On Monday, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak granted a phone interview to the LA Times where he asked for his portion of the blame, shared frustrations with the Lakers sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference and admitted that the first quarter of the season had been underwhelming from a development and talent assessment standpoint.
"Quite frankly, I have to get more answers on our players going forward, on this [young] corps. I want to see them develop and not only just get through the season averaging X-number of minutes and then next year we just figure it out," Kupchak said. "We need answers this year."
According to LA Times reporter Mike Bresnahan, this conversation took place prior to the Lakers' loss in Toronto, so it came on the toes of a lineup change that saw rookie D'Angelo Russell and unofficial rookie Julius Randle dropped from the Lakers' starting five.
"I've been very pleased with D'Angelo [Russell]. I think he's going to be a really, really, really good player," Kupchak said in the interview. "Going forward, we're going to have to surround him with players that know how to play because he loves to make plays, whether it's a pick-and-roll, drop pass, or a look-away pass."
Kupchak also complimented Randle on his energy and desire on the court.
"One thing about Julius that's impressive is he just plays so hard," Kupchak said. "He doesn't know where he fits in yet on the offensive side and we don't know ultimately how his impact on this league is going to be felt. But his competitive nature is unmatched."
Ultimately, though, the conversation had to swing to the reality that the Lakers sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with Kobe Bryant's farewell tour--and not much else--putting fans in the stands because the team has been awful, and that includes Bryant. The Lakers lost a franchise-record 61 games in 2014-15, and 2015-16 is currently on pace to finish with between 11 or 12 wins, so even 70 losses are a real possibility.
"I think our fans understand, this being Kobe's last year, after 19 just ridiculous years, that we're in a year that there's going to be a salute and a goodbye, which in itself is exciting," the Lakers' GM said. "But we've got to give them more than that."
"You always wonder, is he still trying to find his rhythm and his timing, or is this what we're going to see for the rest of the year?" Kupchak asked. "Clearly, he's not the Kobe of old."
Bryant shot 50 percent from the field in Monday's loss, which marked the first time this season the 37-year-old had shot 50 percent or better from the field. On the season, Bryant is shooting 30.6 percent from the field and 21.9 percent from three-point range, which are both career lows for any season where Bryant featured for more than six games.
The Lakers' problems, though, are bigger than Bryant. While Kupchak defended under fire coach Byron Scott, he did not absolve anyone involved of his share of the blame. And Kupchak included himself in that blameworthy group.
"I know people aren't happy but that also should be directed at me. That's the bottom line," Kupchak said. "Everybody has to share in the blame. Whether that's the GM, the coach or the players, it's got to be directed somewhere."
With 18 losses in 21 games, blame everyone.