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Nets' Choice Means Kupchak Will Stay Put

June 03, 2000|TIM KAWAKAMI

PORTLAND, Ore. — Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who was considered a top candidate for the New Jersey Nets' front-office vacancy, said in a statement Friday that he was happy to remain with the Lakers.

New Jersey, which requested and received permission to interview Kupchak, hired NBA executive Rod Thorn as the franchise's new president.

"As of this point, nothing has transpired in the past few weeks that would convince me that any other situation is better than the situation I have with the Lakers," Kupchak said in a statement.

Neither Kupchak nor the Lakers would confirm that he officially interviewed with the Nets.

Kupchak has been in the Laker front office since 1986, and the team's general manager since 1995.


Before Game 6, Coach Phil Jackson said that it wouldn't surprise him if Kobe Bryant's right foot injury sharpened Bryant's focus and produced a large performance Friday.

Bryant, who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and did not participate in the team's Friday shoot-around, struggled in Game 5, often dribbling wildly into the lane, which resulted in six turnovers.

"It's not unusual for players with a great amount of talent to just play a more contained game and have good games," Jackson said.

"So I wouldn't be surprised if he has a focus somewhere else and relaxes a little bit, plays with a higher energy output at other ends."

Bryant led all scorers with 33 points, many coming on late three-pointers.


Jackson said that he expected Portland to come out with the same surging energy it has unleashed in every game at the Rose Garden this season, and that the Lakers would be ready.

"They've been a fast-starting team in all the games," Jackson said before the game. "We wouldn't be surprised if they have a fast start. That's sort of been their menu, a high energy, great charge. . . .

"We're usually a team that adjusts to a ballgame and measure the team. So that's our strength, basically. . . .

"We'd like to get a lead, obviously, but that's not a priority."

The Lakers did take an 11-8 advantage, but Portland scored 12 points in a row and was never challenged.

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