Mitch Kupchak opened up about Dwight Howard, the Los Angeles Lakers Lakers' future, expectations for the franchise and Kobe Bryant for the first time since Howard's departure in an interview with Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan.
Kupchak was not surprised that Howard chose the Houston Rockets over the Lakers, stating he believed Houston was always the frontrunner to land the big man. He did reveal he felt the Lakers expressed to Howard they wanted him to stay and did everything they could "within reason" to keep the superstar center in Los Angeles.
Moving forward without Howard, Kupchak stated that the team had no intention to "throw in the towel" despite losing the center, and the franchise remains focused on competing. Kupchak is optimistic about the prospect of getting younger and more athletic on the perimeter with the additions of Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar while also adding Chris Kaman for a combined $6.5 million in salary.
That's less than the $7.7 million in salary the Lakers amnestied when they released Metta World Peace.
Kupchak had no expectation regarding Kobe Bryant's return timetable or the level he will return at but said the organization remains optimistic. He expects Bryant is making progress "probably weekly" and is doing what he "should" be doing to rehabilitate his Achilles tear.
Regarding the franchise's other two aging stars, Kupchak said Steve Nash visited the team's facilities last week and he is feeling in the "90th-percentile of where he wants to be." Pau Gasol is feeling better than he did before his two knee procedures to regenerate tissue and alleviate tendinitis-related pain and Kupchak believes he intends to play another three or four years.
The Lakers are not expected to attempt to get under the tax threshold, according to Kupchak, who told Bresnahan the team has not discussed that possibility as it would require trading "two higher-priced players." For now, Kupchak believes the Lakers are in a good position going forward with financial flexibility just one summer away, though acknowledged the process is unpredictable.
Be sure to check out the full interview from Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan here.
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