Lakers

As Lakers lurch toward season's end, opponents want to spend time with Kobe

Thankfully, mercifully, and please feel free to use any other adverb that applies, the Lakers are finally stumbling into the last turn of their 2015-16 abyss.

They'll have to finish 6-2 to tie last season's ugly 21-victory total, and if you think a team that's won 20% of the time can suddenly win 75% of its remainders, you're the most optimistic optimist in optimism history.

Almost everybody was speechless Monday after the Lakers matched their largest loss ever, a 123-75 point debacle in Utah.

How to describe it?

"You can't. It's embarrassing," power forward Julius Randle said after getting two points and a rebound in 24 minutes. And he's one of the Lakers' more dependable players.

Magic Johnson tried to fathom it on Twitter, saying the Lakers (15-59) lacked hustle and "were out there going through the motions."

That's from a guy who's close friends with Lakers Coach Byron Scott.

Then Johnson called this season "the worst in Lakers history" about a week before it could become official.

"The only good thing about this Lakers season is that we get a chance to say goodbye to Laker Great and Future Hall of Famer, Kobe Bryant!" he said.

The young Lakers haven't been looking too great lately, starting with Randle.

He has plenty of drive on most nights, but one play Monday captured his lack of height for his position. He pump-faked once, twice, three times from a crowded spot down low, couldn't get Utah's big men to bite and threw up an off-balance layup attempt. It was a miss.

Rookie D'Angelo Russell was scoreless in the first half as the Lakers trailed by 27. He looked tentative, nothing like the player who had a six-game run earlier this month in which he averaged 23.7 points.

At least there's Bryant, or whatever's left of him, for the final lap of his 20-year career. He delivered a staggering minus-43 rating in the plus-minus category against Utah and, here's the best part, was credited with shutting down red-hot Rodney Hood in the second half.

Not that Bryant sounded really excited about any of it. "I'd rather not have to chase him all over the place like that. My body can't really do that too much," he said, smiling ruefully.

One of the season's recent paradoxes continued to present itself after the game. Young opponents hammer the Lakers and then want to hang with Bryant.

Hood, who scored 30 points Monday and tied a Jazz record with eight three-pointers, took photos with Bryant afterward outside the Lakers' locker room. A week earlier, similarly young Devin Booker visited Bryant in the locker room after scoring 28 points in a breezy Phoenix victory.

Not to be forgotten, the older generation also wants a final chat with Bryant. Former Jazz center Mark Eaton hung around outside the Lakers' locker room Monday, waiting patiently for Bryant to finish with the younger players. He was 39 and retired from the league when Bryant's career started. He did not need photos with him, just a minute or two of quiet and seemingly enjoyable conversation.

It belied the mess the Lakers had become. They once again forgot to show up early and trailed, 17-2. It wasn't long before they flubbed a two-on-one fastbreak as Russell's lob pass was too high for the badly slumping Jordan Clarkson.

It got worse later when Gordon Hayward drove past Russell and dunked on Roy Hibbert, who glowered at the utter lack of perimeter defense.

How much more of this? Only two more weeks.

Bryant will play against old pal Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat on Wednesday and then old rival Boston one last time Sunday. It could get really uncomfortable next week with back-to-back games against the Clippers, who have won nine consecutive times against the Lakers and get Blake Griffin back this weekend.

There will then be a three-game trip before Bryant's career concludes April 13 at home against Utah. The Jazz have now beaten the Lakers by an average of 29 points in three games. Just to be clear, Utah's record is 37-37.

And to be brutally clear, everybody involved with the Lakers will be glad when this season ends. Except maybe Bryant.

Up next for Lakers:

VS. MIAMI

When: 7:30 p.m. PDT Wednesday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 15-59, Heat 43-30.

Record vs. Heat: 0-1.

Update: Miami is in the running for third place in the Eastern Conference despite going without Chris Bosh (blood clots) for seven weeks. The Heat could sweep the season series with the Lakers a fourth consecutive time. Miami center Hassan Whiteside had 19 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots in an early-season 101-88 victory over the Lakers.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 30, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Kobe, Lakers winding down - End of their season is in sight after a rout, and foes seek to spend time with retiring star." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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