By Peter Gleason
Holy Wilt/West/Baylor/Kobe/Shaq and Phil!
The man who was stooge enough to have given an over the hill, broken down Kobe Bryant $48 million for two years has the audacity to criticize anyone else’s basketball business cred!
Ladies and gentleman, this is Mitch Kupchak, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, who has made such a mess of the once world class franchise that he has focused his frustration on the Sixers.
This season, the Lakers find themselves near the bottom of the standings, in the same company as the Sixers, another historic franchise that’s rebuilding.
However, the teams are taking very different paths that they hope will lead them back to contending status. The Lakers prefer acquiring top-flight talent through free agency and trades while the 76ers are trying to do so through the draft, specifically by constructing a non-competitive roster that gives them a poor enough record that could result in a high lottery pick.
The 76ers’ rebuilding approach is one of the most aggressive and controversial in professional sports — and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t appear to be much of a fan.
“I still don’t understand what they’re doing,” Kupchak said Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility, where the team conducted exit interviews after its 2014-15 season ended the day before.
Kupchak made his remarks when a reporter asked about the Lakers’ philosophy toward rebuilding and how it compared to, say, the 76ers, whose plan, while bold, appears rather clear for all to see.
“Can you explain it to me, if it’s so clear?” Kupchak asked, seemingly half-joking.
Kupchak told ESPN.com earlier this season that he’s very much against the idea of losing in order to ultimately land a top draft pick.
“Our feeling is, you can’t manipulate [the system],” Kupchak said last November. “It’s bad karma.”
The Lakers rarely find themselves in position to acquire promising players through the draft, as this May 19 will mark only their fourth draft lottery appearance since it was introduced in 1985.
But this past season, they clinched the league’s fourth-worst record and have a 37.9 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and an 11.9 percent chance of landing the top overall pick. However, if the Lakers fall out of the top five, their pick goes to the 76ers as part of the Steve Nash trade.
In regards to the Lakers’ philosophy for rebuilding, Kupchak said, “Our basic philosophy is to use the three tools available to us — that’s the ability to make a trade, the draft and cap room during the offseason. There’s no way to etch a plan in stone that you know you can execute. You don’t know who’s going to be in the draft and we don’t know which free agents are going to be free agents.
“A lot of them don’t have to declare until June 30. All you can do is set yourself up. We feel that we are set up to take advantage of all three of those ways to improve the team.”