Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott seemed bothered on Tuesday night. No, the Lakers losing their 61st game of the season, which tied a franchise record, nor the 22-point defeat to the LA Clippers entirely account for the coach's frustrations on this night. Though, either or both of those occurrences could have explained his words.
What bothered Lakers coach Scott?
"It bothers me that (Kobe Bryant's) last five, six, seven, eight games are going to be with the way we're playing as a team—that bothers me," Scott spoke forcefully and passionately. "You're talking about a champion. That bothers me because he is a champion, and I hate to see him go out this way. Unfortunately, this is the way it's going to be."
The Lakers have dropped six of their last seven games, and the team does not appear to be improving as the season winds down and nears the merciful 82-game mark. With their next loss, the 2015-16 Lakers will secure sole possession of the worst record in franchise history. Bryant is going out at rock bottom, and this team cannot guarantee a competitive contest on a nightly basis.
Added to all that, the Lakers' youth movement has stagnated at times. Tuesday night offered one of those moments. Along with getting lit up by Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul, Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell finished with only 12 points on 4-17 shooting to go along with only one assist, three turnovers and no steals in 34 minutes—far from mouthwatering. Julius Randle couldn't convert a single field goal in 31 minutes.
So, who led the Lakers in scoring on this night?
Thirty-six-year-old Metta World Peace finished with a team-leading 17 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes in an active performance that had the Clippers' broadcasters suggesting World Peace should be on an NBA team next season. After the game, the veteran ducked out of the locker room without speaking to reporters. Seventeen points on a night when the Lakers lost by 22 didn't appear to be worth celebrating. Whether or not World Peace meant to make that point, it couldn't help but hit the mark.
Back to Scott, the coach clearly did not appreciate the manner in which Bryant's ascent to his basketball afterlife had been marred by the Lakers constantly losing and failing to compete on numerous nights.
"It bothers the hell out of me that somebody who's given 20 years to this league and has played through broken fingers, comes back from an Achilles, come back from a shoulder surgery and he still goes out there and gives it everything he has," Scott continued his post-game rant. "You know, that bothers me."
Scott concluded his angry, painful speech, "(Bryant) still has (the heart of a champion). That'll never leave him."
However, Bryant will leave the Lakers and take that heart with him soon enough. Only five games remain in Bryant's 20-year career, and Wednesday offers no. 40 of the 41 home games on Bryant's season schedule. A week later, Bryant will grace that same Staples Center court for a Wednesday night farewell to basketball and the NBA.