For once, Kobe Bryant is not the topic of the hour

For once, Kobe Bryant is not the topic of the hour
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant waits to be introduced before a game against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on Jan. 4. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant wasn't the only thing missing from the Lakers on Friday in Utah.

There were also no questions about him, a heavy departure from the norm.


He was out of sight, out of mind, resting at home while the Lakers slogged their way to a 94-85 loss to the Jazz, with only two players scoring in double figures.

He has been an on-fire topic: Will he play? How will he look? What's wrong with him? Is his career done? How impressive were his career-high 17 assists against Cleveland?

But before and after the Lakers' eyesore against equally pitiful Utah, Coach Byron Scott talked about Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Nick Young and Ronnie Price. You know, the others.

A Bryant question finally arose. Did Scott miss talking about him ad nauseam?

"It's real nice tonight," Scott said Friday. "We're talking about Ronnie and other guys so it's good."

Therein lies the problem. Questions about Bryant might be repetitive, if not mildly annoying, but the Lakers without him are, in no particular order, an amnesty waiver claim (Boozer), a point guard whose best run was a two-month burst in 2012 (Lin), a quote machine with an erratic game (Young) and a slew of NBA journeymen (Price, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington). You get the point.

Scott is very tight with Bryant. He recognizes the often intense interest in the waning years of the 36-year-old's career. But the questions and analyses have dominated news conferences, sports shows and talk radio.

"Everybody's always interested in seeing what he's going to do or if he's going to play," Scott said. "I understand that part of it but once it's said and done, let's go to the next subject."

Bryant, for the record, is expected to play Monday in Phoenix after sitting out seven of the Lakers' last 14 games for rest reasons.

"I think it's always blown out of proportion," Scott said of Bryant's stretch of absences. Then he mentioned San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich.

"Pop does it every year. It's not that big of a deal," he said. "I'm resting Kobe."

Jordan Clarkson coming on?

One of the few Lakers with intrigue is rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson.

He hasn't received much of a green light from Scott, though he played 18 minutes in relief against Utah because Price was out because of a sore elbow.

Clarkson made one of six shots but showed fearlessness in attacking the basket and made all four of his free throws. He had two turnovers but also two steals.

"He's progressing. Jordan's a hardworking kid. He wants to be good," Scott said. "There's a couple of areas that he has to continue to improve in."

On defense, Clarkson needs to learn to avoid screens. He is often erased by opposing pick-setters, putting the Lakers' big men, already a poor defensive group, in even more jeopardy with a point guard on the loose heading toward them.

On offense, Clarkson sometimes needs to slow down a little and see what develops before blasting toward the basket.

"I'm not scared to throw him in there at all," Scott said. "I feel pretty comfortable doing that … and we'll just go from there."