|Lakers looking for upgrade this offseason|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 May 2007 14:01|
``There's no magic wand you can wave and make things happen, but we are going to be as aggressive as we've ever been to get this team back to championship level basketball,'' Kupchak said Friday at team headquarters.
Speaking less than 48 hours after the Lakers were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by Phoenix for the second straight year, Kupchak said the team would look to improve via trade, free agency and the draft.
Bryant was frustrated following the Lakers' 119-110 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday night. Nothing had changed by the time he conducted his exit interview with Kupchak and Jackson before speaking to reporters Friday, and the Lakers' leaders voiced support.
``I don't think anybody who's been with this organization feels any different,'' Kupchak said. ``We're very aware of his frustration. We all feel the exact same way.''
When asked if he was still angry, Bryant said: ``Of course. I told them the summer's about getting us to an elite level, doing whatever it takes to make that happen. I just reiterated what I said (Wednesday night).
``Now, it's on them to go out and do their job - make something happen. I know my patience is about as short as my 1-year-old daughter's. We've really got to put the pedal to the medal and try to do something. We obviously have to improve in a myriad of areas.''
There are limitations. The Lakers are well over the salary cap, and there aren't many players on the roster under contract for next season that other teams figure to want. So acquiring a high-profile player through trade will be difficult, if not impossible.
``We can't guarantee there will be a substantial change going into next season,'' Kupchak said.
Barring a trade, the Lakers have the 19th pick in next month's NBA draft.
Neither Kupchak nor Jackson would discuss specific players when asked about untouchables, but Kupchak did say: ``We're going to build the team around Kobe.''
Bryant, who turns 29 in August, is under contract for $88.5 million over the next four years. When asked if he might terminate his deal after the 2009 season, which he has the right to do, Bryant said: ``I've been a Laker fan my whole life. I hate to even think about going somewhere else.''
The Lakers were 26-13 before losing 27 of their last 43 regular-season games and then being eliminated 4-1 by the Suns.
``We had a very encouraging start,'' Kupchak said. ``Injuries certainly played a part in how we performed the rest of the season. (But) we didn't come back and play the same kind of basketball. We did not have the same trust, the same chemistry.''
Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown, Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic were hampered by injuries that cost each significant playing time, and Chris Mihm didn't play at all.
Jackson said that injuries played a role in the collapse, but added: ``We had some disruptive elements and the selfishness that comes along with it.''
Jackson, who has nine championship rings as a head coach to tie the late Red Auerbach for the most in NBA history, took some personal responsibility as well.
The coach said the Lakers need help in the backcourt as well as a big man who can play full time. Brown was limited to 41 regular-season games by injuries, the most damaging a severely sprained left ankle that might require surgery.
``We're going to have to have a different starting lineup to get to another level,'' Jackson said. ``I think we'll get something accomplished this year. Sometimes it's important to understand that just small things can change the chemistry of a team.''
One thing Jackson did make clear - Smush Parker will not return next season. Parker started 162 straight regular-season games before being removed in favor of rookie Jordan Farmar with two games left in the regular season.
Parker, an unrestricted free agent, said he lost motivation late in the season.
``The game wasn't fun anymore,'' he said. ``I don't play for the money. I play for the passion, the love of basketball.''
When asked if in a perfect world he'd return to the Lakers, Parker paused before saying: ``I don't know. Next question.''
The other unrestricted free agents are Mihm, Walton, Aaron McKie and Shammond Williams. Mihm, still recovering from an injured foot, said he hopes to be 100 percent by July 1 and would welcome a return.
``I think it's very early at this point - especially for them,'' he said. ``I'm sure changes are going to be made this summer. What changes will be made, I don't think anybody knows at this point, including them.''