Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told the Los Angeles Times that the team refuses to just “throw in the towel before the season begins.”
The Lakers lost Dwight Howard in free agency, waived Metta World Peace via the amnesty provision and signed free agents Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson this offseason.
Kupchak wasn’t surprised that Howard left L.A. to join the Houston Rockets.
“I had a feeling that Houston was a frontrunner, and whenever a player is an unrestricted free agent, anything can happen,” Kupchak said. “Clearly, we wanted to keep him here in Los Angeles, and I felt we did everything we could do within reason to show we did want to keep him here.
“Until the end, I kept up hope. I think we were as persistent as we could be within reason. I wasn’t shocked but I was disappointed.”
Still, Kupchak said the Lakers don’t plan to just tank next season for a high draft pick in 2014.
“You know that’s not our plan. Our plan was to bring back Dwight Howard and that would have sky-rocketed our payroll,” Kupchak said. “That’s never a plan here with our fan base, to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win, and that’s what we’re going to do this year.
“We have challenges. There’s no doubt. We don’t know when Kobe’s coming back, and we don’t know what level he’s going to come back at, although we’re optimistic. Everything’s good with Steve [Nash].Pau [Gasol] should be fine. We’ve added some athleticism. We’re hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game.”
The Lakers will have plenty of purchasing power next July when a host free agents become available – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Zach Randolph,Chris Bosh, Rudy Gay and Luol Deng.
“I’m not sure if you’ll see that Dwight Howard type of player go from team to team, although it is possible,” Kupchak said. “We do feel Los Angeles is a destination spot. We have complete confidence in the organization, the city, our fan base, that we would be considered as a destination for players in the future. So we’re hopeful going forward that the flexibility that we have will be beneficial.”
The Lakers begin training camp at the end of September. When the season opens in October, Bryant will be 35, while Nash will be 39.