Lakers GM still defends Dwight Howard
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak sat back in the chair in his office on Wednesday, pondering the question before coming to quite the remarkable conclusion.
A Lakers stretch as taxing and torturous as the current one during his 26-year tenure? As he sees it, it doesn’t exist.
“There’s been no year and a half like the last year and a half,” the longtime Lakers executive told USA TODAY Sports in an extensive interview. “We’ve had some pretty off-the-wall years here – the year Magic (Johnson) announced (he had HIV), the other lockout year when Del Harris was coaching and Kurt (Rambis) took over and we brought back on Dennis Rodman, and with Shaq (O’Neal) and Kobe (Bryant), maybe even Eddie Jones – who couldn’t seem to get over the hump because everything was crammed into a half a year, and it was like one unpredictable thing (after another). This has been a unique period. I can’t think of anything I can compare it to.”
The embarrassing sweep by the Dallas Mavericks and Phil Jackson’s exit started it all in all the wrong ways, and was followed by the coaching carousel (Jackson to Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni), the lockout landscape that played a part in Brown’s downfall, the underwhelming way their so-called Super Team has performed this season (they’re 29-30 and two games out of playoff position in the Western Conference) and the recent passing of Lakers owner Jerry Buss. None of that matters now, though, as the Lakers are looking ahead and hopeful that they can become the eighth seed no one wants to face in the playoffs.
Thursday’s win over Minnesota was their 12th in the past 17 games. But success has mostly been fleeting, and – as Kupchak made clear – frustrating.
“Frustrating is a great word,” he said when asked to pick a word to describe this season. “I don’t think anybody, including myself, could have predicted this…It’s been tough to try to pinpoint the problem, too, (because) there have been so many different things – new players, injuries, new coaches. That’s … [For more on Lakers GM still defends Dwight Howard: NBA A-Z, click here.]