EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – General manager Mitch Kupchak, signaling his agreement that the Lakers need significant changes after a decisive loss in the Western Conference semifinals for the second time in as many years, said Wednesday the front office will pursue trades more aggressively than in past years.
“Why not?” he said. “Sure. We went through it last year. Other than at the trade deadline, we didn’t do anything last year. But when you lose before you think you should have lost, you have to open up all opportunities.”
Speaking at his annual post-season press conference at team headquarters following two days of exit interviews with players, Kupchak made no attempt to gloss over the fact that the Lakers need to make adjustments and that being one of the better teams in the league is not acceptable.
“There’ll be some change,” he said less than two full days after the season ended with a 4-1 loss to the Thunder, nearly one year after being swept by the Mavericks in the same second round. “We’ve got a group of players that are free agents. As you know, Ramon (Sessions) has an option in his contract that he signed with Cleveland. He can extend it a year or he can opt out. I have no idea what he’s going to do. That could be an additional free agent. There will be quite a bit of activity July 1, looking at who we can bring back and dealing with the marketplace.”
Other frank comments from Kupchak as the Lakers head into the offseason after the jump:
- On what he told Pau Gasol during their exit interview at the conclusion to a very difficult season for him: “I wouldn’t share with you what I told him exactly. But that’s understandable. I don’t suspect that he’ll ever be the same based on what took place this year. I thought personally that he did the best anybody can do being professional and saying the right things, being a good teammate, having a really good season up until I met with him a couple hours ago. He’s the consummate teammate, the consummate professional. But what took place is hard for a player to deal with, and I’m sure there’s a little bit of trust that’s not quite the same.”
- On the state of the relationship with Gasol and Gasol’s future with the Lakers: “Our exit meeting with him was really good. I think he and I are on the same page. I have not met with ownership. I don’t know what direction the team is going to go, what the parameters will be going forward, so there wasn’t really anything additional to share with Pau or share with you people about what may take place between now and the draft or now and July 1 or post-July 1.”
- On whether the season would have turned out any different if the Lakers never traded Lamar Odom to the Mavericks: “Based on the way it played out, I’m not sure it would have been any better with us than it was with the team he went to. I don’t know what else to go by. Certainly if the events of that month (December) didn’t take place and there were no trade rumors, maybe it would have been different. He had a great year the year before. But I don’t know that. I thought, quite frankly, he would be in Dallas and I thought he’d have a great year and I thought he might come back to haunt us.”
- On whether the impact of the Paul trade crumbling at the last minute carried through the season: “I’m not going to look at what could have and make blame as to why we got beat in Game 5 of the second round. Certainly that period of time resulted in one of our players being moved, the Sixth Man of the Year (Odom), and another one of our players (Gasol), understandably so, had to deal with the uncertainty that surrounded his future in Los Angeles up until the trade deadline. That’s not the way you want to open a season that 10 days prior you found out there was going to be a season. … Every team had to deal with something. That certainly is not a reason why we got beat two nights ago.”
- On grading management’s performance: “We get graded on the success of the team. That’s how it is in this franchise. I know a lot of franchises are happy to get to the first round or advance beyond the first round. We certainly did no worse than we did a year ago, but we’re disappointed. That’s not how we grade ourselves, getting into the second round. We thought going into the season and even up until a week ago that we were one of three or four or five teams that could contend for a championship.”