On Wednesday, Byron Scott asked Kobe Bryant during the second half whether the 19-year veteran would want to go back into a competitive game with 6-7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
"[Bryant] said, 'Coach, let them go. Let's see what they do,'" Lakers coach Byron Scott spoke about how the exchange went down on the sidelines.
Bryant, like just about everyone watching the lazy Wednesday game involving the no. 1 and no. 2 picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, wanted to see the kids play and perform. In particular, Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell had a rare opportunity to shine at the end of a game without fear of Scott pulling him from the game or Bryant barking for the ball—though in reality, Bryant prefers to hiss. He is the "Black Mamba" after all.
"Eventually, it's going to be kind of like this anyway," Scott said about Bryant watching from the sidelines at the conclusion of the loss to Minnesota. "It's going to come a point in time, probably in the second half of the season, where Kobe doesn't play a lot in that fourth quarter, just so these guys can grow."
Scott added, "And they're probably going to fall on their face [sic] a bunch more times, but at the end of the day, they'll at least be put in that position where they can grow and get better and feel more comfortable about it."
For his part, Bryant may have removed himself from the court, but he did not remove himself from the game. One the sidelines, Bryant could be seen talking and coaching the kids through the finish line.
"Kobe was coaching me through it the whole time," Russell said when asked about missing the potential game winner in overtime.
Bryant would relay that Russell talked about how the shot felt good on the release, but Bryant did not allow the kid to complain or get down about missing.
"I said man, listen, 'You know, I done made plenty [sic], but I've missed plenty of them, too. That's your first shot, but it won't be your last. So, on you go,'" Bryant shared his exchange with Russell after the game.
Bryant's decision to sit out exploded into a cloak of confidence worn by the young 19-year-old rookie point guard, who notched a career-high in points, and his 21-year-old bruising power forward teammate, Julius Randle. Randle, who collected his sixth double-double in his last seven games, spoke about the "trust" Bryant had in letting the youngsters finish the game without interference and the confidence Bryant's support gave to the squad.
"When I was on the bench, I did a lot more teaching throughout the game, a lot more coaching them along from the sidelines sort of thing," Bryant said. "But you continue to teach, even when I play. You continue to help them out, encourage them."
When Russell hit the game-tying shot at the end of regulation, Bryant erupted and ran down the court to give the rookie a jumping butt bump. Bryant didn't seem to mind sitting at crunch time, and he appeared to be genuinely overjoyed with how the kids were playing without him.
"I've played for 20 years," Bryant reminded reporters after the game. "I'm not really trippin' about minutes and things like that, doesn't really matter to me."
Quotes courtesy of Time Warner Cable SportsNet