Lakers GM: No blaming Steve Nash

"It's going to be very difficult for us to be a repeater in the next two years just by virtue of all the free agents we have," said Kupchak, noting that only three of L.A.'s 15 players are under contract for next season. "And then even if you're in the repeater tax, if you're in the repeater tax by $30 million, you get killed. If you're in the repeater tax by a $1.5 million or $2 [million], then it's really inconsequential."

Kupchak characterized the trade market as "quiet" heading into All-Star Weekend but said the Lakers hope to make some noise in stockpiling picks for June's draft, which he considers to be the deepest it's been in years.

"I think it's a really good draft," Kupchak said. "Like most drafts, it changes going into the season and when you're in the middle of the season, and I expect it to change still a little bit between the beginning of March until the end of March. But I think it's a good draft, and some players that I don't think anybody expected to be formidable picks in the draft a month ago, you're starting to see some guys you didn't hear about play really well."

Kupchak estimates he can see about 10 first-round prospects in person with a trip to Kentucky to watch the Wildcats take on Florida, a trip to North Carolina to see UNC-Wake Forest and Syracuse-Duke and also a trip to Eastern Europe that his scouting department will arrange.

Even though the Lakers will likely have a lottery selection for the first time since 2005, Kupchak said the team's draft preparation has remained steady compared to seasons when it only held a pick in the second round.

"Our feeling has always been even if you don't have a pick you could always end up with a pick, and if you end up with a pick the day before the [draft in a] trade, you better know the players," Kupchak said.

The Lakers had the league's fifth-worst record going into Thursday at 18-34 but could receive up to four healthy players back in the lineup next week in Pau Gasol (groin), Jordan Farmar (hamstring), Jodie Meeks (ankle) and Nash (nerve irritation).

Kupchak said the effect that would have on how the Lakers prepare for the draft would be minimal.

"Winning is never a bad thing," Kupchak said. "If you try to manipulate the draft, my experience -- I'm not a karma guy -- but if you try to manipulate this thing, it never works out the way you think it's going to work out. You're better off doing what you know is the right thing is to do and whatever happens, happens for the right reason. And that's our approach."

Kupchak also offered up his support to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.

"I think he's done a great job," Kupchak said of D'Antoni. "Under very trying circumstances, I think he's done a great job."

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