CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak wouldn’t directly address whether he’d be interested in acquiring Russell Westbrook.
But speaking generically, Kupchak didn’t sound like trading for a veteran star was likely right now.
“Does it make sense to add a big-time veteran player? At first glance, you might say no,” Kupchak said in a pre-draft media call Friday.
“But it is my job to research every opportunity. If it’s something I feel needs pursuing, I’d pursue it and bring it to ownership.”
Stadium’s Shams Charania reported Thursday that the Hornets are a “potential suitor” for Westbrook, who might want a trade off the Houston Rockets. Westbrook is a former NBA most valuable player and would instantly become Charlotte’s top player. However, he just turned 32 and has more than $130 million left on his contract over the next three years.
The Charlotte Observer asked Kupchak about the Westbrook rumors, and Kupchak replied, “I can’t comment on other teams’ players.”
Kupchak didn’t say whether he’s spoken with the Rockets, but acknowledged “we’re active, we’re talking to teams. We’re looking for ways to improve our team.”
Illustrating how active, Kupchak said two general managers from other teams tried to call him during a 25-minute media session Friday.
Entering his third draft and free-agency period in Charlotte, Kupchak is finally in a strong position to make deals. The Hornets will have more than $20 million in space under a $109 million salary cap when free-agency begins Nov. 20, two days after the Nov. 18 draft.
The Hornets will have three draft picks — Nos. 3, 32 and 56. Kupchak reiterated that talent — not position — will decide who the Hornets take third overall: “We need to upgrade every position.”
Kupchak described trade discussions between teams right now as “a big poker game.” He said any possibility of the Hornets moving up or down in the draft probably wouldn’t get serious before Monday or Tuesday, with the draft Wednesday night.
“Some of the (media) reports that are released are accurate and some aren’t,” Kupchak said of speculation surrounding the draft and free-agency. “It is my job to take every call from every general manager. Ninety-five percent of the time, there’s really not much to discuss.”
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