The Los Angeles Lakers may be coming off of the worst campaign in the history of the franchise, but hope is in the air in Southern California. The team has a promising core of young players, which they could add to in the NBA draft in June and free agency in July. The Lakers also recently hired Luke Walton as head coach of the team after parting ways with Byron Scott, a move general manager Mitch Kupchak seemed happy about during an interview with Chris McGee of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet on Thursday, (h/t Gary Kester of Lakers Outsiders)
Kupchak cited that while Walton's time under head coaches ranging from Lute Olson and Phil Jackson to Byron Scott and Steve Kerr have given him "varied levels of interests and experiences to fall back on," it was his time with Kerr which would most influence how the team would play next season.
"Based on our conversation up in Oakland last week he wanted to play as close to the style of basketball that they play in Golden State as possible, and he looked at our players and felt that was the best match," said Kupchak. "Now it's up to us as management to continue to provide him with complimentary players and players that are better than the players we had the year before, because we want to get better."
Kupchak sounded optimistic that some of the Lakers' improvement would come internally as well.
"Our players are going to get better, the ones we have," said Kupchak. "And I think, even if we don't improve the team, which certainly we intend to do, and you just add marginal talent, I think we'll be better."
However, Kupchak also understands that his young core of players like D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance, Jr. making individual strides won't be enough for the team to improve significantly, but that isn't the team's primary goal.
"The number one challenge this offseason is to improve the talent level," declared Kupchak. "I'd like to get to the point where our team plays exciting basketball and there's growth. Not so much day to day, but week to week, and as the season goes on you build some excitement and hope for the future.
"Now, a lot depends on the players that we bring in this summer if we are lucky enough to bring in players," Kupchak continued. "Maybe we can contend for a playoff spot, and maybe we can do much better than that. But I do want to get to the point where we feel our team is fun to watch, exciting to watch, and people say 'you know something, that team is going to be even better next year.'"
Still, the Lakers general manager knows the team isn't quite there yet.
"Right now our talent level is not good enough to contend for a playoff position, it's just not," admitted Kupchak, and judging by the sound of his comments, that's not a goal the team is willing to mortgage the future for.
Kupchak speaking about wanting to get better this offseason while still saying that the team's primary goal is week to week improvement is a promising sign for those worried that Jim Buss' self-imposed deadline to return the team to contention or step down would lead the Lakers to make shortsighted moves in a desperate attempt to make the postseason. Based on this interview and the measured goals being publicly stated, it would appear that is not something Lakers fans have to worry about.
All quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable Sportsnet. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.