Over at the 76ers blog Philadunkia, I participated in a four question preview (Fo’ with the Foes) for Tuesday night’s game between the Sixers and the Lakers. One of the questions I was asked was about Kobe’s retirement announcement and how I felt about it. This was part of my response:
Now that the announcement is made, I’m most interested in seeing how it impacts the rest of the team and the tenor of the season over the final 60+ games. Let’s face it, the Lakers are a bad team, but now they can be bad and at least have some cover that it’s Kobe’s final year and collect some goodwill that way. But, at some point there will be calls to get the young guys more burn and I’m interested in seeing whether Byron Scott has it in him to hand over the keys to the car while Kobe is still around.
One of the questions I have been asking myself is what impact Kobe’s announcement would have on the approach to the actual games. Remember, before the season, while he hinted he might retire, Kobe deflected direct questions about the subject as much as he could. He said he did not want a farewell tour and implied he simply wanted to play out the year under circumstances as close to normal as possible.
With Sunday’s announcement, that has changed. The farewell tour began that day at home in Los Angeles against the Pacers and took to the road to Kobe’s other home on Tuesday in Philadelphia. And what we saw was the worst case scenario for what a game in Kobe farewell tour would look like.
Forget for a moment the Sixers’ 0-18 record and focus simply on 1). Kobe coming out trying to put on a show for the fans by firing up three pointers and 2). after a brief, hot start and those shots stopped falling, he continued to fire up shots with the team ultimately going down in flames in the process.
When we then remember that the Lakers were playing — by record, at least — the NBA’s worst team and add to it the Lakers having a double digit lead at one point, for this game to end up a double digit defeat makes it all the more terrible.
The loss actualized my biggest concerns about would could go wrong in a season where Kobe, playing on a bad team, and saying goodbye to fans who have adored him for two decades. They want to see a show and it seems the showman in him wants to provide it.
Yes, tonight there were special circumstances due the Philly/homecoming angle and it being the first road game after the announcement. However, the disconnect between the adulation and positivity from a storied career poured onto Kobe regardless of the final result and the frustration in actually losing is wide. That discrepancy, should it continue, will be one of the more fascinating subplots of what remains of this Lakers’ campaign.
I won’t pretend to know what is going to happen, but this game offered the worst of what is possible. At least I hope it did. Because, if it didn’t, this may not be rock bottom yet.