With only 3 games left in Kobe’s career, the focus is almost entirely on the final moments of his brilliant career whether he wants it that way or not. After the Lakers were handled by the Pelicans on Friday, Kobe didn’t express much approval of his point guard saying the goal was to get Kobe the ball as much as possible. On the other hand, Kobe took 10 shots in the 1st quarter of that game, including seven 3-pointers! So if he doesn’t want the ball, he’s got a weird way of showing it.
Again, though, whatever Kobe wants or doesn’t want, isn’t really that relevant at this point. The retirement train left the station long ago and now we’re all on the tracks together. There’s no adjusting course so we might as enjoy the scenery. If that involves a few more forced passes into #24, what does that matter at this point (with 3 games left in the season and his career)?
So, we celebrate the player and his career however we want to. For some, that might mean continuing to root for his departure as quickly as possible. Kobe’s not the most lovable figure in sports — Nike has done a great job of playing that up lately — and I think Kobe is fine still wearing the black hat to a portion of fans. If that means eating up career highlights and reveling in what once was, that’s totally fine too. I mean, he has clips all over the web of him dominating every team in the league. Today’s opponent included.
— NBA (@NBA) April 10, 2016
Some of my favorite memories of Kobe against the Rockets come the 2009 playoffs when these teams faced off in the 2nd round. The series went 7 games, a tough battle which featured a gritty Rockets team who continued to battle even after Yao went down with a leg injury. The Lakers actually found themselves behind in the series early after losing game 1 at Staples Center. That made game 2 a must win and Kobe obliged with his best game of the series.
Kobe scored 40 of the team’s 98 points and chipped in 4 rebounds and 3 assists for good measure. Playing against Ron Artest and Shane Battier might have been the most grueling sort of defensive matchup there could have been, a combination of physicality, tactical expertise, and defensive acumen you’d have found in any wing pairing in the entire league. But there Kobe was, torching them and leading the way to a series tying win.
As for tonight, the stakes aren’t as high, but there are playoff implications. The Rockets would be eliminated from the playoff chase with a loss. After reaching the Western Conference Finals last season, not even reaching the post-season this year would complete one of most disappointing one season turnarounds (which didn’t involve great roster turnover or severe injury) in recent league history. So the Rockets should come out with their best effort — though it’s hard to predict what this Rockets team will ever do.
The Lakers, then, can play spoiler and I’m sure some fans would love nothing more than for a Kobe Bryant team to eliminate Dwight Howard from the playoffs. Whether they are capable of pulling it off, is another story of course. The Rockets have much more talent than the Lakers and, as noted, should be motivated to stay alive in the race for the post season. The Lakers have some talent to hang around, but their level of effort and execution has been so up and down in recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine them putting together the type of sustained effort to pull off the upset.
That said, I’m hoping for a W in this game. Not because of the Howard angle, but because the Lakers could really use another win. They are locked into the 2nd worst record in the NBA, so their lottery odds are set. At this point, it would be nice for the guys to get another win (or two) before the season ends. It won’t mean much to end the year with 18 games vs. the 16 they possess now, but having a few nice feelings going into summer is better than the alternative.
Where you can watch: 12:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.