On Wednesday, a report surfaced that the Lakers were planning to make a run at Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who by all accounts is not long for Chicago. It seemed like the report originated from either the Bulls or from Thibodeau’s camp, trying to either drum up interest around the league or create a bidding war. Now, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has gone on record saying that, from his end, it’s just a rumor.
Kupchak went on Fox Sports Radio with host Bill Reiter (audio here) and addressed the rumors:
I saw something about that this morning, and my first thought was, ‘Let me call [Lakers coach] Byron [Scott] and let him know that the agents are doing their job, and pay no attention.’ Not that I think Byron reads any of that stuff, but someone may call him and say ‘Hey, guess what I just read?’ Nothing to it. We’re incredibly happy with Byron. That’s what representatives and agents do. They try to create a marketplace for their guy, and I’m not saying that’s exactly what happened here, but we’re very, very happy with Byron, and after I hang up with you I’m going to call him or text him.
That’s a pretty strong on-the-record denial from Kupchak. Not that the interest isn’t there for Thibodeau (the Lakers were reported to have interest in him last summer but were denied permission by the Bulls to interview him), but the timing might not be right for him to go to Los Angeles this summer. As long as he’s under contract in Chicago, the Bulls are going to demand compensation in the form of a draft pick from any team that wants to hire him. If the Bulls fire Thibodeau outright (unlikely, since he has two years left on his contract at about $4 million each), the Lakers could hire him, but it’s more likely that Thibodeau would just sit out a year at that point.
The two teams that have been most strongly linked to Thibodeau in recent months are Orlando and New Orleans, and it’s still most probable that he ends up taking one of those two jobs. The Lakers are an intriguing possibility, but it’s not really feasible for them to get him this year.