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.

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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!

Misery Loves Company

(Chris Carlson, AP)

Photo Credit: (Chris Carlson, AP)

We all know the saying, “Misery Loves Company.” I am assuming a lot of my fans still read my blog in this tumultuous season for that reason alone. However, today I do not want to talk about our misery. Instead, I want to talk about other teams’ misery, and how we can take advantage.

It’s the time of the season where the bad teams face reality and start making changes. We just saw the 3 team trade go down today between the Cavs, OKC, and Knicks. Now it is time to take advantage of everyone else who is also suffering and making some changes.

Byron Scott can monitor Kobe’s minutes and have him miss games, but let’s call a spade a spade, this season is done for the Lakers. I am not in favor of clearing out cap space, instead I want the Lakers to acquire some quality players so we have some good free agency bait.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, players are not going to come to the Lakers simply because we can afford them, we have the legacy, we have Kobe, and or LA is awesome. Those reasons don’t fly anymore. This generation of players want it all: the money, the city, and the championship. Right now we can only offer 2/3.

We have a lot of players with contracts that expire this year. Mitch/Jim did that on purpose so we would have cap space. Basically, they went with the Miami Heat strategy. Here is the problem with that strategy. Miami had Dwayne Wade rallying the troops to Miami. No matter how hard LeBron tried, Wade and Bosh refused to go Cleveland. There was brief talk about going to Chicago, but Wade and Bosh decided to force LeBron’s hand. Bosh was going to follow Wade wherever he went, but only Miami could afford to sign all 3. If Wade and Bosh decided to go Chicago, then LeBron would be a lose canon and probably would have gone back to Cleveland.

It was a brilliant strategy. One that I have no doubt Pat Riley played some role in, but my point is that we cannot play that game. Kobe (unlike the previously mentioned big 3) is not in the prime of his career. I can also mention the fact that many people seem to think playing with him is a nightmare, but I refuse to give that topic any more credence. Needless to say, he doesn’t hold the same stock as those players did 4.5 years ago.

Regardless, Jim Buss said the strategy is that we have enough money to sign 2 big free agents. I already discussed at length the stupidity of that statement, so here is my new strategy: Kobe needs to reach out to players and have them decide to pull a Wade-LeBron-Bosh move to come to LA. He needs to promise to mentor and then hand the team over. Basically, he needs to give them what he refused to give Dwight Howard.

Players do not want to gamble and see if big cities can turn it around. We have watched the Knicks struggle for years, much to Melo and Amare’s horror. Instead, players want to go to teams that have good building blocks so they won’t be stuck in purgatory for years (sound familiar?). Dwight Howard jumped ship because he hated playing for this team (D’Antoni and Kobe) and he could see the destructive path we were on. His move has obviously paid off since Houston is a contender in the west.

Luckily, we have a good amount of teams who will look to revamp their roster. The entire eastern conference (minus the top 4 teams) is a disaster. All those teams all crumbling and need to make changes if they ever want to compete with the west. Also, the west is so competitive that teams will look to add in the missing piece to take them to the next level. While the Lakers do not have anyone on the team to trade to fulfill that purpose, they do have assets they can trade to a third party in order to make that trade happen. Expiring contracts are useful and the Lakers are full of those.

My point, is that we have plenty of options. I am not going to sit here and give a list simply because there are so many directions to take this team. The Brooklyn Nets have put their entire team on the trading block, and players like Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo do not appear to be set in their new teams.

We have until the All Star break to make moves, and if we play our hand correctly, then we can put ourselves in a great position to acquire free agents. Or we can do what Jim wants, and simply sit back and do nothing while we all go down with the ship. Let’s see how this plays out.

 

P.S. We had 2 tragic loses in the NBA community this week: Stuart Scott and Mitch Kupchak’s 15 year old daughter Alina. I would like to send my condolences to both families. There are no words.

Rumor Has It

Rumors-Logo-Small1I wasn’t planning on writing a new post today, but then this article showed up on my Facebook newsfeed: http://www.lakersnation.com/lakers-rumors-team-willing-to-trade-draft-pick-for-kevin-love/2014/03/28/.

I feel it is very important that I go on the record about my feelings about this rumor. First off, I would like to say that this is only a rumor. There were also rumors that Kevin Love was going to come to the Lakers at the trade deadline and that did not happen. I was completely on board with us making a trade at that deadline, but I am not OK with this possible trade.

We are positioned to get a top 5 pick. That is rare in Lakers history, and this is a historic draft. I am not on board with us trading a potential superstar to another team so that we can rent Kevin Love for the year and then hope he stays. We tried that already, remember how that turned out?

I will admit that I supported the Dwight Howard trade, but those assets we traded for him were not nearly as valuable. Also, he was demanding a trade for a year, so Orlando was unlikely to let him reach free agency. Unlike with Dwight Howard, there is a very real possibility that Kevin Love becomes a free agent and or stays with Minnesota.

The Lakers have the opportunity to get an all star two summers in a row (hello new big 3). Instead upper management feels pressured by Kobe. Seriously? NOW they feel pressured? This is not the first time Kobe has expressed his opinions about the management, and there are easier ways to appease him.

One of my lessons my teacher taught me in Negotiations, is to find the things that cost you nothing, but mean a lot to the other party. Kobe was not just complaining about the record. He was complaining about D’Antoni, not being consulted on major moves, and transparency. Those problems are very easy to fix.

First off, fire D’Antoni this summer, which it appears that the Lakers already plan to do. Next, apologize to Bryant for not giving him a heads up about trading Steve Blake. While Kobe shouldn’t have a definite vote on players, he should at least be made aware of the trades before it hits the media. Next, organize regular meetings with him to discuss the status upstairs. That will also help with the transparency issue. Lastly, develop a relationship with Kobe. Dr. Buss was famous for taking his players out to dinner, especially Magic, but Jim has not done this with any of the players. Jim needs to have a better relationship with his superstar. This will make Kobe feel appreciated (with his ego, $50 million only goes so far), and it will decrease the likelihood of Kobe lashing out in the media.

If the Lakers take those steps, I guarantee that they will see a much happier Mamba. I understand that Kobe will not be “happy” unless they are winning, but if you keep him involved in the process and explain the path, he will be more patient.

Trading the potential new face of the Lakers is a huge mistake. I personally believe that Kevin Love will be sporting the purple and gold. However, I also felt that way about Dwight Howard which just goes to show that you shouldn’t gamble on something unless you are prepared to lose.

 

Where is the Love?

I Love LA

It has been less than one week since Valentines Day. It is known as the national day of love for people in a relationship, or Singles Awareness Day for those who are not. Since the nation celebrated love (or resented those that did), there has been no love lost in Lakerville. Here is a recap of what has happened since the All Star Break: we traded Steve Blake, trade rumors have swirled regarding Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, and Jordan Hill, and the Lakers fans expressed their love by heckling ex-Laker D12.

I will take this blog in order and start with Steve Blake. I have mixed emotions on this move. On the one hand he has a decent sized contract and this move saves us money. He has also battled injuries and is streaky. However, the Lakers are lacking in the point guard position and he has been an overall bright spot this year. Going off of that point though, if I maintain that the Lakers need to lose this season, then trading him was probably a positive step. Either way Steve Blake is a class act and I wish him nothing but the best.

Moving on, I will discuss the trades that have not happened yet. The trade deadline will strike at midnight so the Lakers have only a matter of hours to make any last minute moves. Speaking of love, the rumor mill has been spinning with the possibility of Kevin Love coming to the Lakers. I have been very adamant about the Lakers making a play for Mr. Kevin Love. He grew up in Santa Monica and went to UCLA. He seems prime to come and I think he would be a good fit. However, he pointed out that Minnesota currently has a better team than the Lakers. I can respect Kevin for being classy and not wanting to act like some other stars and demand a trade. He is still a Timberwolf and needs to show loyalty while he plays for that team. Kevin is telling the truth, the Lakers are a bad team this year. However, we have a history of quickly bouncing back and he has been unhappy in Minnesota. I mean who wouldn’t be unhappy in Minnesota, have you seen that weather? It must be especially tough for a guy who was born and raised in beautiful Santa Monica. I believe Kevin will one day don the purple and gold, but I doubt that day is today. It seems more likely that he will be traded in the off season, which is all the more reason to rack up those draft picks.

Time to talk about my two Lakers that may or may not be wearing the uniform tomorrow: Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. Pau has been the subject of trade rumors for years, and was even traded. He is a free agent and will leave us in the off season, and he should. The Lakers have not treated him well. This man is an all star and we have put him on the trading block every year. I understand that this is a business but they need to draw a line and either keep him or trade him. It is unfair to him to dangle him like bait every year and it reflects poorly on the Lakers. I love Pau and will miss him when he leaves, but since he will leave this summer, we should at least try to get something in return.

I believe Pau should be traded, but I am not sure about Jordan Hill. Again, I love Jordan and his energy. I am skeptical of any trade. However, I will defer to Mitch on this subject because Jordan is a role player.

Lastly, I want to talk about Dwight Howard. Full disclosure: I watched the first half of the game last night and then went to bed. It was a miserable game and I had no desire to stay up late watching Dwight’s highlight reel. I understand the Lakers fans are pissed that Dwight left us high and dry, but it is time to let it go. He didn’t do us any favors when he was playing for the Lakers and I understand he is putting up better numbers this year, but I still believe he never would have been able to produce them for us. He could not handle the lime light and pressure that comes with playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now he plays on a team with James Harden and Jeremy Lin. He needed to hide in the shadows of other players in a smaller market. We need a player like Magic, Kobe, and Shaq who not only embraces the pressure, but loves it.

I was disappointed to see how much we heckled him. Get your boos out in the beginning and then let it go. We are better off without him. Time to say good riddance and move on to Love.

Unlucky Number 7

Seven Consecutive Losses at Home

Seven Consecutive Losses at Home

In Vegas they say “Lucky Number 7.” As someone who just lost $20 in Vegas due to people rolling 7s (and whose brother Adam lost $100), I am going to say that number is not so lucky. It is definitely not for the Lakers who just made history for all the wrong reasons.

After blowing the OKC game, the Lakers set a franchise record. They have just lost 7 consecutive home games. They originally made history when they lost 6 because no Lakers team had lost that many consecutive games at Staples Center. Then they had to make matters worse by teasing us with a possible win.

They lead the game for 3.5 quarters. It was all Lakers. I was actually enjoying the game. Then the Lakers fell apart as Durant got hot. It was painful, mostly because I hate losing but also because I am recovering from the flu and can’t believe I actually stayed awake to watch that crap.

Mitch came out today and said that he could not throw games just to get a bad record and a great draft pick. After tonight I realized that he doesn’t need to, because the Lakers are incapable of closing out games. We will keep losing regardless of what moves he makes at the deadline. With that uplifting note, enjoy the All Star Weekend in my current city and check back in later to see if Pau is still wearing the purple and gold.