Sports Out West

Mitch Kupchak cites uncertainty surrounding Lakers’ aging stars

Photo by Mark J. Terrill

In an interview with Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio’s “The Herd” on Thursday, there was a bit of uncertainty coming from the Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak about this year’s team.

 Kupchak’s gauge of the organization stems from the health situations of the franchise’s three star players who are all seemingly recovering from injuries. 
 
“The primary weakness is uncertainty. I don’t think that’s a secret to anybody,” Kupchak said during the interivew.”Our best player, one of the best players ever to play the game, is recovering from an Achilles tendon tear and one of the other all-time best, Steve Nash, ended the season injured.”
 
Nash is working his way back from a hip injury that derailed him for the tail end of last season. The team’s other two star players in Kobe Bryant, who had surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon, and Pau Gasol, who had surgery to treat tendonitis in both of his knees, are each in the rehab process in their recovery. 
 
“Steve, to my understanding, is close to 100 percent, but he’s not as young as he once was and Kobe’s a big question mark,” Kupchak said.”We’re very optimistic, he’s getting treatment every day, he’s in the facility right now, but he hasn’t been on a basketball court. Uncertainty going forward, I guess with our health status would be the biggest question mark.”
 
Kupchak in Thursday’s interview also said that there have yet to be talks of an extension with the 17-year veteran but he has not ruled out that possibility.
 
“There really has been no discussions beyond next year for obvious reasons,” Kupchak said. “You have a player who is up in age and just had a devastating injury. Obviously, we created an environment with our team where were looking to have financial flexibility a year from now, so that plays into it.”
 
He also shed light on the possibility of re-signing Gasol, whose contract with the team also expires after this upcoming season.
 
“We’re in a cycle,” Kupchak said. “We’re hopeful that within a year from now, we’ll have enough flexibility. We’re hopeful that Pau and Kobe can continue to play and we’ll have options to rebuild the team.”
 
In the summer of 2014, the Lakers will have about $50 million in cap space room due to the fact the organization will only have Nash, guard Nick Young and center Robert Sacre still under contract.  This will allow the team to rebuild through a free agent class that will likely feature LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins.
 
In a interview last week with ESPNLA 710 Radio, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss discussed her aspirations of Bryant remaining a Laker for rest of his NBA career and also advised the 15-time All-Star not to press in his return from the injury until he was fully recovered.
 
“Kobe is part of the Laker family and he always will be,” Buss said. “There’s not many players who play 18-19 years with the same franchise, and it’s important to us that he has a chance to play his entire career with the Lakers.
 

“I want Kobe to take the time that he needs to get healthy. I don’t want to see him come back any sooner than when he’s ready, and I know he’ll know when that is. There’s no reason for him to do anything that compromises his health.”

 

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.

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