Fifteen games and less than one month remain in Kobe Bryant's 20-year NBA career.
More than likely, Bryant will not play in every remaining game, especially considering that LA is playing once every two days, on average, for the remainder of the season. First up, Bryant and the Lakers face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
The Kings have lost five games in a row, and star player DeMarcus Cousins and Kings coach George Karl have not been on the best of terms, which included A one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. Cousins and Karl have had an off-again, on-again relationship since the coach was rumored to be pushing to trade the center over the summer. With the team in free fall and the coach and star player at odds, the Lakers may have a unique opportunity to bounce back to .500 for the month of March.
However, LA has failed to beat Sacramento in three tries this season. Cousins averaged 28.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists over those three games, and the center has been vital to the Kings' winning cause this season. Likewise, point guard Rajon Rondo has averaged a double-double with 13.7 points, 12.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds against the purple and gold this season. Both players have picked apart the Lakers in each matchup.
The Lakers, though, have improved, and the Kings offer a measuring stick for the growing team. Also, Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell has special motivation when lining up against Rondo, who is a fellow Louisville native. In fact, Russell had his first eye-popping game against the Kings with a 27-point outing in Sacramento. In a Lakers Voices video cast recorded on Monday for Lakers.com, Russell pointed to his positive play against Rondo as being his best rookie moment, even ranking that moment above his impressive 39-point game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Wait a sec. Metta World Peace just said he was told he'd start in place of Kobe tonight vs. Sacramento. — Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) March 15, 2016
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Ahead of the game, the Lakers listed Bryant as questionable due to a sore right shoulder, and Bryant's status expects to remain constant for the remainder of the season. On Tuesday morning, Scott put Bryant at "50-50" to play. Rookie Anthony Brown remains sidelined, and Scott downgraded Brandon Bass to doubtful with a corneal abrasion in his right eye. Larry Nance Jr. is considered probable with a sore right knee, and the rookie expects to be listed as probable for the remainder of the season. Although, Nance should be considered a scratch on the second night of back-to-backs.
Race to the bottom:
The Lakers (14-53) remain cemented to the bottom of the Western Conference with the second worst record in the NBA. Philadelphia (9-57) has perfected the art of losing, so LA has almost no chance of catching the Sixers. However, LA is only four games behind the Phoenix Suns (18-49) in the win column with two head-to-head games coming up in quick succession. If the Lakers continue to win games, especially the two games against Phoenix, LA could easily move to third from the bottom. Also, Brooklyn (18-48) is lurking, should the Lakers continue to win games.
The difference between finishing second from the bottom and finishing third from the bottom is the difference between having a 55.8 percent chance of retaining a top three pick and having a 46.9 percent chance of retaining a top-three pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. If the Lakers fall out of the top three, Philadelphia would assume the Lakers' draft pick due to the Steve Nash trade.