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Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak staying patient with team’s development

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error As for the Lakers’ other young players?“We’re always prodding them to raise the energy level and play a little bit harder,” Kupchak said. “At this level, everybody’s talented. If you don’t bring it, you’ll fall into a group of ‘somebody that doesn’t bring it but they deserve to be in the league because of their talent level.’ You want to rise above that and you want to raise the bar with energy and effort.”Nance usually offered those qualities. But he has missed the past five games with a bone bruise in his left knee. The Lakers expect him to miss four more weeks.Hence, Kupchak expressed uncertainty on whether he will pursue a free-agent frontcourt player to accommodate Nance’s absence. Since the Lakers have a full 15-man roster, they would have to waive either 25-year-old forward Thomas Robinson or veteran forward Metta World Peace before their one-year deals become fully guaranteed on Jan 10.“There’s a lot to consider,” Kupchak said. “A big part is Larry’s condition going forward. At first, we thought it was an ACL and he could be out for the season. But knock on wood, it’s a bone bruise and he seems to be getting better quickly.”Can the Lakers improve quickly? Kupchak sounded optimistic partly because of Walton’s presence and efforts to revamp the team’s culture after finishing the previous two years with their worst records in franchise history.“I don’t want to get into comparing last year and this year, but Luke has come in with a strong feel for what culture he wants to develop,” Kupchak said. “I think he’s done a wonderful job.”Kupchak sounded encouraged several players have publicly praised Walton. Yet, he sensed some potential pitfalls.“There’s going to be rough spots where there are players that don’t agree with him,” Kupchak said of Walton. “But he’s going to learn game to game, season to season how to become a better coach.”Kupchak expects the same from his young players.“We have a better feel for who they are, but I want them all to continue to improve,” Kupchak said. “We need to win some games and continue to have a strong locker room and culture.” Instead, Kupchak commented plenty on the various components that determine the Lakers’ long-term future.After seeing the Lakers “maybe exceed expectations a little bit” by posting a .500 record through the first 20 games, the Lakers have since lost 14 of 16 games en route to a 12-24 mark. Still, Kupchak sounded mindful of a few things. The Lakers’ starting backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young missed a combined 20 games with overlapping injuries. The Lakers then took their longest trip of the season that ended with a 1-6 record through 12 days.“It’s just a matter of finding our mojo again and taking advantage of a more friendly schedule going forward,” Kupchak said. “I wish our record was a little bit better. But I love our young group. It’s going to be fun to watch them grow and develop.”Kupchak then raved about the steady growth Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson have shown. Although he contended it’s too early to tell on which player has emerged from that group, Kupchak sounded most impressed with Randle. Kupchak cited Randle’s career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds against Utah this week in what marked his ninth double-double of the season.“He was a man amongst boys. He had several games like that. He has the competitive energy that I’d love to see in young players,” Kupchak said. “He has to continue to grow skill-wise on the court, when to bring it up, when not to bring it up and when to get to the hoop and when to shoot. But with that kind of energy and effort, he’ll be in this league for a long time.”center_img LOS ANGELES >> The question has hovered over the Lakers’ front office all season. It also remains a question general manager Mitch Kupchak does not want to entertain.Lakers president Jeanie Buss has maintained she will hold executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss to his self-imposed timeline from 2014 about stepping down if the Lakers did not become a Western Conference contender within three years. Still, Jim Buss recently told Southern California News Group “it would be a mistake on the Lakers’ part to make any switches,” citing the recently injury plagued seasons, the team’s intriguing young core and an up-and-coming coach (Luke Walton).That uncertain dynamic between the Buss siblings could also affect Kupchak, who is in his 30th season as a Lakers executive and 17th in his current position.“I’m not going to comment on any of that stuff,” Kupchak said.last_img

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