Questioning Mitch Kupchak’s Judgment

Mitch-on-phoneThe other day I offered my opinions and analysis after the trade deadline, now it is Kupchak’s turn. I have to say that despite all the bad times the Lakers have experienced over the last few years, I have never once questioned Mitch’s vision or judgment, until now. Reading this Q&A has left some serious doubts in my head, so lets dive in and look at the highlights:

On Expectations for the Season:

“I’m not gonna cry about injuries, but we were hopeful certainly that Kobe and Julius Randle would be able to play the full season, and that would be fun. I thought Julius would make us into a 60-win team”

That quote tells me that Mitch may have become a bit delusional. First of all, Julius was struggling in the pre-season. There were serious doubts about him being able to make the transition into the NBA. We see a lot of great draft picks flounder in the NBA, and it looked like Julius might be one of them. Second of all, Kobe is 36 years old coming off back-to-back career ending injuries, so the fact that Mitch thought he could play a full season is ridiculous. Kobe had battled injuries for years and has needed to sit out games. However, lets enter this beautiful imagination land and assume all the best-case scenarios. Lets assume for a moment that both Kobe and Julius were able to play a full season. Lets also pretend that Kobe was playing at his all-star best, and that Julius was on the verge of winning “Rookie of the Year.” Even if all those things happened, they still wouldn’t be a 60 game winning team. It is incredibly difficult to win that many games, and it would be nearly impossible to do that in this current western conference, especially with the remaining supporting cast.

On Magic Johnson’s Criticism:

(Recap: Magic recently took more shots at Jimmy for not listening to Mitch)

“I didn’t see all of Earvin’s comments. I have the same authority that I had with Dr. Buss. Jerry West had the same authority with Dr. Buss, and I’ve got that same authority with Jimmy. Jimmy and I work very closely together, and he does not make decisions in a vacuum. For some reason, he gets a lot of the criticism, and maybe that just comes along with a transition from an owner like Dr. Buss, but that’s not fair. Any decision or anything that’s happened in the last two or three years that people have a problem with, I was involved or leading the way. So, if there’s criticism, then it should then be directed at me as well. He is not making decisions in a vacuum. He and I work very closely together. And quite frankly, if it gets to the point where he and I don’t agree, I think he would defer to me, which is pretty much what Dr. Buss would do, although from time to time, Dr. Buss would say, ‘Well Mitch…’ or ‘Well Jerry, I hear you, but we’re gonna do this.’ But most of the time, Dr. Buss and Jimmy would defer to the basketball person.”

Well I believe that statement is half true. I believe he has the exact same authority that he had under Jerry that he now has under Jimmy. I believe that Mitch is allowed to pursue trades and deals, but not take any action without the owner’s approval. However, I believe the next step/statement is where everything falls apart. I do believe that Jerry mostly listened to Mitch, but I believe that Jimmy has simply stuck his head in the sand. Why do I believe that? Because we saw amazing deals happen and adjustments happen under Jerry, but with Jimmy we have seen nothing but consistently bad ideas.

Remember when we drafted Andrew Bynum? That was when Jerry was grooming Jimmy to take over. Jimmy was the one who decided to draft Andrew; despite the fact that we knew he was going to have knee issues. Then for years Jimmy refused to allow any trade talks to revolve around him. Kobe hated Andrew Bynum, but Jimmy stuck to his guns despite Kobe even threatening to leave the Lakers. That’s right he was so stubborn we almost lost our super star over him. Then remember that Chris Paul trade that was vetoed? Notice how we were going to ship out Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, aka 2 out of our big 3, but Andrew Bynum was conveniently staying put? The only reason we ever got rid of Andrew was because Mitch was able to convince Jerry in a moment of lucidity to swap him for Dwight Howard. Publicly Jimmy said that he supported that decision, but there have been rampant rumors that there was fighting over this deal.

Another moment that showed his absolute stubbornness at the detriment of the team: picking D’Antoni or Phil Jackson. Publicly, he has blamed that decision on his dead father, and his own sister shut him up and said that their father was way too sick to be involved in that discussion. I believe Jeannie since Jerry passed away shortly after. It is known publicly that Jimmy doesn’t like Phil and is intimidated by his knowledge. Smart leaders surround themselves with smart people that will challenge them. Remember Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” or JFK’s “Devils Advocate?” I remember listening to Charles Barkley criticize Michael Jordan as an owner because he went out to dinner with him before draft night, and realized that Michael had surrounded himself with all “Yes Men.” In the end the Bobcats ended up drafting Adam Morrison instead of Brandon Roy. Unfortunately, that appears to be what Jimmy wants too, despite what Mitch is saying publicly.

I do not blame Mitch for making those comments. The Lakers have an image problem and it doesn’t do him any good to throw his owner under the bus. That never works out for anyone (just ask Charlie Sheen). However, that will not stop people like Magic and me from pointing out the obvious.

Lakers Lacking in Trade Deadline Deals

My Dad and I enjoying a rare Lakers win on January 29th against the Bulls.

My Dad and I enjoying a rare Lakers win on January 29th against the Bulls.

Yesterday, as the clock struck noon in Los Angeles, our Lakers remained just as bad as they were at 11:59 am. This is because the Lakers failed to make a single move before the trade deadline. It amazes me that with so many teams putting players on the chopping block, we were unable to make a single trade.

Now you might be thinking, “The Lakers have no assets to trade, why would anyone make a deal with them?” While this is a good question (a question my father has asked me on multiple occasions) I will give you an answer. While we may not have a wide array of “good players” we do have a plethora of expiring contracts. Here are the list of players who will be free agents this summer: Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, and Ronnie Price.

When teams make a trade they want at least one of the following: good player, draft pick, cut in salary cap, and or expiring contract to elevate the cap for the following year. So while we are lacking in the first 3 options, we were certainly able to give up some of our players. It is OK that we don’t have a good player or draft pick to go along with it, because as we have seen of late in the NBA, 3 team trades have become very popular. This is not surprising since with the new CBA agreement, it is very difficult to hit any sort of trifecta trade without bringing in additional teams.

Instead of engaging in a 3 team trade to gain some assets going into the very competitive free agency market. We decided to stick with the game plan of using the Lakers brand to lure in free agents. As I write this, I want to scream into my pillow.

On Tuesday night, I read that we were the front runners to get Goran Dragic. For some reason this kid wanted to come and play for the Lakers. Instead of pouncing on the opportunity, we let the Heat snag him. Granted, he is going to be a free agent this summer so we can still pursue him, but it will be a much harder sell after going to a team being run by Pat Riley. The Heat might be re-discovering themselves right now, but they will not be down for long. (Side note: I would like to wish a speedy recovery to Chris Bosh who is currently ill with blood clots.)

Unfortunately, the Lakers failed to make any productive changes to entice the free agents. Now it is time to sit back, watch the rest of the season unfold and see if my rants about the Lakers game plan make it into my “Throwback Thursday: I Told You So” blog.

P.S. This blog was a bit of a downer. So to cheer you up I wanted to share this article my friend Joel sent me. Enjoy!