General Manager Mitch Kupchak announces the trade of Derek Fisher last… (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles…)
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak is never one to smash the glass and start hitting the panic button. He isn't doing it now despite the team's 1-4 start.
He recognizes the issues surrounding the team. The Lakers are dead last in the Western Conference despite the largest payroll in the NBA — $100 million in player salary, plus $30 million more in projected luxury taxes.
"Expectations are high, there's no doubt. The city is impatient," Kupchak said Thursday in a phone interview with The Times. "At what point do you lose patience? Is it 1-15? Is it a higher number? A lesser number? I don't know right now. But we have a game Friday night and we're going to win it and try to build off that."
The Lakers haven't started out 1-4 since 1993. On Friday they host Golden State, another young and quick team trying to make a statement at Staples Center.
The Lakers are neither young nor fast. They also aren't lighting up NBA stat sheets. They are 16th in the league in points per game, 19th in points allowed and third-worst in turnovers per game.
Their latest loss came Wednesday at Utah, 95-86, when they shot 33.8%.
"We haven't put together a game on both ends of the ball yet," Kupchak said. "[Wednesday] night we had a great eight- or nine-minute defensive run, but we couldn't score. So we just haven't been able to put it all together yet. You always hope through hard work and practice that the next game will start a streak. That's exactly what this team is doing. They're working hard."
Kupchak also said the Lakers had "some bumps and bruises."
Steve Nash has missed three games because of a small fracture in his left leg. Kobe Bryant has managed to play through a strained right foot. Dwight Howard has played five games since undergoing back surgery in April.
Kupchak, in his 13th season as the Lakers' head of basketball operations, understood the reaction of Lakers fans.
"Nothing's unfair. Everybody has an opinion and they have a right to their opinion," he said. "You're free to decide what you think is fair and not fair.
"I think it's fair to say after five games we didn't think we'd be 1-4, but we have a lot of new players, we have some injured players and we're introducing some new concepts. All these things get factored in. We'll continue to monitor the team and we understand expectations."
Jazz fan attacked
A Lakers fan is being sought in Salt Lake City for allegedly attacking a Utah fan with pepper spray Wednesday night outside EnergySolutions Arena.
The incident began when two Lakers fans were ejected by arena security after engaging in a verbal dispute with a pair of Jazz fans during Utah's victory. The Lakers fans waited in a car at a nearby intersection for their two Jazz counterparts to leave the game, according to police.
The Lakers fans eventually saw them, pulled up in a Dodge sedan and, after another verbal encounter, the passenger in the car attacked one of the Jazz fans with pepper spray, exposing him to "long-lasting irritation," said Carlie Wiechman, a detective for the Salt Lake City Police Department.
The offending Lakers fan was described by police as a 5-foot-6 Latino male in his early 30s. He wore a Lakers jersey.
Bryant video goes viral
Video of a disturbed Bryant on the bench late in the loss to Utah has gone viral as the "Kobe Death Stare."
Coach Mike Brown can be seen briefly in the shot and some interpreted this to mean that Brown was the target of Bryant's anger. Bryant denied it Thursday.
"I'm too old to deal with that stuff," he said. "I've been his biggest supporter. I'm really too old to be dealing with childish things."
Bryant viewed the clip on a reporter's phone and called it ridiculous.
"Everybody here would be frustrated losing a game. You're angry. It has nothing to with one particular person," he said. "God, people are bored."
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.