From Kevin Ding, Bleacher Report: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak addressed the media Wednesday in advance of Mike D’Antoni opening his first Lakers training camp Saturday, and the strongest statement Kupchak made was in pushing his one element of continuity. Kupchak wouldn’t specify when, but he expressed confidence Bryant will return without any hint of injury—and still be “the Kobe that we know and love” who is unwavering about shooting with the game on the line. Kupchak returned to referring comfortably to Bryant as the Lakers’ “best player.” As for the future, Kupchak again accented the continuity. “Kobe has made it clear that he intends to retire in a Lakers uniform,” Kupchak said. “And I know as an organization, we feel the same way.” Bryant will likely accept a substantial pay cut after this season as he looks to position the Lakers for impact free-agent signings in 2014 or ’15. But Kupchak has been consistently on record as saying it’s far more difficult to bring star players in than keep star players you already have. “The rules have been created where it’s going to be tough to get players to move,” he said Wednesday. “It really is.”
From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Pau Gasol has returned to Los Angeles after spending the summer in his native Spain. The veteran forward/center has been sidelined since May, recovering from procedures to alleviate tendinosis in both knees. Just recently he resumed basketball activities after a lengthy period just on the treadmill, in the weight room or pool. Gasol visited with Dr. Steve Yoon of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic on Thursday for a checkup. Apparently the results were favorable.
From Dave Mcmenamin, ESPN: The Lakers, meanwhile, are taking their time in opening up contract extension talks with Bryant until they can see what type of player he will be when he comes back. Bryant is in the final year of his current deal, which will pay him $30.45 million. “There have been no contract extension talks,” Kupchak said. “I would suspect that at some point this season we’ll sit down. Whether it’s Kobe and I or Kobe and his representative, Rob Pelinka, and talk about a road map for the future. But Kobe has made it clear that he intends to retire in a Laker uniform, and I know as an organization we feel the same way.” Kupchak said that waiting on the extension also benefits Bryant, who can use the time to determine how much he has left as a player. “If you think for a second if Kobe can’t play at a high level, or up to his expectations, that he wants to continue to play, I don’t think that’s in his DNA,” Kupchak said. “So, I think it makes sense for him and for us to get him back on the court and to get a feel or a gauge of how much longer he wants to play and at what level.”
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: We know Kobe Bryant isn’t going to be ready to go at the start of training camp — he has yet to fully run on a treadmill at 100 percent, let alone get on the court and make cuts or do other basketball moves. Team officials dodge the timeline question but are understandably cautious. Kobe says he thinks he will be ready to go in the Lakers season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers….We’ll see, he’s coming back from a ruptured Achilles and those can be tricky. The Lakers are trying to get him right and not rush him back, but I’m not about to question the will power, pain tolerance or healing powers of Kobe Bryant.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t expect Kobe Bryant to try to play a particular way in order to make the Lakers more attractive to free agents next summer. ”Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles,” Kupchak said Wednesday, addressing the press in advance on Saturday’s media day. “He’s going to play to try to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. But trust me, in January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.” The Lakers have a massive amount of cap space stored for the summer of 2014 when they figure to be major players on the free agency market. Whether Bryant is the one doing the recruiting or not, the Lakers will have to start to bring in fresh blood as their three best players — Bryant (35-years old), Steve Nash (39) and Pau Gasol (33) — are all far closer to the end of their careers than to the beginning. Kupchak does not seem too worried about getting those players, whoever they might be, to come to L.A. despite the fact that the team was unable to convince Dwight Howard to stay earlier this year, and despite the fact that executive vice president Jeanie Buss’ memoir, “Laker Girl,” suggests the relationship between she and her brother, fellow VP, Jim Buss has been strained.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: One more interesting note: I asked Kupchak how many players the Lakers plan to carry this year, and he indicated management could be more inclined to carry a 14th or even 15th player into the season. Obviously, the team’s injury situation plays a role in that decision. If the vets are still a little tender, more bodies are needed to limit their minutes and facilitate effective practices. But the Lakers also have a bunch of players in on cheap deals, representing some of their best access to young, potentially useful talent. It’s worth the modest investment to see if one or two might pan out over the course of the year. All in all, very good news for the make-good guys in camp, and something to watch as the preseason plays out.