Town Hall Meeting

 —  April 14, 2005

Mitch Kupchak stood on the firing line in front of about 350 season ticket holders last night at Staples Center and took — and dodged — questions for about an hour. As I said before I had a friend/spy at the event (who wished to remain nameless, so he will heretofore be referred to as “trench coat”) who passed along highlights from the event. (Attendees also got a tour of the locker room and free hot dogs.)

Mitch wanted to make the theme of the night that the Lakers were about winning championships and that the team was going to return to that. He said he accepted that responsibility.

For the fans, the theme of the night was “Why did you trade Shaq?” (Well, that and “Why are ticket prices so high?”) Trench coat said the Shaq question came up a lot in a lot of different ways (and often as part of long rants). Mitch’s answer was that it was Shaq who forced the Lakers hand by demanding an extension that would have strapped the Lakers against the cap/luxury tax, throwing out some numbers in the process. Mitch said he had talked to Shaq for more than a year about a better extension but could get no middle ground. Fans were having none of it — Mitch took a verbal beating.

When it came time to trade Shaq, there weren’t many offers, he said. He said he did ask for Dwyane Wade. As for Phil Jackson leaving, the decision to part ways was made well before the season ended, Mitch said.

While many in attendance talked about the past, I asked trench coat what Mitch said about the future.

The top priority is to get a coach in place and then make player decisions based on that (very good to hear). He said several times that there is no blue print on how to this rebuilding process would be done (not as good to hear).

While fans were eager to talk about specific players — both current and potential — Mitch did his best to avoid all of that. He did say that Chucky Atkins was not an ideal starting point guard and that the team needed to upgrade at the point and inside.

As for Sasha not playing, Mitch said that was a coaches decision and he had stayed out of it.

About the draft, he said the decision that needs to be made as to whether to get someone who can play now or draft a younger, project player. Specifically he said there was one high school player this year that he wants to see in a Laker uniform in three years, someone who could be a big star.

The one thing that worried me from trench coat’s report was this this high schooler idea. The consensus leading high school player is Gerald Green out of Houston who is 6-8, 200 pounds and is projected to play the two or three. He is expected to be around when the Lakers draft. No doubt he’s got some skills (and a 40-inch vertical) averaging 29 points a game and shining in high school all-star events. But he also is skinny and the book on him is he tends to settle for jumpers instead of driving to the hole. He’s a project.

Is what the Lakers need a project perimeter player? I hope that Mitch is not leaning that way (or was knowing this would get on the Web here and at other sites with recaps and wanted to create a diversion). I’m not sure they Lakers are going to get a real impact player in the draft (unless they get very lucky in the lottery) but we don’t need a three-year project at the end of the bench soaking up first-round money.

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