Mitch Kupchak says Lakers can't move on until Kobe Bryant retires

After Kobe Bryant retires, the Lakers will eventually hang his jersey in the rafters at Staples Center.

Which of Bryant's two numbers will the Lakers honor?

"I don't know the answer. Obviously it's going to be 8, 24 or it could be both," said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak at a season-ticket holder event Sunday at Staples Center.

Bryant played the first half of his career with No. 8, winning three championships. He wore 24 for the Lakers' most recent two titles.

Kupchak said the Lakers need to turn the page once Bryant steps away from the game.

"We cannot move on as a team until Kobe leaves," Kupchak said. "Part of that to me is painful because I've been here 20 years with Kobe.

"This is a year that's dedicated to Kobe and his farewell. From my point of view, it gives me complete clarity. ... We know what our [salary] cap situation is going to be like."

The Lakers could have in the neighborhood of $60 million in cap room this summer.

In the meantime, the team is grooming its young core of players.

"We feel in the last two years that we've gotten at least five attractive young players," said Kupchak, listing Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown.

"We're so much in a better spot today than we were a year ago. We didn't have that core."

The Lakers were on a two-game winning streak before they played Phoenix on Sunday night at home.

Is Kupchak conflicted when the Lakers win games, given the franchise could lose its draft pick to Philadelphia if it doesn't get through the NBA draft lottery with a top-three pick, as part of the Steve Nash trade?

"The answer, of course, is yes," Kupchak said. "Our players and our coaches are instructed to do only one thing, and that's to win the game, and you let the chips fall where they may.

"If it's destined that we're one, two or three, then so be it. If it's four, five or six and it goes to Philly and we have our five guys and we have our cap room, we'll move on."

Decision time

Lakers Coach Byron Scott said he and Kupchak "briefly" talked Saturday about the contract status of Marcelo Huertas ($525,093), Tarik Black ($845,059) and Metta World Peace ($1.5 million).

The NBA deadline for the Lakers and the rest of the NBA is Thursday for contracts to become guaranteed.

"It's just a matter of what we want to do," Scott said. "I think some of it always comes down to who's out there available that you either think you want to take a look at or that can improve your team."

Huertas said he wasn't worried.

"It's something that I can't control as well, so I've just got to worry about playing ball," he said. "That's one thing that never goes through my head if it comes. It's something that really doesn't really concern me."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 04, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Team is grooming its young core - LAKERS REPORT" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe