LOS ANGELES – Mitch Kupchak says he must explore every opportunity to improve the Los Angeles Lakers, even if Kobe Bryant doesn’t like it.
The Lakers general manager issued a statement Monday night in response to Bryant’s criticism of the club brass over the haze of uncertainty surrounding Pau Gasol. The 7-foot Spanish star is having the lowest-scoring season of his career amid rampant speculation about his departure in a trade ever since the Lakers attempted to move him for Chris Paul before the season.
After Sunday’s loss at Phoenix, Bryant said he wanted Kupchak to decide whether Gasol would be traded or not. Kupchak responded before Monday’s game against Portland.
“As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player,” said the former Lakers center.
“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,” he added. “To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. …”
Bryant said he hopes the Lakers won’t trade Gasol, who is averaging 16.6 points and 10.7 rebounds and failed to make the All-Star team for the first time in four years.