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T.J. SIMERS

Trying to gauge whether the Lakers are aging well

GM Mitch Kupchak gives his take in response to Jerry West's assertion that the team is getting long in the tooth.

January 25, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak doesn't think the Lakers are too old to win another title.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak doesn't think the Lakers are… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

There's nothing much going on around here, and here I'm at a Lakers game, but who wants to watch a bunch of tired old men?

Still got to write a column so people have a reason to get angry in the morning, so I thought I might check to see if it's true, or it's the Logo who needs new material.

To hear Jerry West talk about the Lakers these days, Dwyre must be playing for them.

Now just imagine Dwyre in a pair of basketball shorts because there is no way we're going to run a picture of that.

Mitch Kupchak wasn't doing anything but eating, so I thought he might be good for a paragraph. He worked for the Logo and I expected him to say West has got that right about the Lakers being old.

I told him I didn't really care what he had to say, but it would get me that much closer to deadline with nothing else to write.

"What is it that Frank McCourt said to you the other day?" Kupchak said, and I think he was kidding.

I had my paragraph from him, but I asked him if he was buying the suggestion the Lakers were tired and old.

"What does that mean?," he says, and I got the impression he wasn't buying anything the Logo had to say. "Am I buying the fact we can't win the championship? Are we older? Do we have a veteran team? Aren't those the kind of teams that win?"

He wouldn't shut up.

"I don't think for a second we can't defend enough, especially in the playoffs. The pace slows down in the playoffs, and there's a day off between games. I don't think for a second we're not good enough defensively to contend for a championship."

When he took a breath, I jumped in and suggested maybe the Lakers' problem is really Phil Jackson.

Jackson is the best in the league at two things: Winning championships and finding a way not to have the best record when it comes time for the league to name the West coach for the All-Star game.

Kupchak did not disagree.

Jackson has 11 championships, and according to Fox Prime West producer Mike Parker, who wanted his name in the paper, Jackson has worked the All-Star game four times.

San Antonio's Gregg Popovich clinched the assignment for the All-Star game to be played in Staples next month with a Monday win.

"I definitely wouldn't have wanted to be a part of this year," Jackson says. "… Running into those people, those same people. It's better to get out of town and enjoy your life."

Now that there is no concern about coaching the All-Star game, does this mean Jackson will start coaching harder now?

"Yes, it does," says Jackson, and the thing with these Lakers so often, you never know whether they are kidding.

Take the other day. I wasn't there, but Jackson was asked about West's comments and, according to Broderick Turner's report in The Times, Jackson says, "He's right."

Turner wrote Jackson was smiling when he said that, so was he happy to hear such a thing or was he being sarcastic?

I can't believe a team with five starters that averages 30 years in age is old and tired, so I had a hunch there's something more at work here than West's blast.

"Does this old and tired thing," I ask Jackson, "have more to do with boredom and the players knowing from experience they can just turn it on once the playoffs begin?"

He says, "It's a long race," and stops there like he has no idea this is a long column and I need more.

He takes the hint. "It's really a run," he says. "You have to just pace it and know when it's important to turn it on and step it up another level."

I tell him I know what he had to say in response to West's comment earlier in the week and I hear what he's saying now.

"I can't tell if you agree or disagree whether it's an old or tired thing," I tell him.

And Jackson says, "I agree and disagree with you both."

GOSH, I WONDER what West would have to say about the tired old Lakers after this one.

BEFORE THE game I asked Utah Coach Jerry Sloan about the tired old Lakers and he mentioned John Stockton and Karl Malone, who should have been tired and old as hard as they played.

"There's something to be said about maturity," Sloan said. Yeah, it never wins championships based on the resume of Stockton and Malone. Probably too tired from playing all out.

FOR THOSE looking ahead, the Spurs will go into February playing nine consecutive games on the road and 14 of 20. It looks like a chance for the Lakers to gain ground.

One hitch. The Lakers will play a stretch of 17 games from February into March in which they will play 14 of them on the road.

SENT AN e-mail to Dodgers P.R. guy Josh Rawitch asking to talk to McCourt on Tuesday.

Rawitch's reply, while dropping the usual "respectfully declined" response: "Frank is not available to speak to you."

I wonder if he's tied up in talks with the wife about becoming business partners. I wonder if this means they might throw out the first pitch together.

I wonder what this means to the Dodgers, with one of Frank's attorneys saying "you're not going to see the McCourts in trial for at least a year, and probably more." I wonder if Frank talks to Jamie more than he does me.

We've got so much to talk about.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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