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When the Los Angeles Lakers lost Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets in free agency, many reactions suggested that, with few hopes of contending in the 2013-14 season, the NBA's most consistently successful franchise in history would be better off tanking. The logic was sensible: with a limited roster on paper, no Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant needing to rehabilitate his torn Achilles tendon, and Pau Gasol and Steve Nash returning from injury-riddled seasons, the Lakers should get real and take advantage of the long-term benefits of being terrible. They could clear as much cap room as possible for the summer of 2014, sign a new free-agent star, draft a potential one, and enter 2014-15 as legitimate contenders once again.
While the Lakers still seem to be banking heavily on signing a big-name free agent next summer, they have shown no signs of planning for the lottery. As Kobe rehabs with his typical intensity and Nash says he's nearing full health, general manager Mitch Kupchak has signed center Chris Kaman and other veterans, the sort of players a team goes after when they're trying to win (or at least gesturing towards that goal).
On Monday, Kupchak confirmed that the Lakers have no plans to tank. From Mike Bresnahan for the Los Angeles Times:
With Kobe Bryant coming back at an unknown date from a torn Achilles' tendon, is it time to punt away next season and play for a high draft pick in 2014?
"You know that's not our plan. Our plan was to bring back Dwight Howard and that would have sky-rocketed our payroll," Kupchak said. "That's never a plan here with our fan base, to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win, and that's what we're going to do this year.
"We have challenges. There's no doubt. We don't know when Kobe's coming back, and we don't know what level he's going to come back at, although we're optimistic. Everything's good with Steve [Nash]. Pau [Gasol] should be fine. We've added some athleticism. We're hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game."
READ MORE: Yahoo! Sports