Lakers GM cautiously optimistic (cont.)
SI.com: But where do you stand when it comes to the question of how much he has left?
Kupchak: Well, he doesn't have to carry the load here, and that makes a big difference. He won't be the focal point for opposing coaches defensively. We won't ask him to -- he won't feel -- the pressure to score. He's never been the best athlete on the court. He's always been one of the better athletes on the court, so a function or a combination of all that and the way his mind has progressed in the game and how he thinks the game [will help].
Chronologically, yeah, he's one of the oldest players in the league. But we're not concerned that he's got two or three good years left in him. He's figured out how to maintain his health with years of experience. He's gotten cuts and bruises and sprains, and he's always had the little back thing that has bothered him, but he's figured out a way to have his maintenance get him through the season. And then I think most of all is the energy. He'll feel rejuvenated. The last year or two it probably got tough for him to get through the season. Just the load he had to carry, and maybe feeling like they didn't have a chance to contend -- although they could probably make the playoffs, which is motivation for a lot of people. But having a chance to win a championship, mentally he'll be fresh and that will make a difference.
SI.com: Can you update Dwight's status? How is his back coming along?
Kupchak: We had the doctors and the back people obviously examine him and he's on track. He should recover completely. Certainly, we're not going to rush him to play in the first practice or the first preseason game or the first game. It's going to be when he feels and when our people feel he's completely recovered. But our understanding of the rehabilitation is that he's on track to a complete recovery.
SI.com: Any sense of a timeline? Is the regular-season opener still a possibility?
Kupchak: We haven't had those kinds of discussions. There's no need for anybody to set a timeline right now, but we're comfortable with his work and where he'll be.
SI.com: I'm sure you heard he's been posting on Twitter some pretty positive comments about being with the Lakers. It's the kind of stuff that has your fans feeling like this may be a long-term relationship. Have you gotten any more of a sense from him about whether he's liking the thought of being a Laker past this season, the last season of his contract?
Kupchak: Other than our initial press conference -- that was very hurried -- I have not spent much time with him. I really only know what I hear, and a lot gets back to me from people who bump into him or people that he knows, and certainly reading newspapers or if there's a report from Twitter I hear about it. And it's all been very positive. Our feeling all along has been to just get him here and we're comfortable that after being in Los Angeles for a year, hopefully winning a lot of games, contending for a championship, being exposed to our fan base -- which, quite frankly, goes way beyond Southern California. We go into New York or Charlotte or Utah or Phoenix, and there are always two or three thousand fans there wearing Lakers gear. I just think that he'll feel that this is a special place, that the lifestyle will suit him. It's a big enough town where you can't be the sole celebrity, but there are so many Lakers fans here that you don't lose your celebrity. You can still feel special in a city this big. That's our approach, and a year from now we'll see where we stand.
SI.com: I know it was a little premature since you haven't formalized a deal with Eddie Jordan as an assistant coach, but I chatted with Pete Carril about the Princeton offense recently and how it might work with your team. Along those lines, how do you see Dwight and Kobe fitting together?
Kupchak: They're going to be just fine. I mean, Dwight's the future, and Kobe and Steve and Metta and Pau, they're the present. There shouldn't be any problem. Pau can play anywhere for anybody, Steve and Kobe, all they want to do is win. And Metta is completely comfortable being a complementary player. If he gets eight to 10 points a game and is a great defender and wins, he's so happy. So I've got no problems thinking that these guys can work it out and play together. When the clock gets short, Kobe will end up with the ball in his hands and Steve, regardless of the offense we play, will control the pace. We're not talking about introducing a new offense to a young, unproven team. It's a veteran group, and they'll figure out how to do it.
SI.com: You made some additions to the bench, too. How are you feeling about that unit now?
Kupchak: With trading Lamar [Odom] last year, our bench was not as good as it could have been. Adding Antawn Jamison and signing back Jordan Hill, and then in the [Howard] trade Chris Duhon and [Earl] Clark came aboard. Then we added a shooter in Jodie Meeks, who I think can do more than just shoot the ball. But if there's one thing he can do, he's got a great knack for making shots and he has to be guarded. I think we've improved our bench in a complementary fashion. But once again, going back to how we started this conversation, it's on paper and we'll know a year from now.
SI.com: How should people perceive Coach Brown in terms of his standing with the organization and the pressure that comes with these huge changes?
Kupchak: Mike and I have had a lot of conversations about how we're all judged. And we're judged on winning. He knows it. I know it. He knew it before he took the job, and that's just the way it is here. We're very, very happy that he's here. We know it's a tough job following in Phil Jackson's footsteps. No coaching staff I've ever been around works harder than he or his staff, and that's all you can ask. He's had great success as a coach. He's a joy to be around, and a joy to work with, and I'm hopeful that we can work together for many years. But at the end of the day, we get judged on winning, and that's how he'll be judged.
SI.com: It was reported in January that you were thinking about either leaving the Lakers or retiring, just after everything went down with the Chris Paul situation. Did it get frustrating enough that you were thinking about other options?
Kupchak: Nothing to it.
SI.com: Nothing to it?
Kupchak: Nope, nothing to it. I suppose at sometime I'll look toward retirement. But I've got a great job in a great city with a great organization. Nothing to it.
SI.com: Nonetheless, is it safe to assume there's a re-energizing effect because of the deals you completed this summer and how you feel about the job?
Kupchak: I'm always kind of energized as the season approaches. It's tough to work your way through May, June and July and August, but we always seem to get something accomplished. Going into September and October, the juices kick in and you're ready to go.
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