Only two weeks after declaring the Lakers would try to hit a home run, General Manager Mitch Kupchak helped hit one out of the park.
Their coveted prize came in the form of elite point guard Steve Nash. He officially signed his three-year, $27-million contract Monday morning. Nash stood at an introductory news conference at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo proudly displaying his No. 10 Lakers jersey. And he gushed for over half an hour about how this arrival bolsters his chances to win his first NBA championship entering his 17th year.
But could the Lakers follow up with another dinger?
"We think we've got one this year," Kupchak said. "So you're asking if we can do that twice? I'm not quite sure that's possible."
Most Laker fans will interpret that as a sign Dwight Howard probably won't come to L.A. Kupchak wouldn't specify, as he declined to address any questions pertaining to the Magic center. But the Lakers haven't given up yet. The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported the Lakers reentered negotiations Tuesday for Howard and are more open into absorbing Jason Richardsons' contract.
Meanwhile, Kupchak acknowledged the Lakers are nowhere near negotiating with Andrew Bynum and his representatives over a long-term extension after exercising his $16.1-million option for next season. The Lakers center is considered the necessary piece for any deal involving Howard.
"We will sit down and go through this period and address things that are most urgent," Kupchak said. "Not that anyone of our starters' futures is not urgent. But there will be a time and a place for that."
The next order of business beyond hitting another long ball involves addressing the Lakers' bench. Kupchak said he may meet later Wednesday with Bill Duffy, who represents both Nash and free-agent forward Jordan Hill. The Lakers aren't expected to re-sign free agents Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy. And Nash again expressed willingness to talk with free-agent Grant Hill, who used to play with Nash in Phoenix.
The Lakers have limited assets, including a mini mid-level exception worth $3 million. Kupchak also said he doesn't plan to use the amnesty clause. Yet, he sounded pretty specific on what he'd want in the Lakers' reserves, which finished last in the league in points (30.5), 20th in shooting percentage (21.8%) and 28th in efficiency (27.2).
"You have to have guys come off the bench that do no worse than keep things at the same level before the starter left the court," Kupchak said. "You hope to get a player that can add something coming off the bench. So that will be a challenge. The new restrictions with the collective bargaining agreement make it difficult. But we'll find a way to improve a team."
The Lakers already did that by acquiring Nash. Now they'll take another swing at the plate and hope they make contact.
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