In an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, Kupchak said the following (via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin):
Dwight is our future. Kobe [Bryant] has one more year on his deal [this year, plus one]. That's all I can bank on or this organization can bank on. I have no idea if he wants to continue to play beyond next year. As of now, we're looking at a two-year window, [and that] plays to the urgency of the situation and how we build the team. ... This team's window to win is this year and next year.
This followed the pattern of Kupchak’s past discussions with the media. He presented a sober, logical summary of where the Lakers are at while failing to offer the fanbase something it didn’t already know.
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol’s combined age is 105. Clearly, Howard—who is 27 years old—is the Lakers’ best bet to build a team around.
This puts Kupchak in a difficult position of having to try to put a winning team on the floor during the next two seasons while also attempting to position the franchise to carry on successfully with a roster centered on Howard.
Right now, he is not succeeding in either area.
The Lakers are still a sub-.500 team and not in position to make the playoffs. As each game goes by, excuses involving the team’s inability to adjust to Mike D’Antoni’s offense become less viable.
Each passing contest also reveals how poor of a decision Kupchak and the rest of the Lakers brass made when they hired D’Antoni. If Howard—the greatest defensive talent of his generation—is the team’s future, then why hire an offensive guru?
D’Antoni’s squads have historically paid little attention to the defensive side of the ball, with the current Lakers team ranking 17th in defensive efficiency, according to HoopData.com. But for a coach with such an impressive offensive track record, D’Antoni is doing a poor job incorporating Howard into his offense.
If Howard’s usage rate does not increase this season, it will be below 20 for the first time since the 2006-07 season. If he is unable to improve his average of 16.3 points per game, it will also be his lowest mark in the past seven years.
Right now, Howard is not being used to his full potential at either end of the floor. While the back surgery he underwent last season may still be limiting his mobility and athleticism, the problems he has faced while trying to fit in D’Antoni’s system will still exist when he gets back to full health.
Put simply, if Howard is the Lakers’ future, then D’Antoni is not a part of that same plan. Whether the decision comes after this season or the next, Kupchak must get rid of the coach he recently hired if he wishes to back up his claim about Howard being the centerpiece of his roster going forward.