SAN ANTONIO — Kobe Bryant is smiling, his team is thriving and all of Los Angeles is back in full swoon for the Lakers. This might be a good time for Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers’ oft-maligned general manager, to exhale and perhaps take a figurative bow.
But Kupchak is not exactly the bowing type, and for that matter, not one who exhales easily. Breathing difficulties are a hazard of running the Lakers, who produce as many gasps as a great Hollywood drama.
A year ago, Bryant was clamoring for a trade and throwing verbal jabs at the front office. By fall, the ill feelings had been suppressed, though not forgotten. By winter, the Lakers were ascendant in the Western Conference, behind a buoyant Bryant and a blossoming Andrew Bynum. In January, they lost Bynum to a knee injury. In February, they traded for an All-Star replacement, Pau Gasol, and then cruised to the best record in the West.
Now the Lakers hold a 2-1 lead over the Spurs in the Western Conference finals, a circumstance no one dared dream of last summer. So all is well, right?
“To be honest with you, I’ve kind of taken this day to day and week to week,” Kupchak said Monday. “You don’t really have a chance to sit back and reflect. That’s not how we operate. At least, that’s not how I operate.”