Mitch Kupchak: Kobe won’t play a certain way to lure free agents to Lakers

20 Comments

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak knows Kobe Bryant professionally as well as anyone at this point, considering that he’s been in the team’s front office for every one of Bryant’s 17-year career in Los Angeles.

So while Bryant’s will to win is unparalleled in today’s NBA, Kupchak knows that he won’t change his game for anyone — especially potential stars looking to Los Angeles as a potential destination in free agency next summer.

Simply put, Bryant is not going to showcase a certain, more appealing style of play in hopes that it may entice free agents to sign up to play by his side.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

“Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles,” Kupchak said Wednesday, addressing the press in advance on Saturday’s media day. “He’s going to play to try to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. But trust me, in January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.”

The Lakers have a massive amount of cap space stored for the summer of 2014 when they figure to be major players on the free agency market.

It would seem obvious that players looking to play in a large market with the chance to win would want to team up with Bryant, but there are additional details that make the situation less simple.

The reason that this would even be a question is because of the way things unfolded last season, when Dwight Howard made it very clear that he didn’t enjoy his time playing with Bryant and the Lakers.

When L.A. is loaded with talent, there are championship expectations. Not all players thrive in that situation, and not all players want to play second fiddle to Bryant on the offensive end of the floor.

There will come a time very soon that Kobe may need to relinquish some of his offensive responsibilities for the betterment of the team, and in order to make younger free agents more readily consider the Lakers as a long-term career option.

But that time doesn’t appear to be upon us just yet, and Kupchak is aware of that perhaps more than anyone else.

“I do expect when he does come back, and if he’s thinking a certain way, and we’re down by two or three, the Kobe we all know and love is going to take the last shot,” Kupchak said. “I do know that.”

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

1 Comment

Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Leave a comment

Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
8 Comments

Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.