LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to extend the contract of longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The news came during the fourth quarter of a 145-130 blowout loss at the hands of the Houston Rockets and comes as no surprise given his track record of success, despite the Lakers’ recent struggles.
Kupchak, once a de facto apprentice under former general manager and Laker great Jerry West, was the orchestrator of several moves that led the Lakers to prominence in recent years with titles in 2009 and 2010. Most notably, he made the trade for Pau Gasol with the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie in addition to draft picks.
In addition, the infamous blocked trade that would have sent Chris Paul across the hall to the Lakers took place under Kupchak’s watch, and had it gone through would likely have been a transition vaulting the Lakers to more years of perennial title contention.
But it wasn’t to be per David Stern, and the Lakers are in the midst of an abysmal season where there is more uncertainty than promise.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni is on the hot seat after a franchise-worst season, and superstar Kobe Bryant missed all but six games of the regular season during a forgettable 2013-14 campaign.
Despite all of the chaos, the move to retain Kupchak has to be a welcome one for Lakers fans and a sign of much-needed stability.
There’s a lot of speculation that D’Antoni is on his way out, and earlier in the week, a report from Rex Chapman of all people stated that current University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari was the head coach to replace him.
Kupchak refuted that claim and said that no decision on D’Antoni had been made, nor were the rumors about Calipari having a deal in principle with the Lakers true. Historically, Kupchak has been forthcoming with the media, so there’s no reason to believe anything other than what he says.
Retaining Kupchak, who was a three-time champion as a player, twice with the Lakers, was clearly a priority for top executive Jim Buss, who has been steadfast in his ways of staying the course since the passing of his father, Dr. Jerry Buss.
With the extension, Kupchak will oversee a new era where the Lakers no longer hold the same aura about them as they once did in the Showtime Era.
Superstar Dwight Howard left town for less money to play with the Rockets; that was indicative of the dismal state of affairs that exists in Laker-land and that the landscape of the NBA has changed dramatically.
Players used to come to Los Angeles to play in Hollywood–now the biggest name of last offseason left for less money. Things won’t be the same ever again.
But if there’s one executive up for the task of figuring out how to mitigate all of those challenges and usher in the post-Bryant era, it’s Kupchak. That’s why the Lakers made the right choice in extending him.
If he’s able to do his job freely, the Lakers will be in good hands with sound leadership for the foreseeable future.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Reed Saxon
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