I’ll be 100% honest: I have little to say about this game. The Pelicans’ injury situation is so dire, here is their projected starting lineup: Toney Douglas, James Ennis, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca. Say whatever you want about the Lakers and them producing the worst season in franchise history, at least they’re fielding a roster of names you can recognize.
With that, I thought this might be the best preview available when considering all the variables.
@forumbluegold “The Pelicans are an aquatic bird. A Lake is a body of water. Does that make pelicans ‘Lakers?’ No, they prefer the ocean”
— Contrarian Barbarian (@basquiatball) April 8, 2016
What does this mean, exactly? Who cares. Roll with it, my friends.
This game means little beyond the Kobe farewell. Just ask the players. When D’Angelo Russell was asked about goals for this final stretch, he mentioned two things: 1). continue to compete 2). get the ball to Kobe.
I’m all for the improvement of the young players and seeing them make progress which, in turn, can be carried into the off-season as a foundation for coming back as improved players next season. The future of the organization will be heavily influenced by this. It truly matters.
But, let’s be honest, the Lakers have played 78 games and have won 16 of them. Kobe Bryant has 4 games left in his career and I want to use these last few games to see one of my favorite ever players celebrated. I know he’s not the player he was. I know he’s likely to shoot a poor percentage and take some shots he shouldn’t. I honestly do not care about this in the slightest.
Maybe a month or two ago I did. When there was still a chance to adjust the course of the season — not from a win/loss perspective, but from the goals of what we wanted to be accomplished one. That did not happen. This coach (and, for all we know, the front office who has backed him to this point) wanted Kobe featured and he was. I’m not going to back away from that now when there’s less than a handful of games left in the year. There’s little point in that.
So, yeah, get Kobe the ball. Let him try to fire up the burners and see if he can start to cook. There’s only a few more chances to see this former Iron Chef sharpen his knives and see if he can deliver another enjoyable meal. I am here for that. I can understand if you are not. We don’t have to agree on everything.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I did not include one of my favorite moments of Kobe against this team. I’m going to cheat somewhat by going back to when the Pelicans were still named the Hornets. The Lakers were facing them in the playoffs in 2011 in the 1st round. The Lakers were, famously, trying to get to their 4th straight Finals and win their 3rd straight championship. That pursuit fell short the next round against the Mavericks.
That Hornets series was more competitive than many thought it would be. Kobe was dealing with a chronic knee issue, Pau was not playing anywhere close to the level of ball he had in prior seasons (some attribute that to some off-court, personal troubles), and the team was showing the wear and tear of deep playoff runs. Kobe, as he was known to try, was attempting to will his team to victory. And with that came two of the more memorable — at least for me — dunks of his career.
One of the reasons I remember these dunks is because Kobe actually suffered a really bad left ankle sprain in the previous game. At the time of these dunks, as great as they were, I always remember thinking how he never jumped off his left leg — the first dunk was off two feet and the second was off his right leg. Whether it was coincidence or not, it didn’t really matter. It was another example to me of Kobe doing what he could, making adjustments if necessary, despite any physical ailments.
Of all the things about Kobe’s career, that is one aspect of his mentality that stands out the most. He was always going to try and get on the floor and compete. Turned ankle, broken finger, torn ligament in his wrist. Whatever. He was going to try and give it a run. He was special in that way.
There’s only 4 more games, you guys. Enjoy them as best you can.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen