Los Angeles Lakers fans who hold tickets for any of the team’s remaining 43 games might want to pay attention to the latest team rumors. According to reports coming out of Los Angeles, if you were counting on seeing superstar Kobe Bryant suit up for the Lakers — don’t.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott will be strictly limiting Bryant’s appearances the rest of the way — and may even bench the future Hall of Famer for good.
Byron said it’s too early to know if he would shut Kobe down for season. Said after All-Star break, he would revisit that idea
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) January 12, 2015
Bryant missed three of the team’s last four games — and six of the last 12 — before rejoining the Los Angeles lineup Tuesday night. But he did nothing to help the Lakers as they fell at home to the Miami Heat 78-75 — a game in which Kobe missed all but three of his 19 shots — including a potentially game-saving three-point try in the final seconds.
Bryant, due to be paid $23.54 million for 2014–15 and $25 million in the final year of his contract, ended the game with just 12 points in 31 minutes.
Los Angeles now carries an embarrassing 12-27 record, the third-worst record in the NBA. Things have become so bad for the once-mighty Lakers, a franchise whose 16 championships trail only the Boston Celtics’ 17, that ABC Sports scheduled only two nationally televised Lakers games this season.
And on Tuesday, the network announced that it was dumping the Lakers from one of them. The scheduled March 1 telecast of Los Angeles hosting Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma Thunder has been scotched in favor of Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers visiting the Houston Rockets.
Scott’s announced plan to make “game by game” decisions on whether to play Kobe Bryant likely has a lot to do with ABC’s decision to dump the Lakers. The only other scheduled ABC Lakers game comes on February 8, when Los Angeles travels to Cleveland.
A Kobe vs. Lebron showdown always makes for enticing TV, but there’s no guarantee that Scott will allow Bryant to play in that game, either.
Will Scott finally just pull the trigger, and keep Bryant off the court for the rest of this lost Lakers season — which will almost certainly end up the worst in franchise history, since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 55 years ago? The coach isn’t ready to make that commitment. But some reported rumors say that he has simply deferred the decision until after the February 13–15 All Star break.
Scott appeared to confirm those rumors after the loss to Miami.
“I think it’s going to be… until March or February if we ever decide to say, ‘OK, let’s just shut it down for the rest of the season.’ We haven’t got nowhere near that point at this particular time, Scott told reporters Tuesday.”
Some basketball experts have floated rumors that, because the Lakers need to remain among the five worst teams in the league in order to keep the valuable draft pick they traded in 2012 for guard Steve Nash, Los Angeles will shut down Kobe Bryant just to insure that the team continues to lose. But with Bryant far from his old, Hall of Fame self on the court, even in the lineup, he appears unable to help the Lakers win games.