Lakers GM Says a Title Team Can Still Be Built Around Kobe Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers inked Kobe Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million deal, and the hoops world went nuts. According to GM Mitch Kupchak, it won’t be easy, but they believe a championship-caliber roster can still be constructed. From the team website and LA Times: “Q: On how much management weighed Kobe’s new contract, or if they talked with Kobe about his new extension, in terms of preserving cap space for 2014 and 2015: Kupchak: ‘The two variables were really how can we compensate Kobe and at the same time maintain financial flexibility. But our feeling was based on existing contracts, could we compensate Kobe on the manner we felt he deserved and at the same time be able to have that substantial flexibility. We don’t have a minimal amount of flexibility. Then you have to weigh what’s going to happen this summer. Everybody forgets that Kobe would to be a free agent this summer, too. We got who we feel is one of the top free agents available this summer, and we still have the ability to pursue other free agents or other opportunities between now and the trading deadline, or this summer, or the next summer based on the flexibility.’ Q: On if he feels the Lakers have enough cap flexibility to build a championship contender in the next couple years with Kobe under contract: Kupchak: ‘I think we do, I think we do. The challenge is there. The collective bargaining agreement doesn’t make it any easier for anybody. It’s restrictive and challenging, but yes, I do believe we can.’ […] The Lakers and Kobe Bryant agreed to a contract extension Monday, a move the team was willing to make before seeing Bryant return to game action from a torn Achilles’ tendon. ‘We didn’t see the point of waiting,’ said Lakers owner/executive Jim Buss. ‘As far as trusting Kobe coming back on the court, you’re a fool if you don’t think he’s going to [play well]. I have 100% faith.’ Buss joined General Manager Mitch Kupchak on the TWC SportsNet pregame show. ‘There’s no doubt that he’s going to return and that he’ll play at a high level,’ Kupchak said. Bryant is expected to finish his career with a record 20 seasons (at least) in a Lakers uniform. ‘He means so much to the family, the Lakers, the Lakers fans,’ Buss said. ‘It feels good to lock up an icon like that.'”