Mitch Kupchak on Kobe Bryant's reported departure: 'It's not that big of a deal. I think it's a bigger story to everybody here than it is to us.'
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kobe Bryant is allegedly in France. Earlier this week, The Los Angeles Times reported the five-time NBA champion traveled to France with his family before the end of the regular season.
The news came as a surprise to Lakers brass.
"I did not know he was leaving town," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday as the team concluded their exit interviews.
While it was alarming to many, Kupchak gave Bryant some slack acknowledging his competitive spirit and that heâs had a "tough two years."
"It’s not that big of a deal," Kupchak said. "I think it’s a bigger story to everybody here than it is to us."
Bryant’s reported trip to France coincides with his wedding anniversary as reported by Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding. Kupchak said it is his understanding that as part of the trip, Bryant is going to see his "medical consultant" in Germany.
Friday is Kobe and Vanessa's 13th wedding anniversary. (No, I wasn't at their wedding, no matter what Heisler wrote in his book.)
Head coach Mike D’Antoni, when asked if Bryant leaving town unannounced was something that needed to be addressed, deferred to Kupchak. While the Lakers GM appeared to be somewhat forgiving, DâAntoni was careful with his choice of words on the matter.
"It was a situation in which nobody knew and he did it," D’Antoni said. "The team was not good. I understand that. He’s very competitive, very feisty."
The head coach went on to say the topic of Bryant’s trip was "not relevant" to what was taking place as the Lakers wrapped up two days of exit interviews, which, of course, Bryant did not attend.
Bryant played just six games during the 2013-14 season. After returning from a torn Achilles, he suffered a left knee fracture in December that, inevitably, ended his season.
Mitch says he expects Kobe Bryant to "be back at 100% for training camp"
His frustrations with his injuries only mounted with the Lakers lack of success.
Bryant, who was in the last year of his contract, signed a two-year extension with the club during the season. Kupchak says he could envision a possibility that Bryant plays beyond the extension if he has two good years.