Being Mitch Kupchak continued…
Is their a sixth and a half floor in the training facility in El Segundo? Because I know that a lot of us would love to take that elevator and pull the emergency stop button in between floors.
What do we as outsiders really know about Kupchak and the inner workings of the Laker front office? Here at Forum Blue and Gold we all try to keep our speculation to a minimum, and if we do speculate we try to do so in as logical a manner as fandom allows. So here’s some back storyâ€¦
Kupchak the Player…
Drafted 13th in 1976 by the then Washington Bullets, Kupchak was a solid college player who held records for consecutive double doubles (10), and, before Vince Carter’s arrival, was the last UNC player to average 10 boards a game. His college career includes one of the greatest of the games that fills the pantheon that is the UNC-Duke Rivalry.
But Kupchak’s pro career was a turbulent journey which saw him go through several mutations.
In his rookie year he played an integral part off the bench to help the third place finishing Bullets defeat the favored 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Sending them to the Finals against Dennis Johnson and the Lenny Wilkens led Seattle Supersonics, who themselves had finished fourth.
Kupchak helped turn around a deficit in a game 4 that the Bullets eventually lost, and he scored 19 points in game 6 to help force a game 7 that the Bullets would have to win on the road in Seattle. In that game 7 Kupchak had a three point play with less than 90 seconds to go, cementing the win and helping the franchise capture the trophy.
A clutch performance for a rookie and hinting that Kupchak could surpass the expectations placed on a 13th pick.
Kupchak would again have a chance to show his mettle the following year when the same two teams would meet again in the Finals. This time around it was the two teams with the best records meeting in the finals, but you can imagine it was still not a match-up that excited NBA brass.
Kupchakâ€™s role would be diminished as he only played in 8 out of the 19 playoff games, a step down from his previously impressive rookie accomplishments, and Seattle would go on to take the trophy for its one and only title.
Kupchak missed most of the 1980 season but returned to form and played all 82 games of the 1981 season.
It was in that off season that Kupchak was traded to the Lakers for Jim Chones, Brad Holland and draft picks.
Paraphrasing former Laker Eddie Jordan in Mr. Lazenby’s book The Show, it was Kupchakâ€™s plodding style that fueled the fire that would lead to Paul Westheadâ€™s firing. Westhead tried to institute post up plays for the cement shoed Kupchak as he was being left in the dust of the Laker fast break, and Westhead wanted to institute more half court offense to increase Kupchakâ€™s touches. Slow down the Showtime Lakers?
Buss would have none of it, and Westhead would be history.
What happened next to Kupchak, who did not come cheaply, is probably still vivid in most Laker fan’s minds.
Kupchak writhing on the floor under the basket after blowing out his knee in a game against the then San Diego Clippers.
This injury would open the door for the addition of Laker fan favorite Bob McAdoo to be brought in, and the Riley led Lakers would beat the 76ers for their second trophy in three years.
Kupchak would miss the next full season and return at the end of the â€˜84 season to bolster the bench. But his game had changed and had to be changed to match up against the rough and tumble style of the Boston Celtics.
Although the Lakers would fall to the Celtics in â€™84, the â€™85 playoffs would be one of redemption. That Laker team would be led to the â€˜chip by an emerging young forward also out of North Carolina, James Worthy. But unlike Kupchak, Worthy, the number one pick, could post up and run the break with gazelle like strides.
Kupchak would play a diminished but important role in helping Kareem, and with fellow bench mate McAdoo intimidate the bruising Celtic front court.
Were the expectations of a 13th pick fulfilled?
Is Kupchak the GM following in the footsteps of Kupchak the player?
A career in both realms that was expected to be solid but never stellar?
Or has Kupchak the GM turned into Kupchak the player in his latter post injury years? Simply running around doing the dirty work for the real starsâ€¦
Some news: Devean George is negotiating with the Dallas Mavericks to sign for the veteran’s minimum.