jerry Sandusky. No one likes Kupchak. Just leave the NBA and go coach your daughter’s softball team or something.

  2. BigBeachBall - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    nash isn’t injured…

  3. jerdogthompson - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Lets do the math shall we?

    I’m guessing the 8th seed in the West will require 50 wins. Sounds about right doesn’t it? So the Lakers w/out Nash, according to Kupcake, for another 2-3 weeks would need to go 41-20 to finish the season.

    Mind you, they started the year with one of the cushiest schedules and the remainder of the year they will be facing plus 500 teams. 41-20?

    I’m sorry but the top 5 seeds are all but locked up barring any catastrophes taking place. So basically the Lakers will be battling for that 8 seed with;

    *Utah
    *Dallas
    *Minnesota
    *Denver
    *Houston

    With Dallas & Minnesota getting their stars back soon and the remainder of those teams playing better basketball than the Lakers I would like a rational person to explain how it’s likely they get to the 8 seed. There I go again hating on the Lakers. Actually no, I’ve presented my argument and if someone would like to challenge the merits of said argument then fine. But I’m certain I will be accused of Laker hating as that is so freaking easy and presenting a well articulated rebuttal would actually require an IQ above 80.

    • BigBeachBall - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      50 wins to make the playoffs for the east maybe.. 55 for the west.

      • sdlakerfan - Dec 12, 2012 at 12:56 AM

        lunacy! it has never taken 55 wins to make the playoffs. many teams in the west look good? at the current pace, 41 wins gets you a playoff spot in the west. the rest of the silly math argument is moot if the premise is complete nonsense.

        but this is a major low moment for us laker fans. bickerstaff was by far the best coach so far this year, 4-1 with a close loss to the Spurs.

    • eventhorizon04 - Dec 11, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      I’m willing to discuss this rationally so long as you are:

      I agree with you on the need for 50 wins. The West has a lot of teams looking good right now so I don’t think 40-45 wins will cut it. 45-50 wins is a reasonable prediction.

      To list how the West looks to me:
      There’s the “Big 4″ of the West – Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Memphis – that almost certainly will be the #1 to #4 seeds in the West, barring injury or some team like the Lakers going on a monster stretch of like 25-1…which is unlikely.

      So the Lakers at this point are really then in-play for a #5 to #8 seed, most would agree. Right now, the current #5 to #8 seeds are:
      5 – Golden State (14 wins, 7 losses), 6 – Utah, 7 – Dallas (playing hard without Dirk so far), 8 – Minnesota (9 wins, 9 losses, and should do better with Rubio and Love recovering from injury)

      After that, you have, 9-Denver, 10-Houston, 11-Portland, 12-Lakers (9 wins, 12 losses). There’s not a whole lot separating the Lakers from the 8th seed – 3 losses – and it’s very early in the season, so it’s too early to write an obituary for the 2012 Lakers.

      The *problem* with the Lakers is the roster uncertainty. It’s impossible to say whether the Lakers can or can’t go on a winning streak once they’re healthy since we haven’t seen them healthy yet under D’Antoni. They could be awesome at full strength, or they could look just as bad, with Pau and Nash helping on offense but worsening the defense.

      People keep bringing up how the Heat started out 9-8 in 2010 yet finished the year as the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but there was a key factor in that.
      **The Heat’s stars stayed healthy that season** and got into a groove as they learned to play together. After their rough start, the Heat had a stretch of 21 wins and just 1 loss from November 29, 2010 to January 9, 2011 which helped them make up a lot of ground.

      For the Lakers, it’s the opposite – their stars can’t get healthy, so right now, they’re not building on-court chemistry with Gasol on the bench and Nash doing rehab. Because they’re not learning to play together, it’s harder to (reasonably) predict a 21-1 stretch that allows them to contend for a top-4 seed.

      In the end, I think the Lakers will get healthy and work their way to a #6 or #7 seed, as some teams ahead of them fall, but it’s not unreasonable to wonder about the Lakers so long as they don’t get healthy and don’t play well.

    • pistol7pete - Dec 11, 2012 at 8:14 PM

      “With Dallas & Minnesota getting their stars back soon…” Why doesn’t this apply to the Lakers who are getting two stars back soon?

    • mytthor - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:40 PM

      Because with the Dallas and Minnesota getting their stars back soon, the Lakers are also getting their stars back soon, and they’ve got 2 great players coming back, as opposed to 1 each for the Mavs and T’Wolves.

    • bozosforall - Dec 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      No need to ACCUSE you of Laker hatred…you demonstrate it here every single time you post. Better that you worr bout your own sorry team, given that they can’t even come lose to matching the Laker record in this millennium. Come back when your team shows the same recent success, jealousdumbthompson.

  4. warriors2533 - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    Wtf he is the worst gm in the world. They had phil Jackson on there fingertips and they choose mike dantoni I mean come on

    • mytthor - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Worst GM in the world. Yep. Builds championship teams. But you can’t judge the GM on that.

    • lakerfan4life - Dec 11, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      Hey, don’t blame that on Mitch! He’s just an employee like anybody else! That stupid decision was solely the call of Jimmy ‘the idiot’ Buss! Jimmy’s still trying to prove to his daddy that he’s smart enough to run the team… problem is he’s not! He’s an idiot.

      Everyone knows the call to hire Mike ‘No D’Antoni was all Jimmy Buss. He never liked Phil Jackson, and let his ego get in the way of common sense.

    • dko83 - Dec 12, 2012 at 2:05 AM

      Kahn just said.. “whoa whoa wait up.. don’t take my title away, I earned that!”

  5. mazblast - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    Stern wants the Lakers to have a high seed so they have an easier time getting to the locked-in Lakers-Heat “The Finals”, and whatever Little Caesar wants, he gets. His minions will make it so.

    • eventhorizon04 - Dec 11, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      ….Well, then Stern’s minions aren’t doing a great job so far, because the Lakers are on pace for a very low seed, behind Spurs, OKC, Clippers, Memphis, etc….

  6. loungefly74 - Dec 11, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    man….ya gotta think Gasol will be gone. i hate saying that but what other choice is there? drastic measures…

  7. bucs24 - Dec 11, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    Lakers won’t make playoffs

  8. jerdogthompson - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    Well pistolpete, last I checked the Lakers have Kobe, Pau and Howard that have been playing quite a few games together. Grant it Pau has been out for a couple games but……….compare that to Minnesota that only really has Love & Rubio or Dallas that really only has Dirk. In addition Rubio and Dirk will be back before Nash. That was my point.

    Don’t look now but Kobe has 31 midway through the 4th and the Lakers are 1-8 when he scores 30 or more this season. If they drop 3-4 of these road games you can just about start working the math to a point where’s its gonna be pretty close to mathematically impossible for them to make the playoffs assuming the teams ahead of them continue at the same pace.

  9. MyTeamsAllStink - Dec 11, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    The Lakers are about to lose to 4-17Cleveland.

  10. teedraper - Dec 11, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Should’ve hired Phil

  11. mogogo1 - Dec 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    This Cleveland loss says it all–everybody can score 100 on the Lakers. I tend to think they put things together enough to make the playoffs, but who knows right now. Nash and Gasol will help the offense, but not their D which is the main problem right now. And the talk about moving Gasol is sounding crazier by the day. They’re not going to get anywhere close to equal value for him and they can’t afford to lose the sort of depth his departure would mean.

    • mytthor - Dec 12, 2012 at 12:15 AM

      The idea that Nash won’t help the defense isn’t true. He will drastically cut down the turnovers which will cut down the transition baskets for the other team.

      As for losing Gasol, if they trade him, it should be for 2 or 3 decent players, so while it would dilute the talent in the starting lineup, it would actually help the depth, not hurt it.

      • mogogo1 - Dec 12, 2012 at 3:56 PM

        If they get that offer, they’ll take it in a heartbeat. But nobody is going to offer up 2 or 3 decent players for Gasol. A couple years ago, maybe. But now that he’s coming off injury and been ineffective even when healthy? No way. He’s not a guy you build a team around, he’s a complimentary piece for a team trying to get over the hump. Their best offer will be a one-for-one sort of deal for somebody else who has disappointed or a salary dump for a couple guys who can’t play any more.

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