The Los Angeles Lakers are always one of the NBA's most potent teams, ready to strike at potential players who could guide the squad to success. But Mitch Kupchak sounded downright patient in an interview with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, citing his squad's need to wait it out to find elite players who can return the squad to championship contention.
Kupchak said the team wouldn't "throw in the towel" before the beginning of next year, but there isn't a whole ton it can do in the imminent future due to the league's salary cap. That said, the team only has $10.6 million in contract commitments the year after this one. That gives the club a lot of flexibility when trying to figure out where to spend its money, as its general manager noted:
"You have to look beyond next year. You can't say we have all this flexibility and we're going to use it all next year," Kupchak said. "You don't know if you're going to use it for a free agent or a trade or to sign back Pau or Kobe. We're in the position where we can sit down at the end of the year and look and see what's best for the organization. We're in control, so to speak."
Kupchak remained optimistic about Kobe Bryant's return from injury, even if the exact timing was uncertain:
"Does that mean five months is possible or it's really going to be eight or nine or 10? We just don't know. When he gets back in September, we'll take another look at him, but he hasn't been on a basketball court. It's really premature to try to predict other than try to be optimistic that he'll be ready for opening night or the 15th of November or the 1st of December or the 15th of December."
Kupchak's dueling statements of confidence about the team's talent next year and his uncertainty over his best player's return don't necessarily mesh, but since he can't openly admit the team might not be much good next year, there's really not that much he can say.
In his first interview since Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets, Kupchak said he "kept up hope" the superstar center would sign with his squad, but wasn't shocked he didn't choose to remain in Los Angeles, and was disappointed his team didn't end up on top.