The Los Angeles Lakers have been extremely busy this offseason trying to retool their roster for another championship run. The biggest move has been the addition of Steve Nash but LA might not be done yet. As the Dwight Howard rumors continue to sweep through the NBA, the Lakers are right at the center of them all. Los Angeles has the assets to pull off a deal with Orlando, but it would have to center on seven foot, 24-year-old big man Andrew Bynum.
With the moves they made this offseason the Lakers can already be viewed as a title contender but an addition of Dwight Howard could have a lasting impact in Los Angeles as Kobe Bryant wont be in the purple and gold forever.
Mitch Kupchak joined ESPN in New York with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco to talk about the relationship between the Lakers and Andrew Bynum, if he thinks Andrew Bynum would like to stay in Los Angeles beyond this season, if he thinks he has a clear idea of what the Magic want to do when it comes to Dwight Howard and how he feels about the addition of Steve Nash.
On the relationship between the team and Andrew Bynum:
“I think we’re fine. I’ve had continued dialogue with his representative David Lee for the last two or three months but taking a step back and looking at the big picture when we have won championships and we’ve ended the season on a really positive note our position has always been there’s not much you’re going to read about our team during the offseason because we performed well in the prior season. Our position has always been, if we lose and we lose early and don’t play well all bets are off. The only player that can’t be considered for a trade on our team is Kobe (Bryant). He has a no-trade clause in his contract so our guys kind of understand the pressures that come along with playing in Los Angeles. Andrew has been through some of the rigors of the last month or so but Stephen you can go back to Lamar (Odom) and you can go back to Pau Gasol and they certainly haven’t been given a free ticket here in the past six or seven months. That’s just part of what it is here. When we lose we’re looking to improve the team and everybody’s name is open for discussion.”
If he thinks Andrew Bynum would like to stay in Los Angeles beyond this season:
“My understanding is that he enjoys living in Los Angeles and would love to continue his career as a Laker. It’s rare when a player says they don’t want to play in Los Angeles but it has happened. I don’t expect it to happen. I think first and foremost our organization is committed to continuing to try to win. On top of that the present rules allow us to extend an extra year which on a max contract is a huge number and then we’re also allowed to give bigger raises per season so there’s a lot that is there that I think would indicate that a player would want to stay here but a player can also decide to play out his option and become a free agent.”
If he is surprised when he hears or reads reports that Dwight Howard would not re-sign with the Lakers:
“It’s not surprising at all. You’re right I can’t comment on other teams players and Andrew is a little bit different in there is not a lot that bothers him and he’s got a life off the court that he’s kind of involved in. A big part of that is working out and getting ready for the upcoming season but he’s a bright, intelligent kid and he’s got outside interests that I’m sure in his mind he can continue wherever he is. When we drafted him at 17 he’s embraced this organization and I know he wants his jersey up. I’m looking outside my window into our practice facility and there is (Elgin) Baylor, (Wilt) Chamberlain, (Jerry) West, (Kareem Abdul) Jabbar, (Gail) Goodrich, (Magic) Johnson and (James) Worthy and we’ve talked many times about him having his jersey up on that wall. We’re going to have Silk Jamaal Wilkes, Kobe and Shaq (O’Neal) are going to be up there and he wants his up there too so I think that’s his mindset, but he is continuing to grow as a kid. He’s a young man now, he’s no longer a kid and he’s going to continue to grow. He had a great year, maybe said or did a couple of things that looking back on it he may change but I’m not that concerned about that.”
If he has a clear idea of what way Orlando wants to proceed with things:
How he feels about the acquisition of Steve Nash:
“Never thought we would have the opportunity to get him. July 1st, which is the first day of free agency, you always make the list of guys you call at 12:01 which is 9:01 our time and I’m sitting in my office with Jim Buss and we keep on reminding each other, don’t forget to call Steve. I always kind of say ‘well you know the chances of something like that happening are really very, very low’ and I said ‘we don’t have the money in terms of being a free agent and if you did a sign and trade then Phoenix would have to cooperate’ so we really didn’t think it was a viable option but we made the phone call and ironically enough I’m talking to Bill Duffy who is his representative at like 9:03 and we’re talking about Jordan Hill and Steve Nash and then Bill Says to me ‘Mitch would you like to talk to Steve’ and I said ‘yeah.’ Then he handed the phone to Steve and two days later Steve called and said ‘I’d love to be a Laker’ and then that started the whole thing in motion with Phoenix which had a lot of twists and turns and there were moments where I didn’t think there was going to be a deal there but we ended up giving up a lot of assets which is what I think they needed and they did the right thing for their player and they also did the right thing for their organization. They got a bunch of assets that are going to help them in the future.”
If he has a problem with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol playing in the Olympics:
“Most years we don’t even remember and it’s hard for me to remember but I played on a team in 1976 in Montreal. It’s impossible for me to think of nothing but good things when it comes to being on an Olympic team but certainly the injury part of it and the fatigue part of it is there, but to think you can deprive a player or ask a player not to support their country whether it’s Pau or Kobe that’s just, there’s no patriotism there and it’s just not realistic. It’s such a great experience to look back on and I know that’s how Kobe feels and I know that’s how Pau feels.”