Sometimes Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak is glad he’s up in his office instead of down on the practice court where the millennials he’s employed are practicing with their loud music blaring.
“Some of it has to be censored, so we have to be careful who else is in the gym,” the 62-year-old Kupchak said, lightly. “I guess that’s just a part of the times. It’s a little racy.”
The music is partly a sign of the youthful atmosphere the Lakers have created as they move past the 20-year Kobe Bryant era. The Lakers training camp roster has 10 players under age 25. From them progress is expected after the Lakers’ miserable 17-65 record last season.
And during their rebuilding process, an albatross looms: the timeline for recovery, set by the Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations, Jim Buss, doesn’t allow for much patience.
In April 2014 Buss told The Times that if the Lakers weren’t contending for a championship in three or four years, “then I will step down because that means I have failed.”
That imperative, though, won’t affect Kupchak’s process or what he expects from the team.
“From my point of view, we’ve created a team that has a lot of young talent that can grow into, I believe, really good … NBA players that can leave an imprint on this league,” Kupchak said Tuesday morning as the Lakers began training camp at UC Santa Barbara.
The Lakers didn’t sign any high-profile free agents this summer and have since focused their attention on the development of a youthful roster that includes lottery picks from the past three seasons – 2014 seventh-overall pick Julius Randle, 2015 second-overall pick D’Angelo Russell and 2016 second-overall pick Brandon Ingram.
Randle’s selection followed a season in which the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years and went 27-55. Two months before Randle was drafted, Buss offered a glimpse into a family meeting, during which he presented a deadline.
The end of this season would mark the end of the third season since Buss made those comments.
As Kupchak sees it, there isn’t much value to him in revisiting Buss’ statement. Instead, he is focused on the present.
“I’m excited about our coaching staff,” Kupchak said, referring to new Coach Luke Walton and his assistants.
“I want to see improvement in the young players. I want to see some production from our rookies. I want our team to be fun to watch, I want them to have fun playing and I want them to get better as the season goes along,” Kupchak said.
“Wins and losses, I can’t pick a number. I can guess, I would not guess in front of you. That’s not something I would do and have to stare at it for the rest of the year.”