Mitch Kupchak On Tanking: ‘It’s Never Happened Here And It Never Will’

Mitch Kupchak On Tanking: ‘It’s Never Happened Here And It Never Will’


Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
After losing 10 of their last 11 games, the immediate future for the Los Angeles Lakers looks bleak to say the least. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar are all still on the shelf with injuries while the team seems to get progressively worse.

With the latest dry spell for the Lakers, the talk of the storied franchise tanking from here on out has become a popular topic of discussion. Although the Lakers aren’t a team known to use the tactic, it seems as though there’s no choice in the matter with the team simply unable to turn things around with Bryant still on the mend.

GM Mitch Kupchak addressed the tanking and the Lakers having no interest in doing so via Mike Trudell of

There is no way to believe that a team would, on purpose, do a terrible job in the summer and a terrible job in the draft because they want to lose games the next season. Now, I’m sure once the season begins and things go or don’t go your way, the speculation as to what may happen if things continue may arise. We’ve been through years like that, and there’s never been a discussion in midseason in this building where ownership would say, “It’s best to lose.” That’s never taken place. Now, I don’t even know how you convey that message to the coach if it were the goal. Coaches are defined by their record; it’s intuitive that they do not want to lose. It’s inconceivable to me that a general manager would try to convey that message to anybody. So it’s never happened here and it never will. It’s the worst message you can ever give to anybody.

Currently, the Lakers are in 13th place in the Western Conference with a 14-23 record. Even if Bryant and Nash return to form once back on the floor in the coming weeks, the Lakers will have an enormous hole to dig out of. There’s no question the two superstars improve this team’s chances of turning it around, but it may be too late to salvage this season.

Tanking may not be the intention of Kupchak and company moving forward, but it may appear that way with the team simply unable to get back on track. The team’s attention may quickly turn to the 2014 NBA Draft and free agency this summer if the struggles continue.
ICYMI – Wes Johnson On Waiving Shawne Williams, Team Still Keeping Positivity

  • kobe24

    Lakers aren’t tanking they just suck. The guys here just don’t have the talent and I don’t blame them. Many of the starters are supposed to be bench players however the injuries just keep pilling up

    • Daryl Peek

      100% agree. I can take tanking if you’re giving winning an honest effort. Sometimes your just not good enough

      • Erad

        I don’t get how people are incapable of seeing this nauseatingly obvious situation for what it is. You can win NOTHING now. Absolutely nothing. 38 wins, maybe push for an 11th seed just in time for the playoffs. But hey when its over hold your heads up high. Even if you’re contributing to the likelihood of this season repeating itself for years to come that’s ay-ok! You have a feel good story to feel good about. Yay!

        —- OR —-

        You can bite the bullet on a season that everyone with a working brain knew was a lost cause from the beginning. You can give the finger to David Stern and the rest of the NBA for conspiring to steal Chris Paul from you and putting you in this position in the first place… and, oh yeah, you can remember what the Laker standard was in the good ol days. Like a year ago. Rings. Nothing else amounts to shit.

        • Daryl Peek

          Show me the team and or teams (Outside of the Spurs) that took to this tanking theme and now are flourishing in the championship dynasty category, with said player or players they selected in the corresponding drafts?

          I’ll wait but keep in mind I can show you a bevy of teams that are mired in consistent tanking annually as this “biting the bullet on a season” strategy does not work.

          • Guest

            Well, for one, OKC is right on the cusp of being in that category and the Blazers are starting to get some payoff as well.

            Now I’ll give you a challenge: name any 38 win club that magically developed into a championship team a few years later. I’m not talking about the rookie season of Michael Jordan or a Kevin Durant.

            This team has nothing resembling a Hall of Famer in their prime. HOFers are what win chips in this league. Ultimately either the foundation for a ring is there or it’s not.

            Do some teams try to build in the draft and fail? Sure. But at the end of the day it comes down to this: would you rather to be guaranteed bronze now or take a chance at gold later?

            If you don’t pick gold with no hesitation then you don’t deserve it.

          • Erad

            Well, for one, OKC is right on the cusp of being in that category and the Blazers are starting to get some payoff as well.

            Now I’ll give you a challenge: name any 38 win club that magically developed into a championship caliber team a few years later. Mind you we’re not talking about the rookie years of Michael Jordan or a Kevin Durant.

            The Lakers have nothing resembling a Hall of Famer in their prime and that’s what wins chips in this league. History proves that either the foundation for a ring is there or it’s not. (Or you strike out in free agency, which isn’t an option now for a multitude of reasons.)

            Even if this current Laker squad evolves into “a good young team” a season or two from now, ask yourself this: when was the last time a “good young team” devoid of a HOF’er balling out of their minds won anything ever?

            If you don’t have that number one option capable of giving the finger to more established veteran squads in the playoffs (LeBron vs Pistons 2007) then good young teams have a very clear and defined ceiling.

            Do some teams try to build in the draft and fail? Of course. But at the end of the day it comes down to this: would you rather be guaranteed bronze now or take a chance at gold later?

            If you don’t pick gold with no hesitation then you don’t deserve it.

          • Daryl Peek

            We have two examples of 30 something win teams turning it around in a very short time without tanking in this organization. The 93-94 Lakers won 33 games. That season was very similar to last season for the Lakers, mid season HC firing and dreadful results on the court. There was no tanking but the natural selection of draft picks and trades was the foundation of the then declining Late Show that became the Lake Show.

            The 04-05 Lakers won 34 games in another season of change and turmoil coupled with miserable results on the court. Again the natural selection of draft picks and trades was the foundation of what became the Lake Show part two.

            OKC never truly tanked, neither did Portland. OKC got Durrant when they were the Sonics. That franchise was basically forced into tanking due to the drama of relocation. Portland was competing but injuries coupled with being in a strong western conference kept them from rising. There are many other factors also but the bottom line is neither of those teams has won anything and are not a dynasty. Tanking takes on a losers mentality that rarely results in dynasty building.

            The point is not allowing a losers mentality to usurp winnings tradition. A true winner does not accept losing. Sometimes you’re just not good enough but that’s no reason not to fight. Anyone with knowledge of the history of the NBA knows dynasty building is a cycle and more often than not cream always rises to the top. Tankers usually keep tanking.

            The Lakers are in the midst of the fall of the cycle. Times are very uncertain given Dr. Buss’s passing. Now is not the time to move away from the time tested Laker way. Jeanie and Jimmy will never be Buss and West and their circumstances cannot be the likes of Buss in 79 as Dr. Buss was set up for instant success from the jump.

            The plan they currently are plotting is one that’s in the tradition of what Dad taught them with a new CBA twist given the different NBA they have to navigate. We can’t predict the future of these results from this effort but we can look at past glory as a calming factor from said results of the Laker way. If they take on the tankers mentality I’d be very worried about the future of this franchise then.

            The young Buss’s are gonna have to get on the same page and put their unique stamp on this. Following Daddy’s tradition is a good template. Pat Riley has replicated Show Time in Miami… the current dynasty of the NBA was built the Laker way. Draft picks are part of the Laker way in the cycle but never via premeditated tanking/biting the bullet on a season.

          • Erad

            In my heart I truly wish that what you just said was right. In a perfect world maybe it would be. But for one, the Laker way is all but abandoned already.

            The Laker way is dominant post play, particularly rebounding and rim protection and Hall of Fame guards leading the way. We’ve likely seen the last of either for a very long time.

            Not only are the Lakers devoid of any punishers in the paint, offensively or defensively, they are devoid of a coach who would fully utilize those talents anyway.

            Jimbo sees Miami winning chips and gets a hard on for small ball because somehow “it’s the direction the league is going in”, never mind the four time MVP whose unique talents suits itself perfectly to that style.

            The ship has no captain. No direction. No plan. Literally, the last hope the Lakers have to break apart from their current shit trajectory is through the draft.

            You say the future is unpredictable but usually it’s not. Mitch Kupchak is maybe the best GM in the league but ultimately there are only so many aces to pull out of your sleeve.

            We know who will and who won’t be a free agent. We know who won’t be walking through that door (LeBron James) we know if the Lakers don’t strike gold in the draft they’ll be a faceless franchise for years to come with Kobe hobbled and his long term health more questionable than ever.

            We know enough to see that D’Antoni’s bullshit system which hey, in three years might produce a 50 win team, isn’t geared to win championships. We know that historically EVERY SINGLE Laker championship has been anchored by a dominant front court.

            Maybe OKC and Portland didn’t actively decide to tank but that’s more of an ethics debate. What matters is the end result. They lost, they’re reaping the benefits for it now. The fact that our suddenly inept front office no longer seems capable of seeing things in basic, cold hard facts is the most damning development of all.

            If you’re worried about the basketball gods don’t be. Fuck them. Two words: Chris Paul. They owe us anyway.

          • Daryl Peek

            Well it looks like we’ll agree to disagree on The Laker way in some respects. Kareem was far from the dominant beast we knew him to be in his youth, most of the Showtime era. Don’t get me wrong, he was still a very effective center and put up great numbers (especially offensively) til about 85. His rebounding was in a rapid decline from about 82 on… this is what defines dominant front court play. From 82 up not one Laker front court player averaged more than 7 rebounds a game. It was by committee via the whole team by that time.

            Rebounding, that’s the one area I agree with you on when it comes to D’Antoni. He ignores this part of the game too much for my liking. The strange thing is, the two teams that were in the finals last season, that happen to run MDA’s small ball system are not good rebounding teams at all? Dominant low post play is far from what they do. Miami is dead last in rebounding. The Spurs are below the middle of the pack tied with the Lakers.

            Health and dominant PG or wing play (emphasis on wing play) is what wins in this era of b-ball. When Parker got back healthy against the Lakers in the first round last year they flew to the finals coupled with the rise of Leonard and solid 3 pt shooting… MDA principles. The Heat’s success clearly depended and still depends on the health of Wade and solid 3 pt shooting. Both teams are top ten in three point shooting. The Spurs #1 and Miami #7. Continuity/tenure together is what separates them from the Lakers for the most part. That and 1-5 star power. These things factor into their ability to be much more focused on the defensive end in communication. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware MDA is not the most astute HC when it comes to defense but he did have some great defensive players on a couple of his teams… Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Shawne Williams who we actually miss because he’s a very solid defender in the D’Antoni system. Again MDA is not a good defensive HC but not as bad at grooming young players into solid defenders as advertised.

            I can’t roll with the gloom and doom. I agree things look bleak right now but things can turn in a season or two depending what the FO does. This vaunted draft may or may not turn out multiple great players. Said players wont be dominant in the NBA for another three to four years or so if they in fact pan out on this level. Building through the draft takes several years more often than not when your in the tanking system. The Lakers don’t have draft picks beyond 2014 so were forced to stay the Lakers way course…

            I’m not as pessimistic about Jimmy as most and you can call me naive homer or whatever, that’s just the grace I’ll give him for the next few years. I cannot be down on him like most given all that has been cast upon the Lakers the last few years with the build up to this CBA that was constructed to try to thwart the spend to win Laker way.

            Again Jimmy and Jeanie will have to get on the same page and carve their own unique stamp on this franchise and I still say following Daddy’s template, win first attitude while keeping a keen eye on ticket sales is the best way to go. Tanking will distance them even further from what Lakers fans are use to and set an even more unstable shadow over the perception of the franchise than already is.

            There was no avoiding this day. The passing of the great Dr. Buss was a great loss and he will never be replicated. The Laker way can remain in tact but will no doubt be an augmented version of itself, and again Jimmy and Jeanie will have to do this a little differently given the NBA is a different world than that of the West Buss era.

  • e3bonz

    Actually, the next ten games are very winnable, (being the optimist I am) exceptions being the Heat and Pacers, just depends which Laker team shows up.

    • kobe24

      I would’ve agreed with you maybe 10 games ago (when Lakers were around .500 team)

      My prediction : 1-9 at worst 3-7 at best (Maybe wins are against Bulls, Magic, and Celtics)

  • limdog

    We’re not the Spurs!

    • kobe24

      Spurs (IMO) are one of the most classiest organizations. They have been contenders for nearly 1.5 decades of playing (Tim Ducan, Tony Parker) and a great coach with great management.

      Obviously Lakers > Spurs any day I but give spurs respect unlike Heat, Clippers, Rockets etc

  • LakeShow

    Duh! Obviously he’s not going to say it out loud in the public. No FA would be saying that they are “happy” with their coach when the team is 14-23 UNLESS they are happy that the coach follow their instruction which is to lose as many games as possible to land a top draft pick.

    I don’t believe the Lakers can be beaten easily by Bucks or Jazz (who are tanking) if they are not tanking. I think it wasn’t the plan at the beginning of the season but when the Lakers not doing well with Kobe on the team and he re-injured himself, the FO knows the Lakers are not going to win the title this year. That’s when the Lakers ‘mysteriously’ start losing 6 games in a row.

    Those fans who keep saying “we are Lakers, we don’t tank” need to wake up from their dream and come back to reality. LeBron not coming, Carmelo sucks (too damn selfish and expensive), Luol Deng probably re-sign with Cavs and most of the young talented players are RFAs.

    The Lakers have no choice but to draft a top player from this coming draft. With so many teams in the east are currently doing bad (probably tanking too), the Lakers need to lose more games in order to secure the top 5 pick if they want to draft a future franchise player.

    I’m not convince at all that the current Laker rosters are worst than Bucks or Jazz. Yes, they not a good team but not that bad.

    • AntRodrigues

      If you honestly think the Lakers would tank on purpose…your a fool…. The Lakers are too proud of an organization to ever tank! It’s not in their DNA… They ALWAYS land players through trades not the draft…. And as a Lakers fan you should already know this!

      • fantomas

        And you should already know, that Dr.Buss is not alive anymore. And we are living in 21-th Century… and his son, Jimmy is running the organization now. If you have read his first speech as a team president, Jim has made it very clear, that the Lakers will no longer spend hundreds of millions for aged and not worthy players. The real-state business of Dr.Buss was not doing very well in the last decade and is not clear it’s situation this days. Yes. TWC has invested 3.5 billion dollars in the franchise for the next 25 years, but that does not means Jim will spend freely all this money. He and Mitch are going to change the team strategy from now on.This summer, we can get a top 5 draft pic. In 2015 and 2017 we don’t have first round pics, we sent them to Phoenix for St.Nash. But 2014 and 2016 can be very beneficiary for us. Just watch. Mitch will NO LONGER trade our first round pics to anyone, unless it is for Kevin Love.

  • Phil+Shaq+Shaw

    Yes the Lakers are not tanking they just can’t win.Tank or not bad record for LAL.

    • Fantomas

      Even without Kobe, Nash, Blake, Farmar and Henry, this Lakers team is capable to beat many of the teams, at least at home. If you think that the Bucks and the Jazz are better teams and that is why them beat us at home, then you don’t understand anything from this game. A combination of 2-nd and 3-rd unit Clippers team, to beat as by 40 points? Are you kidding me?
      If this is not a tanking, what else is?

  • Boi Toy

    Lakers are tanking they will lose their next 10 games and have the top 3 pick.

  • rik

    Next years laker team:
    PG: marshall farmar
    SG: kobe henry meeks
    SF: melo young
    PF: Randle wes kelly
    C: Monroe hill sacre
    Coach: lionell hollins

    • LakeShow

      Randle? No thanks. Amongst the top prospects, he has the lowest ceiling. Yes, he has NBA body but at most he would be as good as Z-Bo.

      If Lakers have a top pick, they should pick Parker, Wiggins, Embiid or Exum. They are going to be a franchise player.

  • Andrew Wiggins Lakers Future

    Mayne Lakers been getting punched in the mouf all season long.Left hook right hook straight jab left uppercut right uppercut all landed in the Lakers mouf.So by February that will be 4 months of getting punched in the mouf.Come on mayne fess up to tanking leave Kobe out and let Nash retire and save the franchise by allowing the tank to continue to secure a top 3 pick pay homage to the Wiggins kid.Keep on losing and then draft the next franchise player and win rings.

  • rik

    S hawes, e Turner, and T young for gasol kaman and meeks
    PG: marshall farmar blake
    SG: turner young kobe
    SF: wes henry
    PF: thaddeus.young hill kelly
    C: hawes sacre

  • BDC1977

    Isn’t keeping a coach that loses every 10 or 11 games the same as tanking ??? Ummm, it’s a matter of perception I guess.

    • Gregory Choa

      …it’s not a matter of perception, it’s a matter of understanding the difference between “tanking” and “losing” and the definition of intent.

  • richard

    when you have a winning culture like the Lakers… you do not want to even think about tanking… unless you want to start another culture, a losing one. Arkazi, over at ESPN just does not understand team sports or any sports culture.

  • Ara Markarian

    What do you expect him to say? He is the GM and can not admit the true.
    By the way, every day, I can see more and more Lakers fans, who are 100% agree with the tanking strategy. There is nothing wrong with that.Since NBA was formatted, tens of teams has done it over the years. Our town “rivals” – L.A.Clippers are one of the best examples. For years, they have drafted the best possible talents from the schools and when Donald Sterling decided to finally do something with them, they became one of the best teams in NBA.The Pacers, The Blazers, The Warriors, OKC, The Grizzlies and many other were “subscribed” to the lottery pics for years and become a top teams this days.The difference between many of them and the Lakers organization is this:This mentioned franchises were and still are not capable of paying big $$$ to their draftees and keep them. With this new 3.5 billion contract from TWC, the Los Angeles Lakers are set for 25 years ahead to be able to keep even a first over all pics, plus to sign several of the best free agents to build a championship contender again.That is the difference.

  • GM Jack

    Can Mitch retire or be taded?

    We have appreciated his services to the Lakers Organization. We wish him all the best.

    Good Luck.

  • Lord of the rings

    Who is Mitch kidding, anyone with two good eyes can see that the Lakers are no longer competitive. We can rationalize it all we want but the team is horrible defensively and our coach’s philosophy is still to have players hoisting up three pointers all night long. We get destroyed in the paint every game, give up a ton of transition hoops and turn the ball over at an alarming rate. Kobe and Nash are not enough to turn it around and everyone knows it.