Mark Medina sat down for a great question-and-answer session with Mitch Kupchak recently. Of course, the interview pretty much centered around Dwight Howard and his pending free agency, as well as his apparent issues with Mike D’Antoni:
“Criticism of a coach did not come up. Our coach did not come up. In terms of the way the season went and our talent, group and players and how they think in general, I would venture to say most of our players felt this was a frustrating season and that they didn’t get to show their talents as much as they would have liked to.
Kupchak also acknowledged that Howard will listen to offers from other teams this summer, saying that he has “earned the right” to be a free agent:
I am disturbed, and I guess this is how it all got started, that there’s much ado about the fact he’s going to be a free agent. It seems to me it’s gaining some momentum that he’s going to be a free agent and he’s earned the right to be a free agent many moons ago. 30 years ago, I went through the same thing.”
“In fact, through midseason of my last year in Washington, the GM in Washington called me up and said, excuse me, my agent called me up and said, ‘The Bullets have worked a deal where you get traded, but the team we want to trade you to won’t take you unless you agree to an extension.’ I said, ‘Listen, this is my fifth year in the league. I want to be a free agent. I want to find out how all this works.’ I said no.”
“So a player a has a right to be a free agent. It bothers me that there seems to be some media attention and criticism early in the process about Dwight and the coach and Dwight and free agency. Don’t get me wrong. The sooner he makes his mind up, the better for everybody. That’s my take on it. But he can’t sign until July 10 anyway. I told him when he first got here, ‘I’m not going to bug you. I believe this is the place for you. When you make your mind up, let me know.’”
Of course, Kupchak may just be covering for Howard when he says that Dwight didn’t complain about D’Antoni in their meeting, or he may be telling the truth. The most important thing here is that the Lakers’ general manager has Dwight’s back – pardon the pun – and hopefully they can build some kind of trust and a good relationship that will continue to evolve after Howard (hopefully) re-signs with the Lakers this summer.