Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak release a statement Monday night in response to comments from Kobe Bryant that the team should decide whether to trade Pau Gasol or not. The statement, via Lakers PR:
“As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player. Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come. To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans."
So, in short, to respond to Bryant's request that the Lakers make a decision one way or another, Lakers' management's response is essentially: "No."
As our own Ben Golliver said Sunday night:
It goes without saying that public pressure from a superstar on management is less than ideal for the Lakers, who dropped to 18-13 with the loss on Sunday. Bryant seems to be giving his endorsement to Gasol and seeking the same from Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, an action which would essentially handcuff the Lakers at next months trade deadline. Other than Gasol and franchise center of the future Andrew Bynum, there's not a true trade asset on the roster, although the Lakers do possess a trade exception generated by the Lamar Odom dump to the Dallas Mavericks.via Kobe Bryant: Pau Gasol trade limbo must end - CBSSports.com.
In other words, a definitive public statement on Gasol's future would really paint the Lakers into a corner. Its a nice thing for Bryant to say and it might make Gasol feel better, but there are two dualling goals here -- getting Gasol comfortable and doing whatever it takes to upgrade the Lakers roster -- and its impossible for Lakers management to do both right now.
And it is. Kupchak is essentially making it clear that there's no much he can do. He has to keep taking calls. If the Lakers want the speculation to stop, they have to win a lot more than they have been, have to play much better than they have been.
The speculation will not stop, the Lakers will not put any player above the organization (it has only done that once, with Magic Johnson, the greatest player in team history, and has conversely ended relationships with Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O'Neal acrimoniously), and Gasol will remain on the block.
But responding publicly to this mess indicates an entirely new level of strife in Lakerland. The General Manager felt the need to issue a public statement regarding the franchise player's comments about another player's trade situation. That's not good. The Lakers could rally, could make a run, could put all this behind them. But times are stressful in Hollywood right now, and that seems obvious.