Lakers GM: Kobe not picking coach
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak says the lines of communication with Kobe Bryant are open, but that doesn't mean the star guard will get a say in whom the team hires as its next coach.
"From time to time we ask his advice," Kupchak told ESPN's Andy Katz at the NBA draft combine Thursday in Chicago. "He really won't weigh in on something like this. I'm not even sure that we'll talk to him prior to interviews. But from time to time, he is in our facility, I'll go downstairs and I'll talk to him about a bunch of different things."
During an appearance last week on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Bryant publicly pined for a seat at the table when it comes time to choose the replacement for Mike D'Antoni, who resigned last month.
"On the last two they didn't," Bryant said, referring to former coaches Mike Brown and D'Antoni, both of whom failed to endure the length of the initial contracts they signed with the Lakers before parting ways. "On the third one, I'm hoping they do."
While Bryant is being excluded from the stages of the hiring process -- one that Kupchak said will not begin until after the draft lottery order is revealed Tuesday -- Kupchak is expecting plenty of contributions from Bryant on the court next season.
"We need some players," Kupchak said of the Lakers, who currently only have three players signed for next season. "We don't have many players under contract right now. Fortunately, we did sign a good player back in November: Kobe Bryant. So, we have him to rely on. He's been working out every day at our facility. He looks good. And we have a bunch of free agents and some of the players on our roster last year, some of the younger players, played well. So we're looking forward to maybe bringing some of those guys back and looking at the free-agent market and then once again, our lottery pick."
Bryant signed a two-year extension with the Lakers worth $48.5 million, but was able to play only six games last season before suffering a fracture in his left knee.
Despite the fact Bryant turns 36 in August and will be entering his 19th season in the league, Kupchak expressed full confidence in what shape Bryant will be in by training camp.
"Oh, I think he'll be ready to go," Kupchak said. "He was probably ready to go a month ago. Our season ended early. But he'll be ready to go."
While there is plenty of interest in Laker Land in Bryant's recovery, there's seemingly even more from the fan base in how the franchise fares in next week's lottery. The Lakers had the sixth-worst record in the league this season at 27-55, but has a 21.5 percent chance of landing a pick in the top three.
"Certainly we're hopeful that we can jump up in the lottery and my understanding is that we can get (Pick No.) 1, 2 or 3, or we can drop from 6 to 7, 8, 9," Kupchak said. "So a lot of it depends on the fortunes or misfortunes of Tuesday. And then we'll see where we stand. A high pick is valuable. You can select a player, if there is a player there that you like. Or you can look to move the pick and improve your team."
Kupchak said that once the Lakers learn their lottery positioning, they will start interviewing coaching candidates. He said it was a "goal" to find a coach prior to the June 26 draft, but that it also wasn't a hard deadline. Filling out the roster is just as important of a priority at this point.
"I think a coach's success, in a great part, depends on the players," Kupchak said. "You do have to get good players to win in this league. So, whether it's an experienced coach or inexperienced coach, I'm not quite sure what direction we'll go right now. I know our fans in Los Angeles are impatient, so it's not like we're on a seven- or eight-year rebuild schedule. We're going to try to win as soon as possible. It may take more than a year, but we're not going to try to drag it out."